This will be brief as I’m seriously crunched for time this week…
If you don’t at least look at the Liturgy blog of Fr. Bosco Peters, you’re missing out on a thoughtful voice grounded in an ecumenical appreciation of our ways coming from the New Zealand perspective. I find him to be a great representative of the best of the Vatican II spirit and tradition in ecumenical liturgy.
His latest post on the Creed, though, I find just plain wrong. He argues for dropping the Nicene Creed in the Eucharist because it serves functionally as a doublet for the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. That is, if I’m reading him right, he’s arguing that both the Creed and the beginning of any decent Eucharistic Prayer are both about the mighty acts of God and therefore the Creed can be considered extraneous. Furthermore, he suggests that the Creed began being used in the liturgy when the Eucharistic Prayer went silent, and that since we are back to a clearly-heard Canon, the utility of the Creed has outlived its purpose.
I disagree. There is some support for the notion of the Creed as a rehearsal of the acts of God if you look at the missionary preaching of the early medieval period. That is, Augustine’s On the Catechizing of the Uninitiated takes the creed as a basic framework for the Christian proclamation. Following Augustine, Martin of Braga (+580), Pirmin (+753), and my buddy Ælfric all use the creedal frame for their communication of the basics of the Faith. But that’s not to say that rehearsal of the acts of God is its only or even primary function. Rather, its primary function was—and remains—to lay down the fundamental boundaries of interpretation within which the Church reads the Scriptures.
As I see it, the Creed was added into the Mass during the Carolingian period because there were a lot of fundamentally unformed Christians. Adding the Creed was a way to put the framework of the Faith and the basic interpretive rubrics in front of as many people as possible.
As I look across the Church, we’re far more in an 8th or 10th century situation than a 3rd or 4th when it comes to formation. That is, there are an awful lot of Christians—and people period—who do not grasp the basics of the Faith. (Even worse are those both inside and outside the Church who think they know it but are woefully lacking…)
We need the Creed.
Furthermore, as we can plainly see, repetition of the Creed alone is not sufficient; it has to be explained and understood. But at least if it’s heard regularly, it provides catechists with a starting point!