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The Liturgy of the Word: The Profession of Faith
After listening to God’s Word in the readings, and, during special liturgies, an explanation through the homily an opportunity is presented to respond to God’s Word, and the best response to the Word of God is faith.
The Profession of Faith
The Creeds were originally formulated to teach catechumens the faith they should profess at baptism. The Church Fathers often preached to the recently baptized by explaining the articles of the Creed they had been taught. Eventually they were incorporated into the liturgy of the Eucharist as well to be said on solemn or special occasions.
Creeds were also called “symbols” in the sense of the original Greek work symbolon: a symbolon was a sign or token by which something was inferred, like presenting an ID card emblazoned with the insignia of the club. The catechumens received a “symbol” in this sense, a token that inferred their faith so that when the moment of baptism came they could show the faith with which they were seeking baptism, sort of like a sign and countersign in which two people identify themselves to each other (a similar Greek work, symbole, referred to two parts of something coming together, as when two people receive half of the same coin and when they meet they join the halves to verify identities). The Creed in this sense identified the bearer as a Christian, even as it does today.
Even today in baptisms the recitation of the Profession of Faith is replaced by a dialogue that ensures the Christian faith has been received, understood, and affirmed. This is also done during the Easter Vigil to remind us of our baptism: we renew our faith as a way to renew our baptismal promises and our Christian identity.
The Creed continues to be our Christian credentials to be presented upon request. The articles of faith we currently profess in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed were formulated in the Councils of Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.) and most if not all Christians continue to present them as their Christian credentials.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the articles of faith based on the Creed. In them we find our Christian identity. If you want to explore more fully who you are it’s worth meditating on the Creed we profess every Sunday and Solemnity. In it you’re reminded that God wants to be Our Father, not just our Creator, that Jesus is God and man, that he came to atone for our sins, that the Holy Spirit gives us life, and that God gave us the Church to help us remain grounded in our Christian and Catholic identity. These credentials are our credentials, but we have to make them our own, which is why we recite the Creed in the first person singular: “I believe in one God…”
A total recall of our salvation history
The earliest studies of the faith revolved around two focal points: the Trinity and the work of salvation. In the Creed we express our faith in the Trinity, in the divinity and salvation brought by Christ, and in the Church. It doesn’t just speak of who each Person of the Trinity is, but what the Triune God, each Person, had done and continues to do. It recalls the good guys and the bad guys of salvation history, from Mary to Pontius Pilate. It reminds us of the history to come, and what will come at the end of history.
The Creed also reminds us around who the entire history of salvation revolves: Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God. In him the Trinity and the work of salvation are intimately interrelated. When we recall his Incarnation in the Creed (“and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary…”) we bow before the mystery of the Word who became flesh. On the Solemnity of the Annunciation, commemorating Our Lord’s Incarnation, we genuflect at those words. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when Our Lord is born, we kneel at those words.
When we recall the history of salvation, the history of our salvation, if it doesn’t physically bring us to our knees it should at least do so in our hearts. In professing the Creed we’re not just recalling a history, but the history of our salvation and the salvation of everyone we hold dear.
A response of faith to the Word of God
The Creed is our response to the Word of God and a confirmation on our part that the message God has sent was received. God has spoken to us, and we repeat back to him what we have heard, down through the centuries, what we live, and what we will hand on to the generations that follow us.
This profession of faith helps us say “I get it” to Our Lord. Let’s second that through a life that reflects our Christian credentials and the impact of salvation history on our lives.