We find the chief truths taught by Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church in the Apostles’ Creed.
- A creed is a summary of what one believes. It is expressed through fixed formulas in order to preserve the content of truth intact. This developed in course of time making it possible for all believers in every culture to make a common profession of faith. (cf ccc 192; YOUCAT 25 – 26).
- “Creed” comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe” (cf ccc 186 – 187). “I believe” means I accept or hold true something on the word of another. This ‘another’ is God and that is why we begin the creed with “I believe in God.” It is the most important affirmation, the source of all the other truths about humans, the world and the entire life of everyone who believes in God.
- “I believe” with relation to the Apostles’ Creed, means that I firmly assent to everything contained in it. I believe it exactly as if I had seen those truths with my own eyes of faith. I believe it on the authority or word of God, who cannot deceive or be deceived.
- The Apostles’ Creed is also called because it has come down to us from ancient times, and contains a summary of the principal truths taught by the apostles. The Apostles’ Creed came down to us intact except for a few clauses added by the Church later, in order to counteract various heresies. These additions, however, are not new doctrines, but a clarification of what the Creed already contained.
- The Apostles’ Creed is our first profession of faith at our baptism. In the early days of the Church, those who professed Christianity were cruelly martyred. One of the early Christians who were being hacked and tortured, when he could no longer speak, dipped his finger in the blood flowing from his wounds, and wrote on the ground the word “Credo”. He wished to profess publicly his belief in Christianity, for which he was giving his life.
- The Apostles’ Creed may be divided into twelve articles. All the articles are absolutely necessary to faith. It is symbolical to divide the Apostles’ Creed into twelve articles because the apostles numbered twelve; thus we are reminded that the Creed is a summary of what was taught by the apostles of our Lord (cf ccc 191).
The Twelve Articles of the Apostles’ Creed are:
- 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 in hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead;
- He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
- From there he will 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. Amen.
The twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed contain the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, one God in three distinct Divine Persons, – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, – with the particular operations attributed to each Person. The Creed contains three distinct parts. The first part treats of God the Father and creation. The second part treats of God the Son and our redemption. And the third part treats of God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification (cf ccc 190; YOUCAT 27).
- The Apostles’ Creed is the symbol of our life-giving faith. When we profess the creed with faith we enter into communion with the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, as well as with the Church which transmits the faith to us (cf ccc 197).
What Act of Religion do We Make When We Say the Apostles’ Creed?
When we say the Apostles’ Creed we make an act of faith.
- Christian faith is a gift of God which enables us to believe firmly whatever God has revealed, on the testimony of his word. By it we believe in the truth of many things which we cannot fully grasp with our understanding.
For example, we believe in God, although we cannot see him. We believe in the Trinity although it is beyond our understanding. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6).
- Faith does not require us to believe in anything contrary to reason. When we believe that we cannot perceive or understand, we act according to reason, seeing with faith its reasonableness and which tells us that God cannot err, lie, or deceive us. We, therefore, put our trust in God’s word.
In many natural things we often believe what we do not see, as sound waves and atoms, on the testimony of scientists who have studied them. Thus we act within reason; but how much more reasonable it is to believe in the word of God!
- A great reward in heaven awaits those who suffer persecution or die for the faith or some Christian virtue. We know very many martyrs have died for the Catholic faith. Their number is known to God alone.
All the apostles suffered persecution, and all except St. John suffered death by martyrdom, for their faith. St. John the Baptist was beheaded because he censured Herod for violating the law of marriage. St. John Nepomucene was put to death because he refused to violate the seal of confession.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Mt 10:32).
- Neglect of the study of the truths of our religion is frequently the cause of lukewarmness, a bad life, and final apostasy and impenitence. We should be jealous studying the Christian doctrine, in the catechism and religion lessons, in sermons, missions, retreats and other opportunities available. We should not voluntarily neglect the means God has granted to dissipate it.
There are other creeds used by the Church in substance identical with the Apostles’ Creed such as the Nicene-Constantinople Creed. They help us to deepen our faith. Among all, the two creeds that have a special place in the life of the Church are The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene-Constantinople Creed. The later which is more explicit and detailed stems from the first two ecumenical Councils of Nicea in the year 325 and Constantinople in the year 381, and it remains common to all great Churches of both East and West (cf ccc 192-196).