Many might think that with the homily finished, the Liturgy of the Word has come to it’s conclusion. But the Creed and the Universal Prayer (or General Intercessions) are to be included as the final liturgical actions for the Liturgy of the Word. We will focus on the Creed this week, and the Universal Prayer next week.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal gives a good description of why it is we include the Creed in the Liturgy of the Word:
The purpose of the Creed or Profession of Faith is that the whole gathered people may respond to the Word of God proclaimed in the readings taken from Sacred Scripture and explained in the Homily and that they may also honor and confess the great mysteries of the faith by pronouncing the rule of faith in a formula approved for liturgical use and before the celebration of these mysteries in the Eucharist begins.(GIRM, 67)
What strikes me sometimes when I am professing the Creed is all that has gone into the formulation of this great summary of our faith. The Creed which we profess every Sunday is the fruit of the first two Ecumenical Councils of the Church, held in Nicaea and Constantinople. A lot of discussions, disagreements, and debates took place in order to come to an accurate articulation of what we believe. For example, when we profess that Jesus Christ is “consubstantial” with the Father, I am reminded of the very in-depth description in seminary of how the Council Fathers labored intensely in order to come to agree on that single word to express that great mystery. When the Church introduced a new English translation of the Roman Missal in 2011, I remember some people sort of dismissing the need to use this complicated, technical term in the Creed. But I think using it is a nod of appreciation for the very hard work done by those Council Fathers to help us come to be able to better explain what we believe, an effort that we can easily overlook.
Another helpful way of praying the Creed comes from a suggestion offered by Venerable Bruno Lanteri, whom we have encountered a few times in these reflections. Recall that he invites us to “choose a biblical figured whose sentiments express those he desires in that part of the Mass.” For the Creed, Venerable Bruno writes:
At the Profession of Faith, I will seek the sentiments of the heart of the martyrs. At Mass, when you say “I believe on one God…I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” profess this, proclaim this, affirm this, Venerable Bruno urges, with the sentiments and heart of a martyr. Say it as a martyr would, from your heart, with all your being, ready to lay your life on the line for the faith you express.(Gallagher, A Biblical Way of Praying the Mass, p. 48 – Kindle version)
To those who died for the faith as martyrs, the Creed was more than a simple mechanical reciting of words. Those words were the firm foundation upon which their lives were built, and they were unwilling to compromise on that faith, even if it cost them their lives.
Remember that when we profess the Creed, we are not limiting our profession strictly to the words of the Creed, but by extension, we believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God. So that means assenting to all that the Church teaches, and if we struggle with some of those teachings, perhaps we can remember the martyrs as we profess the Creed, asking for their intercession to accept and live these teachings, seeing them for what they truly are, the path to freedom, life and peace, not always in this life, but certainly in the life to come.