Introduce children ages 8–12 to the Apostles’ Creed and the foundations of the Catholic faith. This guide explores each of the twelve “articles”, or lines, of the Apostles’ Creed piece by piece. Prayers, reflections, a notebook section and quotes from various saints and theologians give more depth to the articles. The Creed Explained offers the Apostles’ Creed as a guideline for taking children through the basic tenets of Catholicism, and begins to bring them into a deeper understanding of God.
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By Silvia VecchiniIllustrated by Antonio Vincenti
Introduction: To speak about the faith is to talk about God
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth
in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried
he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead
he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead
I believe in the Holy Spirit
the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting. Amen
The Apostles’ Creed
The Nicene Creed
In these pages, you will come to know the Apostles’ Creed more deeply. We call it a creed because it begins with the word credo, which is Latin for “I believe.” The creed is a summary of the true faith that all Christians believe.
This ancient text is still recited by the Church today. When we profess the Creed, we retrace the Bible’s message and Jesus’ life. We say publicly that we are placing our trust in God, and we proclaim our faith in the Church. In the Creed, we speak about our biggest hopes and what our faith teaches about who God is for us.
For many centuries, the creed has also been known as the “symbol of faith.” But what exactly does this phrase mean? Let’s first take a look at the wordsymbol.
Symbol comes from the Greek wordsymbolonand means “a gathering or collection” or “a summary.” It can also mean “half of a broken object.” In ancient times, a “symbol” was used as a token of identity when agreements or alliances were made. Two individuals, families, or even cities would break a tessera, a clay seal usually made of terra cotta, into two pieces. Each side would save one of the two parts. The perfect fit of the broken pieces proved the existence of the agreement. The symbol was aunique signthat identified who had made an agreement or pact. In describing the Creed, Saint Augustine wrote, “It is called the Symbol because with it Christians recognize one another.”
Even today, reciting the Creed is how we bring together the token of identity in Christ that each one of us carries. As we stand to profess our faith, the Creed enables us to present ourselves to God together, in communion with one another. The Creed unites and creates communion: whoever recites the Creed is identified as part of a believing community.
The Creed is a confession of faith made by each person (I believe). But at the same time it is a confession that happens from within a community. (We see this in the words our Lord, Catholic Church, and communion of saints). The faith is expressed by each one of us, because each individual makes a choice, a deeply personal choice, to believe the truths we profess.
Still, this profession is larger than any individual believer because the Creed proclaims the faith that the whole Church has kept and passed on to us.
Personal faith and the faith of the whole Church are bound together. They cannot be divided. Everyone who says “I believe” becomes part of the one community of faith in Jesus Christ. Although the Church is more than just a group of individuals, the faith of each member is what unites them.
The Apostles most likely did not actually write the Creed. However, they did teach what is contained in the Creed. In the earliest years of the Church, a written Creed did not yet exist. Faith was handed on in much the same way family traditions are. Some of those traditions are legends.
According to one legend, the Apostles wrote this brief creed as a “model” for their preaching when they prepared to carry the Gospel to the world. The story even specifies that each of the twelve Apostles proposed one of the twelve articles, or parts, of the Creed!
Even if this legend is not historically accurate, we can say that it is based on an important truth: the Creed, the Symbol of The Apostles, echoes the faith of Jesus’ first Apostles in a way that reaches us.
The origin of the Creed is ancient. This text contains the truths of faith by which the first Christians recognized one another. It was closely tied to Baptism. Those who wanted to be baptized and become Christians, called catechumens (ca-tuh-KEU-mens), had to prepare themselves well. During Lent, they had an extended period of formation in which the leaders of the Christian community explained what they believed.
As the day of Baptism approached, the catechumens recited the Creed before the community and the bishop as a sign of their faith. They became full members of the Christian community when they were baptized, usually on Easter.
Different historical periods and various churches have had their own versions (or “formulas”) of the Creed. These formulas differ in some ways, but they all reflect what is written in the New Testament and they all witness to the life of the first Christian communities.
In the first few centuries after Jesus’ resurrection, the Church’s reflection on the Christian life and message matured. Our faith was able to be “synthesized” or summed up into the twelve articles that have been handed down to us.
Are we ready to get to know the articles of the Creed one by one?
In the fourth century, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem wanted to explain to people the importance of the Creed. Before doing so, he turned to his listeners and said:
“Be careful to guard and keep the teachings that you are now receiving, and write them in the depths of your heart.”
We begin our discovery of the Creed, one article at a time, so that the Creed can be imprinted in our hearts! Words from the Fathers of the Church and some Christian authors will help us to explore and better understand our faith.
As we go ahead you will also find Notebook pages: these are spaces for your thoughts and questions. There are reflections on these pages that can help you consider what you have read.
I believe in you, God, but my belief is just a small seed. Help my faith grow. Nourish me with your love, and let my faith deepen, mature, and always be in bloom.
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