The option to use the Apostles Creed

The Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal offers an option never before seen in a Catholic missal for the Eucharistic Liturgy – and practically unknown even among the major protestant traditions: the option of using the Apostles Creed at the Mass instead of the Nicene Creed “. Given the baptismal character of the Creed, the rubrics suggest that this Creed “may be used” “praesertim tempore Quadragesimae et tempore paschali” (“especially during Lent and Easter Time”).

Apart from any possibile controversy over this “novelty” of this option, from a purely practical point of view the concern has been expressed to me that the minimalists will take over and prefer the Apostles Creed simply because it is shorter (and gets around that shiboleth of the opponents to the new translation: “consubstantial”). Surely not, I thought.

I attended mass in a parish outside my diocese this past weekend, the first weekend of the introduction of people’s parts of the new liturgy. Here is how the priest introduced the Creed: “We won’t be using the Nicene Creed anymore, we’ll use the Apostles Creed. The other one is too long, too long. We will use the shorter one.” Mmmm.

Readers of this ‘ere blog will be well aquainted with the different history, origin and purpose of the two Creeds. There may be times when it is appropriate to use the Apostle’s Creed. After all, at the Easter Vigil, the Nicene Creed is not said, but baptismal vows are renewed by using the ancient Roman Symbol in the form of questions. Nevertheless, there are many aspects that make the Nicene Creed unique and still the preferred “option” for the Mass, such as the confession of the true deity of the Son and the Spirit. A little bit of education about the nature of the two creeds would surely be helpful, rather than watering down the difference to a “word count”.

Otherwise the transistion to the new words of the Liturgy went fairly smoothly. We all (yours truly included) missed the “and with your spirit” at the announcement of the Gospel and responded with “and also with you” – we just were not paying attention. But after that all went okay, as we were redirected to the mass cards in front of us.

Just one thing I noticed about the mass cards being used around Australia for the transitional period. The type face used for the priest’s doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer is slightly different from the typeface used for the priest’s parts on the rest of the card. Like all the priest’s parts, it is in normal print rather than the bold print that is used for the people’s words. But another way in which the priest’s words and the people’s words are differentiated on the card is the use of a slightly smaller font for the priest’s parts. Only at this point, we find that the font-size for the priest’s doxology is the same size as that for the people’s part…

Just something I noticed.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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26 Responses to The option to use the Apostles Creed

  1. Tony Bartel says:

    Why would you want to make it shorter? It barely goes for an hour as it is. As all Orthodox know, if you are going to say it once, you might as well say it three or four times.

  2. Joshua says:

    Oh no! That’s so utterly typical of modern minimalism, understanding nothing nor wishing to (being anti-intellectual).

    I must say, I really, really wish the Apostles’ Creed had not been given as an option. It is very untraditional.

    It would be sad indeed to see the Roman Mass stripped, not only of the Roman Canon in favour of E.P. II nearly all the time, but of the Nicene Creed in favour of the Apostles’ – and both for two main reasons: being the shorter, and (one fears) being less doctrinal.

  3. matthias says:

    I have been in a UCA Communion Service where the Apostles Creed was said in place of the Nicene Creed. But then in the UCA Communion always seemed to be rushed ,after the sermon and over and out within 20 minutes

  4. PM says:

    It’s truly staggering that another opprtunity for dumbing down has slipped through.

    How about asking our PPs to reinstate the the ‘Quicunque vult’ on Trinity Sunday?

  5. Stephen K says:

    As one who thinks that doing things liturgical because they are shorter – on principle (as opposed to occasional pastoral grounds) – in preference to longer versions is a generally deplorable and misguided approach, I understand the dismay one can feel at being deprived of richer or more interesting forms of expression in a lot of contexts, particularly the spiritual. The same issue arises in the realm of liturgical music, where I find that, the worst of the sentimental aside, packed tightly into Living Parish hymns including those composed by Richard Connolly, are wonderful and ingeniously phrased theological presentations, which are mostly now neglected in favour of less felicitous songs and hymns.

