Nicene Creed in Catholic mass

Just wondering if the nicene creed is mentioned at mass at all or what it means to a catholic?


Yes. At every Mass on Sunday, as well as at Mass on solemnities and feasts, the creed is recited. Both the Symbol of Faith (a.k.a., “The Apostles’ Creed”) and the Nicene Creed are valid options for this praying of the Creed in the context of Mass.

By asking what we understand ‘catholic’ to mean, I presume you are asking how we interpret the word ‘catholic’ as it appears in the Creed? In both versions (the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed), the word ‘catholic’ is not capitalized. Therefore, it means “universal” and does not mean ‘Catholic’ as in the usage ‘Catholic Church’. Whether those at Mass recognize and understand this, of course, is a different story entirely…

I agree, it does mean universal.

I disagree that it does not ALSO have a meaning in the context of the visible Church, headed by the successor of Peter.

See the Catechism discussion on this section of the Creed to understand the fullness of the Church’s teaching.

Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 9 in the Catechism beginning at paragraph 748 and going through paragraph 975.

We’re about to quibble on semantics, aren’t we? :wink:

It would be absurd to claim that any discussion of the catholic Church does not include a context that applies to the Catholic Church; however, we cannot claim that the Creed’s reference to the “catholic Church” should lead us to understand that it is referring (solely) to the Catholic Church… which is, I’d guess, what jjsmity is asking… :shrug:

thanks for posts.


Just to doublecheck – when you asked “what it means to a catholic”, did you mean “what does the Creed mean to a Catholic person” or “what a Catholic understands the word ‘catholic’ in the Creed to mean”?

I think we can claim that because I think the alternative would be wrong. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it is my understanding that if we expand the meaning of the term “catholic” as used in the Creed to mean anything broader than the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope, that’s basically expanding it beyond what the authors intended at the Council of Nicea, and it’s also expanding it beyond what the Church believes in.

We don’t “believe in” (in the Credal sense) any church other than the “big C” Catholic one, right? If we did, we’d have to join it and follow its bishops. So, in the Creed, if we say we believe in the catholic Church, to me that must mean the only Church we are permitted to believe in – the “big C” Catholic one. Does that sound reasonable?

Would the “catholic Church” include not only the Catholic Church but also the Orthodox Church?

Yes and no. In the historical sense, the Catholic Church of the creed included the spiritual “ancestors” of the modern Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East. We as Catholics, however, believe that the visible Catholic Church, under the bishops united to the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, is indeed the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Christ. There is nothing lacking in Her…She is the Church of Christ. That being said, by virtue of the apostolic succession of their bishops and the true Eucharistic that they offer, the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrians are an “imperfect communion” with the Catholic Church. Thus they are part of the Catholic Church though, sadly due to the reality of schism, imperfectly so.

Yes, it is mentioned every Sunday…we recite it.

Our Catechism devotes hundreds of pages to breaking it down line by line.

I don’t think so, because they left communion with the pope, and I think that’s an essential component for being a Catholic. CCC 899: …the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church. sourceIf the true Church is the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the pope, and if that doesn’t include the Orthodox, then I don’t think the term “catholic Church” as used in the Creed includes the Orthodox.

Then again, perhaps the Creed does include them in an imperfect way, because they have an imperfect communion with the true Church and with the pope. What do you think?

See my earlier post in this thread. In a historical sense they were definitely part of the Catholic Church of the creed, and today they continue to be united to the Catholic Church, but imperfectly so.

I think it’s important to make the distinction between “being the Church” or “being part of the Church” (ie the Church’s concrete “subsistence”) and having a relationship or bond with the Church. Only the Catholic Church can be said to be the Church of Christ–the Church of Christ cannot be said to subsist anywhere else–no other group is a branch of the Church or anything like that. That being said, by virtue of their baptism and any elements belonging to the Church among them, non-Catholic Christians do retain a relationship or imperfect bond or imperfect communion with the Church. We can even say the Church is present to them in those elements that belong to the Church and they can be sanctified by the Church through them (if they are in good faith, of course). But the Church in the Creed can only be said to be the Catholic Church subject to the successor of Peter–that Church cannot be said to subsist anywhere else:

From the CDF:

What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?


Christ “established here on earth” only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community”[5], that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.[6] “This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic …]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him”.[7]

In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church[8], in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.[9] Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe… in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church.[10]

Being a Catholic simply means you have received Christian Baptism and you identify yourself as Catholic (or your parents did if you were Baptized as an infant). Being a faithful Catholic means you obey the five precepts (rules) of the Church.

Belief in the Nicene Creed is not required as a condition of Catholicism (no belief is). People can (and do) have a crisis of faith, where they may find certain things hard to accept (even God himself - and if we’re having a hard time believing in God, we could hardly believe anything the Church teaches about him - including the Nicene Creed).

A person who is having a crisis of faith does not sin, remains in a state of Grace, and remains a Catholic in good standing, provided s/he:
*]Realizes that the disbelief is a flaw that needs to be corrected
*]Makes a sincere, diligent, and ongoing effort to correct the disbelief
*]Does not teach (promote to others) any false beliefs
Obstinate refusal to believe is another thing, but disbelief which is not an act of our will is not sinful (because all sin requires freewill consent) and it won’t get you kicked out of the Church. We don’t excommunicate people who are having a crisis of faith.

Great post David!

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