1. The nature and meaning of the creed
As any other religion, Christianity has its own religious symbols, values, and rituals, through which it expresses its connection with God. “The creed” is a prayer, a basic catechetical instruction1 a religious ritual but it is also a belief in itself. It stands for a statement of faith into God, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, it acknowledges the Christian values and traditions, referring to the key moments from Christianity. The purpose of the creed is to gather people to a common set of Christian values, to generate the feeling of belonging, through faith, within a community. The creed is a choice of believing, of joining a religion and of accepting its meanings.
As a ritual, the creed is utilized in the baptism tradition. Included in this ceremonial, wherein the Priest officiates the actual event of baptism by stating “I baptize you in the name of Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”, the creed is distinct from the baptism of water. Nevertheless, together, these two parts compose a profession of faith2.
The Christian creed contains the myths and dogmas of this religion. As such, God is embodied in a Trinity: God, his Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son of God is born from the Holy Spirit and a human virgin women and this is the miracle of this belief. There is a mystery surrounding the creed, which must be perpetuate within the religion, as a confessional act, as a statement of the belief as a result of a spirituality developed individually and as part of a community3.
This makes the creed a need for believing in something, a need that was born from humans’ instincts of connecting with spirituality and with divinity, with something that surpasses the known and the touchable.
The creed is also an official manifestation of a religion, is a form of formal spirituality instituted by Church, in order to structure and to organize the believers. Appealing to history, Migliore states that from time to time religion has been utilized as a form of faith meant to bring light into the hazard and the chaos, in the controversy and into the obscure of the worldly events4.
Etymologically, the word creed has Latin origins (“credo”) and it means “I believe”, which is a principle that stands at the basis of the Christian religion. “Credo” is, according to Marc (9:24) Evangel, the cry of a desperate father who implores God to cure his ill child. As an answer for that desperate cry, which was also a pray for healing the man’s son, God advised the man to “Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead (). For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved”5
Two aspects should be analyzed from this paragraph. First, the creed was created from a human’s desperate desire to save his child, somebody that he loved. Hence, when people face desperation, the only salvation for them is the divinity, a superior power, a miracle. Like this, they develop a trust in that superior power, like the ultimate belief in something that cannot be seen, nor touched. This is why it is mentioned that “one believes with the heart”.
The second aspect that is revealed from the quoted passage is that the fact of believing, with heart and of sustaining this belief with mouth, indicates the ceremonial of baptism. Hence, the belief is linked with baptism and the believers become baptized in the Christianity religion after they affirm their believe in God.
This is actually part of the ritual of baptism in the Christian churches, as the Godfather or the Godmother has to say, in the name of the person who is being baptized, that he/she believes in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit and that Jesus is the Lord and the King. This is how the belief is exposed by the believers and this is how believers pray the divinity.
The creed is a transfer into a new life, creed represents a conversion to spirituality, to a life of faith and of believing in the Holy Blessed Trinity6. With the simple utterance of the words “I believe”, a person does not converse into another world. The person must feel the belief in his/her heart. Moreover, the belief should be linked with a ceremonial procedure, which should make the conversion official, ritualized, according to the norms of the Church.
2. How can the creed still be relevant to our daily life?
The baptism is still a Christian ritual nowadays; it is a tradition that has been transmitted from generation to generation, sustained by the institution of Church, which officiates this type of event, celebrating a newborn’s conversion to a life of believing7.
The creed contains religious teachings, but not only, as it also includes lessons about behaving in a specific community, society. The relevance of creed in the nowadays society is that this prayer is meant to determine the Christians to achieve and absorb the Christian norms: accepting God, His Son and the Holy Spirit as their ultimate salvation and their protectors, accepting and recognizing the ruling of the Holy Trinity and to accept and to practice repentance rituals, as because of men Jesus was crucified and sacrificed8.
Referring to the creed as to a “rule of faith”, Marthaler points that the Christian religion urges the believers to repeat their creed with regularity, as through repetition people strengthen their believe in God and understand the truth of the creed9. This is the encouragement of a doctrine through repetition of specific words, with the purpose of memorizing them in the subconscious. Nonetheless, in the current global context Jesus and the teachings of the creed should be adapted to meet the global population’s needs of freedom and spirituality10
Nowadays, when people understand more and more the mechanisms of manipulation and of doctrine, applying the creed in their life as a form of “rule of faith” is complicated, in some cases not possible. However, even nowadays, people still need to believe and they still need to connect with spirituality. In this purpose, the creed becomes their baptism, their convergence to a belief.
The creed, together with “Our father” prayer, is central to the Christian religion, specific and defining for this confession11. The belief nowadays is generally perceived as a form of spirituality, which one chooses, appealing to the free will. People choose their own spiritual confessions and they even choose how much they should adapt to that belief. This signifies that the believers select from one religion what they consider that suits them.
Studying the functions of the creed nowadays, Marthaler discusses about creed’s declaratory form. As such, when a believer starts uttering the creed, this starts with “I believe”, which represents a declaration of faith, or “a confession of personal faith”12.
Hence, in nowadays context also, Christians still declare their belief in the Holy Trinity, which is the one of the symbols of the Christianity. To enlarge, people who declare their belief in God, His Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, also declare their belonging to Christianity and to what this religion propagates.
Critics of “The Creed” point out that in the nowadays context the text of this prayer is obsolete, as some of the verses included in this text are difficult to be understood and they are not relevant in the current context13. The Nicene Creed mentions specific aspects that are intelligible with proper explanation, most indicated from the representatives of the Church.
Verses such as “light from light, true God from true God” make sense only if they are “translated” and if their meaning is linked with the Christian symbols and doctrines. For this particular example, the correct approach should be to perceive Christ as descending from light and getting back in heavens, into the light. Or, this verse could also be charged with additional Christian symbolism and could indicate the salvation of people through God14.
Nowadays, just as in the past, the creed is a statement of a belief in a miracle. The believers, the Christians take the meaning and the purpose of the creed from the Church and transmit it further in their family. The creed is actually a connection point between Christians, as through it, each Christian was baptized and through it, the ideas and the values of Christianity were transmitted and are still transmitted.
Cooke, B., J. 2006. Sacraments & Sacramentality. New London: Twenty – Third Publications.
Hahn, S., “The Creed: Gateway to Grace”, [Online]. Available at http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/preview.aspx?id=229. Accessed on 19 August 2012.
Hill, B., R. 2004.Jesus, the Christ: Contemporary Perspectives. U.S.A.: Twenty – Third Publications.
LaCugna, C., M. God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1972.
Marthaler, B., L. 2007. “The Creed: The Apostolic Faith in Contemporary Theology”, London, Twenty – Third Publications.
Migliore, D., L. 2004. Faith Seeking Understanding: an Introduction to Christian Theology. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
O’Collins, G., Catholocism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford. 2008.
Willis, D., E. 2005. Clues to the Nicene Creed: a Brief Outline of the Faith. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.