Changes in the Nicene Creed????

This is from the newsletter of Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church:

Paying Attention to the Creed

It is easy for us to go into autopilot as we worship. The good part about this is that we become so comfortable with the words that we don’t have to ask the question, “What am I supposed to be saying?” but can instead focus on the meaning. The problem, of course, is that sometimes we just mentally check out.

If you go into autopilot during the Nicene Creed this Sunday at 10:30, you will be in for a surprise. This is because there will be some slight alterations in its text. This is one of the many changes that we have made in the last year, as we have been gradually incorporating the liturgical materials recently developed and authorized for use in the Anglican Church in North America. A liturgical task force has been working on this since our founding, and we have now reached the stage in which their work is being used in public worship throughout the province. Is being described as a “working form” of the liturgy; the final form will be set only after gauging the response the churches that are using this form.

So, why alter the text of the Creed? Certainly not because our doctrine has changed. It is an issue of translation. The Creed was first written in Greek in 381, and has been upheld by most Christian churches since then. There have been several English translations over the years. Translation is always a struggle, particularly when you must decide whether to render the literal meaning or to add a bit of interpretation for the sake of clarity. Sometimes those attempts at clarity turn out to accidentally obscure the meaning.

The biggest difference you will notice is in the text around the conception of Jesus Christ. “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” There is no reference to “by the power of the Holy Spirit” because that is not actually part of the Creed; it is an attempt at clarification added in the 1979 Prayer Book. This unfortunately made things less clear, and some have pointed out that the power of the Holy Spirit is present in many conceptions in the Scriptures. You could say that Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, Samson, and John the Baptist were all conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, but our Lord is unique. He “was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.” He was born of a virgin with no human father. Incarnate from the Holy Spirit, he is fully divine; incarnate from the Virgin Mary, he is fully human.

There are some other minor changes; “seen and unseen” becomes “visible and invisible”, etc.

Any time we have a shift like this, it can be frustrating. The familiar suddenly becomes unfamiliar again; we stumble over something that has rolled off of our tongue for years. I agree, and I hope we don’t have to go through this kind of shift again. But it is also a point of opportunity. It is a moment to move out of autopilot and think very intentionally about what we are saying. This is the proclamation of our faith; may we not recite it mindlessly.oin me in these disciplines.

Fr. Brian+

About Daniel Mochamps

Church Planter, Anglican Diocese in New England (Anglican Church in North America).
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