ROME, 5 DEC. 2006 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: It is my understanding that it is not allowed to omit the Creed on
Sundays (except during the Easter Season when the laity are sprinkled
with holy water and renew their baptismal promises). Just last week, a
priest did omit the Creed but asked the baptismal questions (no
sprinkling). For example, he said, "Do you believe in God the Father
almighty ...?" and the congregation replied "Yes" (until we finally
caught on and remembered to say, "I do"). Although a seemingly minor
difference, I was wondering if the latter was permitted.
F.M., Carthage, North Carolina
A: According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Nos. 67-68:
"(67) The purpose of the Symbolum or Profession of Faith, or Creed, is
that the whole gathered people may respond to the word of God proclaimed
in the readings taken from Sacred Scripture and explained in the homily
and that they may also call to mind and confess the great mysteries of
the faith by reciting the rule of faith in a formula approved for
liturgical use, before these mysteries are celebrated in the Eucharist.
"(68) The Creed is to be sung or said by the priest together with the
people on Sundays and Solemnities. It may be said also at particular
celebrations of a more solemn character. If it is sung, it is begun by
the priest or, if this is appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir. It
is sung, however, either by all together or by the people alternating
with the choir. If not sung, it is to be recited by all together or by
two parts of the assembly responding one to the other."
No. 137 indicates the proper posture: "The Creed is sung or recited by
the priest together with the people (cf. above, no. 68) with everyone
standing. At the words 'et incarnatus est' (by the power of the Holy
Spirit ... became man) all make a profound bow; but on the Solemnities
of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord, all genuflect."
Thus the Creed may not normally be omitted on any Sunday Mass except as
During the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday (but not on other Sundays
of Easter Season), the renewal of baptismal promises and sprinkling with
holy water replaces the Creed.
This is to emphasize the traditional connection of Easter Sunday with
baptism and because the profession of faith is included in the baptismal
Likewise, whenever baptism or confirmation is celebrated during Mass the
profession of faith is omitted because the baptismal promises are either
made or renewed during the rite.
The text of the Creed is usually that of the so-called Nicene Creed.
According to the new Latin missal the Apostles' Creed may be used during
Lent, Easter and at Masses for Children. Some countries have received
permission to use the Apostles' Creed every Sunday.
The rite of sprinkling with holy water at Easter should not be confused
with the similar rite of blessing and sprinkling of holy water which may
replace the penitential rite and the "Lord, have mercy" at the beginning
of most Masses with a congregation. ZE06120523
* * *
Follow-up: Substituting for the Creed [12-19-2006]
Our response on omitting or substituting the creed (Dec. 5) generated a
surprisingly heavy correspondence which requires us to further nuance
our earlier reply.
Regarding the omission of the creed, a priest pointed out that the
Ritual for the Christian Initiation of Adults does offer the possibility
of omitting the creed when the Scrutinies are celebrated with the Elect
on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent (No. 156), to wit:
"When the Eucharist is to follow, intercessory prayer is resumed with
the usual general intercessions for the needs of the Church and the
needs of the whole world; then, if required, the profession of faith is
said. But for pastoral reasons these general intercessions and the
profession of faith may be omitted. The liturgy of the Eucharist then
begins as usual with the preparation of the gifts. ..."
A similar option also occurs in some other moments such as the "Sending
of the Catechumens for Election" which occurs in the parish church when
the Rite of Election will occur with the bishop at the cathedral (see
No. 117 RCIA).
In this case we are before a possibility that is to be used if and when
there are good pastoral reasons for doing so. The correctness of this
possibility should always be explained to the faithful so as avoid
confusion when the creed is omitted.
A reader in Biloxi, Mississippi, asked if the creed may be omitted
whenever an Advent wreath or Nativity scene is blessed during Mass. The
Book of Blessings, the reader wrote, "mentions that the blessing takes
place on the First Sunday of Advent (BB 1509), and the Order of Blessing
During Mass first mentions the homily (1517), then says (in 1518), 'The
general intercessions follow.' No mention is made of the Profession of
The examples come from that part of the Book of Blessings which does not
form part of the Latin original but are approved supplements for the
United States. Unlike the case of the Scrutinies, where the possibility
of omitting the creed is explicitly mentioned, the absence of any
indication here is perhaps a case of a rubrical oversight.
Since the creed is not normally left out, even on solemn occasions such
as priestly ordinations, it would seem strange that a humble blessing of
an Advent wreath should occasion its omission.
With respect to substituting the creed with the renewal of baptismal
promises on Easter Sunday, one reader correctly pointed out that it was
not a universal practice. Rather, it was an adaptation which the Holy
See approved for the United States and may have approved for some other
bishops' conferences as well.
It was also pointed out that Pope John Paul II sometimes substituted the
renewal of promises for the creed at World Youth Day Masses.
That approval by the Holy See, or a personal initiative of the Pope who
is the supreme legislator, is required for such a change would indicate
that a priest should not presume to introduce it into the liturgy on his
own initiative. This also applies even when the change would appear
appropriate, such as for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
For such occasions, as another correspondent noted, the rite of blessing
and sprinkling with holy water at the beginning of Mass (which also
recalls baptism) may be profitably used.
It is certainly true that the baptismal promises are just another form
of profession of faith. But the Church has good pastoral reasons for
reserving the renewal of baptismal promises to specific times and
situations and requiring that the habitual form of profession of faith
be the recitation of the creed.
All the same, if the occasion warrants it, the rite of renewal of
baptismal promises may be used with the creed or on days where the creed
is not required. Such occasions could be pilgrimages or the conclusion
of retreats and spiritual exercises.
This brings us to the topic of using either the Nicene or the Apostles'
Creed on a Sunday. An acute reader pointed out: "You wrote [...]:
'According to the new Latin missal the Apostles' Creed may be used
during Lent, Easter and at Masses for Children. Some countries have
received permission to use the Apostles' Creed every Sunday."
I believe it is an option in every country, every Sunday. The rubric is:
"19. Loco symboli nicaeno-constantinopolitani, praesertim tempore
Quadragesimae et tempore paschali, adhiberi potest symbolum baptismale
Ecclesiae Romanae sic dictum Apostolorum" (Missale Romanum, Page 513).
The meaning of "praesertim" is "especially, particularly."
The rubric could be rendered thus: "The Roman Church's baptismal creed,
the so-called Apostles' Creed, may be used in place of the
Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially in Lent and Eastertide."
Our interlocutor is correct that under this formulation the Apostles'
Creed could be recited every Sunday and the Nicene Creed left aside.
Yet, I believe that if such an interpretation were widely applied it
would go against the legislator's intention and would impoverish the
richness of the liturgy.
Through this rubric the Church expresses a desire that both creeds
should be known and used by all the faithful. The Nicene Creed would
remain that of common use while the Apostles' Creed would also be used
on occasion. The mention of this latter creed's primarily catechetical
origin as a baptismal symbol is an indicator of why it is proposed
especially for Lent and Easter.
Used in this way, the advantages of both creeds could be brought to the
fore. The concise Apostles' Creed can be used to express the essential
tenets of the faith in the context of baptism and the baptismal
The more theological Nicene Creed affords an opportunity to deepen into
these essential elements and into the mystery of Christ and of our
It must also be remembered that historically it was the Nicene Creed
that was first introduced into the Eucharistic liturgy. And this was not
originally done to recall baptism but rather to express the fullness of
the faith in Jesus Christ. Likewise, it is this creed, and not that of
the apostles, that is liturgically recited by practically all forms of