    But I don’t understand why one would think the minimalist options are less doctrinal or necessarily “untraditional”. I thought the Apostle’s Creed had its own sufficient antiquity. It is not even as if length is a guarantee of “more” doctrine quantitatively speaking, or necessarily a criterion of usefulness or spiritual value. The “K.I.S.S.” or “horses for courses” principles surely also apply in matters liturgical, or so I would have thought. In any case, let me reiterate the salutary psychological benefits of avoiding, where one is able, religious services that one finds grating or disagreeable. Just think, someone somewhere sometime may be deriving great nourishment or benefit from such religious choices.

    • Schütz says:

      I wasn’t trying to suggest that the Apostle’s Creed is less venerable or even less “doctrinal” (that bit about descending into hell, for instance, is a heavy doctrine).

  6. William Weedon says:

    Following the Lutherans again? ;)

    The use of either has been a feature of Lutheran Liturgy now in the US for the last several books. I think the fear was that the Apostles’ will totally drop from our people’s consciousness if it is not used at least sometimes in the Divine Service (even though, of course, it it supposed to be part of our daily prayers, morning and evening). In our parish, we use the Apostles’ Creed during Advent and during Lent – the baptismal seasons. The remainder (and bulk) of the year, we use the Nicene (except for Trinity Sunday, when the Athanasian is confessed).

    • Schütz says:

      In the Lutheran Church of Australia, it is only an option in non-communion services. Since there were more of these than there were communion services when I was a kid, I got to know the Apostles Creed fairly well through liturgical use.

  7. Susan Peterson says:

    The Apostles Creed has been used in Canada for some time now. (some time means I don’t know how long, at least for the several years I have been going there in the summer.)

  8. Susan Peterson says:

    However, I think the Nicene Creed is important. It was a distilled result of fighting a whole slew of early heresies. These heresies are a perennial danger on one form or another. It is good to keep the Nicene Creed in the front of everyone’s mind.

    It also was the sign of being “Catholic” rather than something else, for centuries. Let’s hold on to it.

    I bet the Latin rite diocese I live in will JUMP for the Apostles Creed option as well.

    Not the Byzantines, ever, you can bet on that.
    Susan Peterson

  9. Joshua says:

    Some very interesting points are raised by esteemed fellow-commenters above.

    Random thoughts occasioned thereby:

    The Apostles’ Creed is basically a slight amplification of the ancient Roman baptismal Creed. Now, in all other churches the Nicene Creed replaced the traditional baptismal creed used in each; only at Rome (and so throughout the West) did this not occur.

    It is eminently traditional at baptisms; but it was never used at Mass, ever.

    At the Council of Florence, the Eastern bishops greatly scandalized the Latins, and were scandalized themselves, when, upon hearing the Apostles’ Creed mentioned, declared they had never heard of it!!!

    I recall at University, when saying the Rosary with the Catholic chaplain and a fellow student, that the latter was quite amazed at the use of the Apostles’ Creed, of which he had never heard! (Another product of Catholic schools – and a practising Catholic all his life, from a good, believing family.)

    I think the reason behind introducing the Apostles’ Creed at Mass – and indeed, since the Liturgical Reform, it has been brought in here and there already – is “ne prorsus interiret”, that is, Lest it perish utterly.

    The days of the Creed at Mass being called the “Mass Creed” (and of course never said in the vernacular, only said or sung in Latin), in contradistinction to the more familiar Apostles’ Creed said daily at prayers or Rosary by all faithful Catholics, are long past. I do wonder if people say set prayers at all anymore, outside pious circles!

    Of course, the Apostles’ Creed is actually Roman of the Romans, and very much possessed of great authority; unfortunately, by not including homoöusion to Patri k.t.l., it can be made to subserve an Arianizing agenda. The last thing we need today is another excuse for a low Christology. I detest talk of Our Blessed Lord as if He wandered genially about, blissfully unaware of His divinity.

    I do much value the sage advice given: “In any case, let me reiterate the salutary psychological benefits of avoiding, where one is able, religious services that one finds grating or disagreeable. Just think, someone somewhere sometime may be deriving great nourishment or benefit from such religious choices.” – But my choices are very limited indeed!!! At least my parish rejoices in a good priest; but having immersed myself in the EF for years, to have the OF most of the time is a sad trial.

