SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
December 5, 2011
In the Apostles Creed, why is the Holy Eucharist not mentioned? Or is it understood to be in the "holy Catholic Church" or the "the Communion of saints"?
I would think it would be more specific as is the sacrament of reconciliation in "the forgiveness of sin."
Was this creed written by the Apostles?
A Creed is a concise statement of the most important points of belief. It would be neither practical nor possible to include all the beliefs.
The Creeds reaffirm the traditional belief of the Church. The early ones were formulated at ecumenical Church councils. A number of Christian creeds have been formulated later. The Creed of Pius IV from the 16th century Council of Trent includes mention of sacraments and other beliefs made more explicit by that Council.
Later creeds developed, such as Pope Paul VI's 1968 Creed of the People of God. You will be glad that, in spite of its beauty, it is not the one we recite at Mass because it is so long.
We are most familiar with the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. Because we pray either of these at our Eucharistic celebrations, I will discuss both.
The Apostles' Creed, first mentioned by name by St. Ambrose in about 390, was thought to be composed jointly by the Apostles. Although not written by the Apostles, its content reflects what the Apostles preached and taught. Used early as an expression of faith at Baptism, it has continued to be used to the present.
Each of these creeds deals with urgent concerns of that particular time. The concepts they express were not easy to understand and accept so the early Church tried to explain.
The Apostles' Creed emphasized the humanity of Jesus, refuting increasingly-spreading Gnosticism which taught that matter was evil and Jesus didn't really take a material body. The Apostles' Creed, by stating that Jesus was born of a woman, suffered, was crucified, died and was buried showed that Jesus was fully human.
The Nicene Creed declared that the Son was "true God from true God" and "one in Being (or consubstantial) with the Father," affirming Christian belief in the deity of Christ and the Trinitarian God.
Arianism denied the divinity of Christ so the Nicene Creed gave a fuller explanation of each of the persons of the Trinity than the Apostles' Creed.
Both creeds briefly state other critical beliefs. They speak of belief in the Catholic, meaning universal, Church. Both call the Church "holy" because its founder, Christ, was the holy Son of God who continues to be the invisible head of the Church, which sanctifies its members through its teachings and sacraments entrusted to it by Christ.
Therefore, one might say that the sacraments are affirmed in expressing belief in the "Catholic Church."
The Nicene Creed adds "one" for the Church's oneness of belief, of morals, of worship and of the sacraments under one visible head. It adds "apostolic" as an affirmation of the apostolic continuation of the Church. Because of continued heresies, emphasis was needed on these traditional beliefs.
The Apostles' Creed speaks of "the forgiveness of sin" but is not a specific reference to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The Nicene Creed does add "Baptism" for forgiveness.
Only the Apostles' Creed mentions the "communion of saints." Being of an earlier formation than the Nicene Creed, expression of this belief must have given support when the small Christian communities were surrounded by hostile groups. Each day, they would be reminded that the community of the Church in heaven and purgatory were united in prayer with them, the suffering on earth.
The Apostles' Creed specifies resurrection of the "body" as it emphasizes the humanity of Jesus, and the goodness of the material, including our bodies. However, the Nicene Creed speaks of resurrection of the "dead" since its specific focus was not on the humanity but on the divinity of Jesus.
Along with their resurrection, both creeds mention life everlasting. One can only imagine what these two beliefs must have meant to those who were suffering and dying for their faith. These doctrines, reaffirmed in the creeds, gave them strength and hope to endure the most horrendous torture.
We profess our faith through the Creed at Mass. It continues to be valid today, especially in view of frequent denials of the divinity, even the existence, of Jesus in the present world. The Creed can become most meaningful when we express our faith in prayer, as well as in our daily lives.
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