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Week 5

Liturgical Location: We have come to God’s house to worship God as God requires. We are in the midst of the Ministry of God’s Word, whereby God’s people are taught, examined, directed, and assured in the Faith. We have just heard and responded to the Epistle and Gospel readings. Now we turn to join our voices to the profession of the Historic Faith using the words of the Nicene Creed

 

H] Nicene Creed:

In 325 the Council of Nicaea composed the Nicene Creed as an expression of Scripture’s most basic and fundamental teachings. Since then it has been a test of the Orthodox Faith throughout the whole Church. It proclaims belief in God who is one God, three persons. It affirms the divinity of each person of the trinity as well as the unity of the Church (in the creed the term “Catholic” means universal and refers to the one historic Church not the Roman Catholic branch of the Church). The primary focus of the Creed is on Christ. It proclaims that Christ is eternal God, fully human, that he died for our sins, rose again from the dead, and will return in glory to judge all mankind. To say the Creed then is to profess your faith in what Scripture teaches and what the universal Church has faithfully held down through the ages.

 

Importance: notice at once that the Creed begins with the words, “I believe” rather than with the words, “we believe”. This is very important: While the creed is a corporate expression of the one Faith once delivered it is nonetheless essential that this one Faith be believed and received by each and every person. In other words, it is not enough that you merely attend a parish that holds to the orthodox teachings of the Church. You must personally receive these teachings as your own. Thus, the recitation of creed is a personal expression of the historic Faith. The very opening of the Creed then reminds me that liturgy, at every point, is something that I do.

 

At the same time, the Creed also reminds you that the faith you profess is not a private faith but is the one Apostolic Faith given by God to the whole Church. In other words, it matters what you believe. It is not enough that you believe something (however sincerely you believe it). Instead, you are to believe the Gospel as Scripture reveals it and as God’s people have understood it down through the ages. Our faith then is personal but not private. Thus in reciting the Creed, you are actively joining your heart to the living Faith of the Church.

 

Finally, notice the Creed’s placement within the service. The Creed occurs between the Scripture readings and the sermon. Why? The Creed is both a summary of Scripture’s teaching and a standard of orthodox belief. As such, it both concludes the day’s lessons and prepares for the day’s sermon (i.e. this is the Faith just heard in Scripture and the theology about to be expounded in the sermon).

 

During the rehearsal of the Creed there are several motions that are incorporated to remind us of the meaning and importance of what we are saying. Each motion serves as highlighter pen underscoring the theology at work at that portion of the creed.

 

1I BELIEVE in one God the Father2 Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:
   And in one Lord Jesus Christ2, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven3, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried: And the third day he rose again4 according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
   And I believe in the Holy Ghost2, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets: And I believe5 one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the dead6: And the Life of the world to come.
Amen.

 

1. First, the priest begins the creed with a wide collective motion of the arms. Here our individual professions are being collected and added to the profession of the whole Church down through the ages. Notice then, you are not simply reciting a creed. Rather, you are offering the profession and renewal of your faith to God in worship and joining it with the worship of the whole Church.

 

2. Second, throughout the creed we reverence (slight bow of the head) at the mention of the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit thus reminding us that the God we worship is triune and that each member of the trinity is fully God, equal in glory and majesty, and equally worthy of worship.

 

3. Notice that we genuflect (kneel on one knee) at the part of the Creed that speaks of Christ’s incarnation. Our kneeling represents the historic event of Christ’s birth when God the Son came down to man and took upon Himself our full human nature.

 

At the same time, our kneeling at this point of the Creed also reminds us of the primordial motion of the Gospel. That is, as we recall Christ’s incarnation, we are reminded that God always takes the initiative with His people. Thus, what is true of the nativity is indicative of the whole Christian life, God always takes the initiative. As such, when we pray or when we undertake to serve God more fully in some area of our life, we are not doing so alone or in the hope that God will heed our prayers or look favorably upon our efforts. Rather, our prayers and efforts are signs that God’s grace is already at work in our lives, prompting us to turn to Him for the renewal and healing we so desperately need.

 

Likewise, as we kneel, we are reminded that, like the magi and disciples before us, we worship the incarnate Christ, God in human flesh. Thus, we recall the fundamental nature of grace. The Gospel is not about escaping creation or the physical body. Rather, it is about God coming to man, as man, in the midst of human history, to redeem every aspect of human existence. The great price God paid in His own blood underscores the value of the body, creation, and human history. Thus, as Christians, we seek renewal not escape.

 

4. As the Creed recalls Christ’s resurrection, we return to a standing position. Our action then serves to remind us of the historic event of Christ’s bodily resurrection. At the same time, it also reminds us that Christ’s resurrection is the source and guarantee of our own resurrection. The resurrection life is the new life that is ours in Christ and that we will one day enjoy in full. Thus, our future is certain and our outcome is guaranteed.

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