Substituting for the Creed

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Substituting for the Creed

ROME, 5 DEC. 2006 (ZENIT)

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: It is my understanding that it is not allowed to omit the Creed on Sundays (except during the Easter Season when the laity are sprinkled with holy water and renew their baptismal promises). Just last week, a priest did omit the Creed but asked the baptismal questions (no sprinkling). For example, he said, "Do you believe in God the Father almighty ...?" and the congregation replied "Yes" (until we finally caught on and remembered to say, "I do"). Although a seemingly minor difference, I was wondering if the latter was permitted. — F.M., Carthage, North Carolina

A: According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Nos. 67-68:

"(67) The purpose of the Symbolum or Profession of Faith, or Creed, 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 call to mind and confess the great mysteries of the faith by reciting the rule of faith in a formula approved for liturgical use, before these mysteries are celebrated in the Eucharist.

"(68) The Creed is to be sung or said by the priest together with the people on Sundays and Solemnities. It may be said also at particular celebrations of a more solemn character. If it is sung, it is begun by the priest or, if this is appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir. It is sung, however, either by all together or by the people alternating with the choir. If not sung, it is to be recited by all together or by two parts of the assembly responding one to the other."

No. 137 indicates the proper posture: "The Creed is sung or recited by the priest together with the people (cf. above, no. 68) with everyone standing. At the words 'et incarnatus est' (by the power of the Holy Spirit ... became man) all make a profound bow; but on the Solemnities of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord, all genuflect."

Thus the Creed may not normally be omitted on any Sunday Mass except as indicated below.

During the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday (but not on other Sundays of Easter Season), the renewal of baptismal promises and sprinkling with holy water replaces the Creed.

This is to emphasize the traditional connection of Easter Sunday with baptism and because the profession of faith is included in the baptismal promises.

Likewise, whenever baptism or confirmation is celebrated during Mass the profession of faith is omitted because the baptismal promises are either made or renewed during the rite.

The text of the Creed is usually that of the so-called Nicene Creed. According to the new Latin missal the Apostles' Creed may be used during Lent, Easter and at Masses for Children. Some countries have received permission to use the Apostles' Creed every Sunday.

The rite of sprinkling with holy water at Easter should not be confused with the similar rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water which may replace the penitential rite and the "Lord, have mercy" at the beginning of most Masses with a congregation. ZE06120523

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Follow-up: Substituting for the Creed [12-19-2006]

Our response on omitting or substituting the creed (Dec. 5) generated a surprisingly heavy correspondence which requires us to further nuance our earlier reply.

Regarding the omission of the creed, a priest pointed out that the Ritual for the Christian Initiation of Adults does offer the possibility of omitting the creed when the Scrutinies are celebrated with the Elect on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent (No. 156), to wit:

"When the Eucharist is to follow, intercessory prayer is resumed with the usual general intercessions for the needs of the Church and the needs of the whole world; then, if required, the profession of faith is said. But for pastoral reasons these general intercessions and the profession of faith may be omitted. The liturgy of the Eucharist then begins as usual with the preparation of the gifts. ..."

A similar option also occurs in some other moments such as the "Sending of the Catechumens for Election" which occurs in the parish church when the Rite of Election will occur with the bishop at the cathedral (see No. 117 RCIA).

In this case we are before a possibility that is to be used if and when there are good pastoral reasons for doing so. The correctness of this possibility should always be explained to the faithful so as avoid confusion when the creed is omitted.

A reader in Biloxi, Mississippi, asked if the creed may be omitted whenever an Advent wreath or Nativity scene is blessed during Mass. The Book of Blessings, the reader wrote, "mentions that the blessing takes place on the First Sunday of Advent (BB 1509), and the Order of Blessing During Mass first mentions the homily (1517), then says (in 1518), 'The general intercessions follow.' No mention is made of the Profession of Faith."

The examples come from that part of the Book of Blessings which does not form part of the Latin original but are approved supplements for the United States. Unlike the case of the Scrutinies, where the possibility of omitting the creed is explicitly mentioned, the absence of any indication here is perhaps a case of a rubrical oversight.

Since the creed is not normally left out, even on solemn occasions such as priestly ordinations, it would seem strange that a humble blessing of an Advent wreath should occasion its omission.

With respect to substituting the creed with the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday, one reader correctly pointed out that it was not a universal practice. Rather, it was an adaptation which the Holy See approved for the United States and may have approved for some other bishops' conferences as well.

It was also pointed out that Pope John Paul II sometimes substituted the renewal of promises for the creed at World Youth Day Masses.

That approval by the Holy See, or a personal initiative of the Pope who is the supreme legislator, is required for such a change would indicate that a priest should not presume to introduce it into the liturgy on his own initiative. This also applies even when the change would appear appropriate, such as for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

For such occasions, as another correspondent noted, the rite of blessing and sprinkling with holy water at the beginning of Mass (which also recalls baptism) may be profitably used.

It is certainly true that the baptismal promises are just another form of profession of faith. But the Church has good pastoral reasons for reserving the renewal of baptismal promises to specific times and situations and requiring that the habitual form of profession of faith be the recitation of the creed.

All the same, if the occasion warrants it, the rite of renewal of baptismal promises may be used with the creed or on days where the creed is not required. Such occasions could be pilgrimages or the conclusion of retreats and spiritual exercises.

This brings us to the topic of using either the Nicene or the Apostles' Creed on a Sunday. An acute reader pointed out: "You wrote [...]: 'According to the new Latin missal the Apostles' Creed may be used during Lent, Easter and at Masses for Children. Some countries have received permission to use the Apostles' Creed every Sunday."

I believe it is an option in every country, every Sunday. The rubric is: "19. Loco symboli nicaeno-constantinopolitani, praesertim tempore Quadragesimae et tempore paschali, adhiberi potest symbolum baptismale Ecclesiae Romanae sic dictum Apostolorum" (Missale Romanum, Page 513). The meaning of "praesertim" is "especially, particularly."

The rubric could be rendered thus: "The Roman Church's baptismal creed, the so-called Apostles' Creed, may be used in place of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially in Lent and Eastertide."

Our interlocutor is correct that under this formulation the Apostles' Creed could be recited every Sunday and the Nicene Creed left aside.

Yet, I believe that if such an interpretation were widely applied it would go against the legislator's intention and would impoverish the richness of the liturgy.

Through this rubric the Church expresses a desire that both creeds should be known and used by all the faithful. The Nicene Creed would remain that of common use while the Apostles' Creed would also be used on occasion. The mention of this latter creed's primarily catechetical origin as a baptismal symbol is an indicator of why it is proposed especially for Lent and Easter.

Used in this way, the advantages of both creeds could be brought to the fore. The concise Apostles' Creed can be used to express the essential tenets of the faith in the context of baptism and the baptismal commitment.

The more theological Nicene Creed affords an opportunity to deepen into these essential elements and into the mystery of Christ and of our salvation.

It must also be remembered that historically it was the Nicene Creed that was first introduced into the Eucharistic liturgy. And this was not originally done to recall baptism but rather to express the fullness of the faith in Jesus Christ. Likewise, it is this creed, and not that of the apostles, that is liturgically recited by practically all forms of Christianity. ZE06121925

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