by Father Bryan Babick, SL.L.
The first major change to the Nicene Creed in the forthcoming retranslation of the Mass will be difficult to miss. Currently it begins, “We believe in one God…” This is repeated four times through the Creed. The new translation will replace “we believe” with “I believe.”
The primary reason the English translation of the Nicene Creed was translated using “we believe” is that it was originally written that way in Greek. The authors of the Creed wanted to show the solidarity of an authentic expression of faith in the face of growing misunderstandings about Christ and the Church.
Greek was the original language of the Liturgy celebrated in Rome because it was what the people spoke. As the centuries passed, Latin became the common language and so the prayers were translated from Greek to Latin. At that time it was not common for the Nicene Creed to be recited during the Mass. It was a profession of faith made by those adults seeking the Sacrament of Baptism.
When the Liturgy was translated into Latin the “We believe” of the Greek version became “I believe.” In the centuries between when the Creed was first written and when Latin became the common language, the Church developed the understanding that attending Mass is an extension and expression of the faith entered into at Baptism and so the Creed was added to the Mass as a verbal expression of this understanding.
As Saint Paul says in Romans 6, if we have died with Christ then we will share in His Resurrection. Entering into the waters of Baptism is like entering into the tomb and coming out of those same waters is like leaving it. Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross, entered the tomb, and rose again. When we attend Mass we sacrifice other activities to attend the event that celebrates the memory of Christ’s death and Resurrection. This makes attending Mass a sacrifice offered to God by each individual believer.
Christians belong to a community of believers, but the Sacraments are received individually. Professing the Creed is a chance to revisit the waters of Baptism. Perhaps our parents did this for us when we were babies, but professing the Creed at Mass gives us the chance to declare our own acceptance of this faith. In fact during a Baptism each person is asked to renew their own Baptismal faith by saying, “I do” to questions like, “Do you believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…”
In secular debates, some challenge the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. We never start the Pledge with “We pledge.” It’s always “I pledge allegiance” to show personal pride in our country. In fact the more people challenge the “under God” section the more my love of country and of God makes me want to say “I PLEDGE allegiance” with emphasis on the “I.”
Professing our faith should not be any different. It’s not enough to declare what Christians in general believe by saying “we believe.” It’s always easy to hide behind a group. We need to take ownership of our faith by saying “I believe” to show personal acceptance in the heart, mind, and soul of the faith that has been given to us.