The Mystery of Faith Liturgy of the Word: Profession of Faith In early Christianity the Profession of Faith was primarily associated with Baptism. The candidate went down into the water and was required to confess personal belief by responding to a series of questions dealing with the three Persons of the Trinity. After each question and answer the person was immersed. As the catechumenate developed, the candidates finished their preparation for the Sacrament by memorizing a creedal formula and reciting it back to the Bishop prior to the baptismal celebration. This is the distant origin of what is known as the Apostles’ Creed, a profession of faith which, according to pious legend, was a joint composition by the twelve Apostles. The date of its present text is not earlier than the beginning of the sixth century.
The Creed professed at Mass, however, is a summary of the faith expressed by the Councils of Nicaea (325) and the Constantinople (381) as ratified by the Council of Chalcedon (451). In the east it entered the Mass in the early part of the sixth century, most often before the Eucharistic Prayer. Toward the end of the same century the Creed appeared in Spain where it was chanted before the Lord’s Prayer. From there it spread to Ireland where it served to conclude the Liturgy of the Word. Under the influence of Charlemagne its use spread throughout the Carolingian empire (9th century). In 1014 Emperor Henry II arrived in Rome for his coronation and expressed surprise that the Creed was missing from the Mass as celebrated in that city. Pope Benedict VII thereupon included it in the Roman Mass on all Sundays and on those feasts mentioned in the Creed. In the following centuries its use was extended to other festive occasions.
The Order of Mass retains the Profession of Faith on Sundays and solemnities, although ti may also be used on especially festive occasions. The Missale Romanum, Third Edition, allows both the Nicine Creed or the Apostles’ Creed to be used as a response of faith on the part of the community. However the text’s opening words are now I believe rather than We believe, the former being the liturgical usage of both east and west.
The Creed is a corporate profession of faith whereby the community responds, assents and adheres to the word of God proclaimed in the Scriptures and preached in the homily. It is a response not only to doctrinal propositions but also to the person of Christ present in the word. At the same time the profession links the Liturgies of the Word and Eucharist as the congregation recalls the mysteries of faith which will again be proclaimed in the Eucharistic Prayer. The people accept God’s word before they move on to the celebration of the Eucharist, which itself is a profession of faith.
Weekly Meditation on next week’s Collect from Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord:
Nourished with these sacred gifts,/we humbly beseech you, O Lord,/that, jut as through the death of your Son/you have brought us hope for what we believe,/so by his Resurrection/you may lead us to where you call. We pray for the same patient suffering that Jesus had, as well as a share in the Resurrection. This prayer has been in place for this day since at least the Gelasian Sacramentary.