Nicene Creed – Part 1

February 26th, 2011  |  Published in New Roman Missal

Dear Friends,

Today I’d like to continue our review of the new translation of the Roman Missal by looking at the Nicene Creed, the profession of faith we make as a response to the Word of God proclaimed and preached. The Creed receives its name from the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325). We profess it at all Masses on Sundays and solemnities, though the older Apostles’ Creed will be an option to be used in the revised Missal.

The first major change in the Nicene Creed is the first word we speak. The current translation has us beginning with “We believe.” In the revised translation our initial words will be “I believe.” Other languages have been using the phrase “I believe” for many years because it is a clear translation of the ancient Latin text which begins: “Credo in unum Deum” (“I believe in one God”). To say “I believe” is to say that the one who is speaking pledges him or herself to what we believe (see The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 185). It is an opportunity to reaffirm one’s personal faith much like saying “I do” when there is a renewal of baptismal promises.

The next change in the translation comes at the end of this opening statement: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” Currently we say: “of all that is seen and unseen.” The Latin “visibilium” and “invisibilium” convey a clearer differentiation between the bodily and the spiritual realms. For example a person on the other end of a phone conversation may be unseen yet is still considered visible, whereas the angels of God are invisible by their nature.

In the next sentence the new translation sees a return to Christ’s ancient title, the “Only Begotten Son,” which we also saw returned in the Gloria. To say, as we will in the revised Creed, that the Son is “born of the Father before all ages” is to utter a profound truth of our faith, for the Son of God is not born as we human beings are born at the beginning of our lives, but eternally proceeds from the Father while always being fully God.

This truth of our faith leads to a major change just words later. No longer will we say: “one in being with the Father.” The revised translation has us professing that the Son is “consubstantial with the Father.“Consubstantial” is not a word we use very often. It is an early theological term that asserts that the Son is of the “same substance” with the Father which means that the Son shares equally the Father’s divinity as a Person of the Holy Trinity. The two phrases carry the same basic meaning, but “consubstantial” is more precise. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “in the Father and with the Father, the Son is one and the same God” (no. 262).

Fr. John