Question: The true presence of Christ in the Eucharist is central to our Catholic faith, and many converts say it was essential to their conversion. If this is so, why is the true presence not mentioned at all in the Nicene or Apostles Creeds? Should it not be added at the end where we state things like our belief in the Communion of Saints, the resurrection of the body and so forth?
— Jerry Roventini, via email
Answer: There are many things that are not mentioned in the Nicene Creed. There is no mention of the Ten Commandments or grace; neither are we told what books belong to the New Testament or that we should care for the poor, etc. The creed is not a catechism; it is a statement of certain key doctrines that were disputed at the time of its composition in the fourth century.
The creed was composed in response to debates about the divinity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. While there are a few concluding statements related to ecclesiology and eschatology, the Nicene Creed remains preeminently a statement of faith in the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The belief in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was not widely disputed at the time. And to the degree it was, the need to definitively teach on the divinity of Christ was an important foundation in order to establish his true presence in the Eucharist.
In the Sacred Liturgy, many signs and words indicate the Real Presence. The words of the consecration, which are Jesus’ own words, say, “This is my body … my blood.” The priest later says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” There are also signs of the Real Presence in our reverence of kneeling and genuflecting. And, as Communion is distributed, there is the simple creedal declaration and response: “The body of Christ. Amen.” Therefore, in the wider liturgy of the Mass and devotions such as adoration, the Church proclaims her belief in the True Presence.
While it would not intrinsically hurt to add to the Nicene Creed, one might wonder where it would stop. Further, since the creed is shared by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, adding to the ancient creed might harm attempts at unity.
Pope Paul VI wrote a longer “Credo of the People of God” which does speak to the Eucharistic presence, but it is too long to recite at Mass.
Recalling our sins
Question: The time allotted to recalling our sins at Mass doesn’t appear to do justice to requirement that we confess our sins that our offering may be pure. How can we confess what we barely have time to recall? Maybe a solution is offer confession 30 minutes before all Masses.
— Art Osten Jr., Fox River Grove, Illinois
Answer: The purpose of the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass is not that there be a lengthy moment to make a robust examination of conscience. The people are invited to “acknowledge” their sins. The vision is that we are before God acknowledging in a general way that we are sinners in need of his mercy. And while particular sins may come to mind, it is our status as sinners coming before God with humility that is emphasized.
As for confessions before all Masses, this is a good idea and is done in many places, including my own parish.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed but anonymity may be requested.