Nicene Creed – Part 2

March 5th, 2011  |  Published in New Roman Missal

Dear Friends,

Last week we began looking at the changes in the revised translation of the Creed, focusing our attention on the phrase “I believe” and on the word “consubstantial.” Today we are going to turn our attention to the second and longest part of the Creed, the section that focuses on God the Son, and in particular on the phrase: “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Currently we are saying of the Son that “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” This change from “born” to “incarnate” is significant, and probably one of the most important revisions in the Creed because it more accurately conveys the truth of the Incarnation – when the Son of God, the Second Person of the eternal Trinity took flesh.

Our current translation could easily be interpreted to mean that Jesus did not actually become man until he was born in Bethlehem. The truth is that the Son of God took on our human nature from the moment of his conception in Mary’s womb, at the Annunciation. Christ’s birth in a stable at Bethlehem is certainly a profound event, a pivotal event in our faith, but Mary’s “yes” at Nazareth to the message of the angel is understood as the moment when the Son first “came down from heaven” to live among us. By using the word “incarnate” the revised translation of the Creed leaves no room for uncertainty.

As a matter-of-fact this line is so important that when we recite it we are to make a “profound bow” (a bow from the waist) when we say it. By making this “profound bow” we are demonstrating our reverence for so great a mystery of our faith. I should point out that this bow is not something new with the revised translation. We are already supposed to be doing it when reciting the Creed.

The other changes in the Creed are minor in comparison to this one. When describing the resurrection we will say that is was “in accordance with the Scriptures,” meaning the New Testament in addition to the “fulfillment” of the Old Testament prophecy surrounding Christ’s rising from the dead. Towards the end of the Creed we will say “I confess one baptism” not “I acknowledge.” To confess carries a stronger conviction.

Lasting we will proclaim “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead,” rather than “we look for the resurrection of the dead.” To “look forward” expresses a sincere desire more than saying “look for.” The Latin “exspecto” communicates a sense of anxious waiting and expectation.

Fr. John