Besides the Apostles Creed, which is repeated at Baptism, there is also the Nicene Creed (composed at the Council of Nicaea, 325), and enlarged at the Council of Constantinople. Also the Creed of Pope Pius IV, which contains the teaching of the Council of Trent, and was published by the authority of Pope Pius IV in 1564. Some additions have been made to it by the Vatican Council (1870). The Nicene Creed is repeated on certain days by the priest in holy Mass, and the Creed of Pope Pius IV has to be repeated by a convert when he is received into the Church, and also by parish priests when they enter on their benefices.
1. The Apostles Creed contains in brief all that a Catholic must know and believe.
In its few words are contained all the mysteries of the faith. It is like the body of a child which contains the limbs of a full-grown man, or like a seed that contains the tree with all its branches. It is called in Latin the symbolum, or distinguishing mark, because in early days the recital of it was the mark by which a man was recognized as a Christian. No one was admitted to be present at holy Mass unless he knew it by heart. It could not be divulged to any un-baptized person. It is called the symbolum, as being the watchword of the Christian warfare.
The Apostles Creed is so called because it originated with the apostles.
The holy apostles, before they separated from one another, established a certain and fixed rule of their teaching, so that it might be the same in all the different countries where they preached. Yet it is only the outlines of the Apostles Creed that date from the apostles themselves. Between their time and the year 600 a number of new clauses were added, in order to meet various heresies. Thus the words “Creator of heaven and earth” were added to meet the Manichean doctrine that the world was created by the principle of evil; the word Catholic was added to distinguish the Church from the sects around her, etc. The influence of St. Peter in drawing up the Creed appears from the fact that the principles which are developed in his speeches as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, are those which are found in the Creed. It was required before Baptism as an evidence of fitness for the reception of that sacrament.
2. The Apostles Creed may be divided into three several parts.
The first part treats of God the Father and of creation.
The second part treats of God the Son and of our redemption.
The third part treats of God the Holy Ghost and of our sanctification.
3. The Apostles Creed may also be divided into twelve articles.
An article is a member belonging to the whole, as a limb belongs to the whole body. The articles of the Creed are so called because of their inseparable connection with one another. As you cannot take away one of the links of a chain without the chain being broken, so you cannot take away one of the articles of the Creed without faith being destroyed. There are various images in the Old Testament of the twelve articles of the Creed, e.g., the twelve precious stones on the breastplate of the high priest (Exod. xxviii. 17-21), and the twelve loaves of proposition (Lev. xxiv. 6). The articles of the Creed which we should wear on our breast, i.e., should believe and confess, should be like the stones in the high priest’s breastplate: shining and spreading light around.
The number of the articles of the Creed is the same as that of the apostles of Our Lord, and is intended to remind us that they contain the doctrine taught by the twelve apostles.
Every Christian should know the Creed by heart. It should be repeated every day at our prayers, by way of renewing and strengthening our faith, and of confirming the covenant we entered on with God at our Baptism. It is the shield of faith, by the repetition of which we can extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one (Eph. vi. 16).
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FIRST ARTICLE OF THE CREED: “I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY.”
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