    Where is the Solemn High Mass that meets MY spiritual needs? In Melbourne… *sigh*

    • Matthias says:

      Hey Joshua i was there on Sunday at the Solemn High mass you refer to ,for pentecost. As i SMS’d Fr Tattersall-the preacher and celebrant-Deo Solitaire Gloria. It beat Cabaret church where I usually go,so much so, that i am hoping to enter the Catholic church via the Old Rite

  10. William Weedon says:

    Likely we should add that I believe in the Roman Church and certainly in the Lutheran, the Apostles’ continues to form of the basis of the Catechesis – it is the Creed by which we TEACH what the faith is. It is also the Creed by which we may easily evangelize. I believe that I am a Christian (and a Lutheran today) because once upon a time, many moons ago when I was a youngster, two Roman Catholic boys asked me – as we were watching a ball game – if I knew what I needed to be saved? And they proceeded to basically rehearse the Apostles’ Creed to me. It’s value in catechesis and evangelism is very great – and there its simplicity is in its favor. FWIW.

    • Schütz says:

      the Apostles’ continues to form of the basis of the Catechesis

      A very good point, Pastor Weedon. And I suspect that is why it is recommended for the “catechetical seasons” of Lent and Easter, since especially the Gospels for Lent in Year A are tied to the ancient “scrutinies” for catechumens.

      But it is a change that should have come with a bit more explanation. Something along the lines of “If the homilies for Lent and Easter focus on baptismal catechesis, it is appropriate for the Apostles Creed to be used” would have been very helpful

  11. Jim Ryland says:

    We essentially have three major creeds. The Apostle’s is greatly underused as is the Athenasian. We’re still duking it out over the Filioque so the Apostle’s might be a refreshing resurgence until that’s all settled. I don;t think that it’s dumbing-down the liturgy and there are several generations since V-II that rarely hear the elegant simplicity of the Apostlic Creed.

  12. Fr. John Brantley Cox says:

    Being Orthodox and unfamiliar with the particulars of RC liturgical texts I would be interested to learn why “consubstantial” was adopted, what it replaced, and why it is a source of contention.


    Fr. John Cox

  13. John Nolan says:

    The Credo was only introduced into the Roman Mass about a thousand years ago. The new translation seems to imply that it should be sung, in English as well as in Latin, and to Gregorian melodies (I and III). Substitute the Apostles’ Creed, which was not set to music, and you obviate the need to reintroduce Chant, which should please liberals everywhere.

    • Schütz says:

      All of which simply goes to show that there are very many possible and lawful variations in the rite of the mass that could be employed without resorting to unlawful variation.

    • Jim Ryland says:


      The Credo was always sung in a Solemn Mass and many congregations readily sing from the Gregorian numes during the Novus Ordo.

      • John Nolan says:

        Yes, the Nicene Creed should be sung, preferably in Latin and if congregations have to learn it anew we should teach them Credo I, which is authentically Gregorian, rather than Credo III which is not. The point I was making is that the Apostles’ Creed, which is used in the older form of baptism, was not used in the Mass and so does not have a musical setting.

  14. Tony Bartel says:

    I have been pondering what is means to replace a creed which has ecumenical significance (even in its unilaterally altered form) with what is essentially a baptismal creed of a local particular church?

  15. John Nolan says:

    “…even in its unilaterally altered form…” I presume this is a reference to the ‘filioque’, added to the creed by the Western Church in the first millennium. The Anglicans inherited this, although there is a recent tendency to omit it. This might be because they have changed their doctrine on the procession of the Holy Ghost, or else they are trying to curry favour with the Orthodox. If the latter, they are wasting their time, since their ordination of women puts them beyond the Pale as far as the East is concerned. Byzantine-rite Catholics include the ‘filioque’ but put it in parentheses.

  16. Norah says:

    Sunday Mass at my parish is over in 40 minutes, Eucharistic Prayer 2 is always used, the homily lasts a few minutes. I am sure we will start saying the Apostles Creed once father finds out about the option.

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