“I BELIEVE” and “WE BELIEVE” (IN THE CREED)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I believe (Πιστεύω) in one God, the Father Almighty (Παντοκράτορα), Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, Byzantine Liturgical Version)

 

The text of the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed,” as it appears in our earliest witness to its full text (the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon of 451), begins with “We believe…” (Πιστεύομεν) rather than “I believe…” But for some reason, when this Creed was later inserted into our Eucharistic liturgies (in the early-6th c. in Constantinople and in the early-11th c. in Rome), in both East and West the “we”-form was replaced by the first-person singular (“I believe,” “Πιστεύω” in Greek and “Credo” in Latin). Thus we are reminded of the original milieu of this and other “creeds,” and that milieu is not eucharistic but baptismal and ordinational: Originally, this Creed was said by one receiving baptism or hierarchical ordination, as a personal profession of faith. And it was also prayed privately, since at least the 5th c., as part of the daily prayers of Christians, both monastic and lay, in East and West.

 

In any event, sorry for a somewhat dry history lesson today. But here’s what I take out of it for my prayer-life, quite practically: 1. Ι am reminded of my own embrace of the faith at baptism, which I continue to renew, every time I say the Creed. 2. I am called to do this not just on Sundays, but also in my private, daily prayer, because the truths I “confess” in the Creed are an exercise in grateful “remembrance” (anamnesis) of God’s good works for us throughout Salvation History, even up to now, and extending into the future. Lest I forget, and begin to think of Orthodoxy merely as some kind of big "no!" to certain "others." Orthodoxy, actually, as I'm reminded in the Creed, is first and foremost a big "Yes!" to the true God and His continued, unifying presence among us. That’s why saying the Creed, I find, is uplifting, as praising God always is. Glory be to Him!

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