Each Sunday at Mass we stand together and profess our faith. Typically at Mass we recite the Nicene Creed, affirming our belief in the Trinity, in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. But one thing that isn’t mentioned is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. So why is there no mention of it in the Creed?
A listener recently called in to Go Ask Your Father™ to ask this very question. Msgr. Stuart Swetland responded by explaining the history of the Nicene Creed and how it came about. He said, “Really, the Creeds came about because someone was denying some aspect of the truth. The Nicene Creed says what it does because there was this priest named Arius. He was a very respected priest, so his teachings spread like wildfire, and in 319 he stood up in Alexandria, Egypt and he said about Jesus, among other things, that there was a time when He was not. Talking about the Christ, saying there was a time when He was not.”
“He argues that Christ, the second person of the Trinity, was created. And that He wasn’t really equal with God. And so we get our Creed that counteracts the false teaching of Arius. That’s why we say things like that He’s God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. All of those were to counter the false teachings of Arius.”
After giving that background on why certain elements are included and emphasized in the Creed, Msgr. Swetland also explained why the Eucharist is not one of them.
“Arius, despite getting Christ wrong, didn’t deny the Real Presence in the Eucharist,” he said. “So that didn’t need to be in the Creed because it wasn’t denied.”
For the listener, who teaches RCIA and has candidates work through the Creed as a way of explaining Catholic belief, Msgr. Swetland pointed out another resource that includes more of the basic Catholic teachings, saying, “You might want to look at the Credo of the People of God, the very long credo that St. Paul VI did in the 1960s. That has more in it of the basic teachings of the Church.”
Listen to the full conversation below: