I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
This year I am teaching the children entrusted to me in Third Grade Faith Formation The Apostles Creed. When I told my mother this, she had a common reaction, “The Apostles Creed? Why not the Nicene Creed? That’s what’s said in the Profession of Faith during mass?”
I see her point, but there are reasons we should be teaching our children The Apostles Creed in addition to the Nicene.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
None of the creeds from the different stages in the Church’s life can be considered superseded or irrelevant. They help us today to attain and deepen the faith of all times by means of the different summaries made of it.
Among all the creeds, two occupy a special place in the Church’s life:
The Apostles’ Creed is so called because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles’ faith. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome. Its great authority arises from this fact: it is “the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith.” CCC 193-194
The Apostle’s Creed bears knowing because it articulates what the Apostles, those brave men who did Jesus’ work after His death, resurrection and ascension, believed when they founded the Church. It clearly states the precepts for belief if one is to be called a Christian. The basic tenets of belief in the Trinity and the actions of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are contained in it. It takes the beliefs of the Jews that God created the heavens and earth and all parts therein, and expands to what beliefs make Christians stand apart from their Jewish brothers…the birth of Jesus by a Virgin mother, His death, descent into hell, Resurrection and Ascension and finally the promise that He will come again and judge both the living and the dead. In addition, we see the Holy Spirit in this prayer.
That line from the Catechism, “It’s great authority arises from this fact: it is ‘the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith,’ ” tells us so much of why our children should learn the Apostles Creed. We believe that Jesus appointed Peter the head of the Church on Earth and as such, we should appreciate the expression of a unified faith that Peter actively promoted. And Peter first professed an essential part of the Creed when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say that I am?” in his answer “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16: 15-16) which is what led him to be named the head of The Church on Earth. The Church did not begin as various splinters and factions that exist today. No, the twelve men that Jesus designated as His apostles spoke to all humanity in one voice and this is what they professed.
When I was a Creative Writing major in college, I still had a boat-load of literature classes to take to fulfill my credits to get my degree and I took courses in Shakespeare. The professor gave us almost an entire day of background before beginning any new play or poem, and particular the History plays. He gave us this background, this context, to better inform our understanding of what we were reading and analyzing. So it is also with teaching children about their faith. Yes, they need to know and understand the precepts of the Nicene Creed but the background, the bones of it, are important to understand first. If children can learn these basic tenets it will make the Nicene Creed richer and easier to understand as they later learn that. Again from the Catechism:
Our presentation of the faith will follow the Apostles’ Creed, which constitutes, as it were, “the oldest Roman catechism”. The presentation will be completed however by constant references to the Nicene Creed, which is often more explicit and more detailed. CCC 196
Once we have that which the most basic, oldest Roman catechism constitutes, we can easily flesh it out and more fruitfully so. We do not pour a foundation for a one story house and build a two-story on it…no, in fact, we lay a foundation for what we know we are building, which in our case in the Body of Christ.
The Apostle’s Creed is the anchor to the Nicene Creed, the roots which hold it up and in place, why shouldn’t our children learn and know it well? It also happens to be the opening prayer of the Rosary which my students happen to be learning next year so it prepares them two-fold.
Oh and back to that point of what we recite (or read as since the wording has changed many of us still need a visual aid during mass), keep in mind that it is valid to recite either creed as the Profession of Faith, the hymnals and missals make a point of telling you so, never hurts to be prepared in the case that you end up at a mass somewhere someday where they recite one and not the other.
I am excited to be contributing to the Body of Christ by teaching these children in my care for a short time this week a prayer that many react to the way my dear-old Mom did (sorry Mom, I’m not trying to throw you under the bus, really I’m not!) but that will hopefully teach them basis for what they believe and prepare a foundation they can build upon fruitfully. Please pray with me that the soil of their hearts be the fertile kind that takes roots and grows to bear the fruit the Apostles Creed aims to grow throughout our world.