34. What are the most ancient symbols (professions) of faith?
(Comp 34) The most ancient symbols of faith are the baptismal creeds. Because Baptism is conferred “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), the truths of faith professed at Baptism are articulated in reference to the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity.
(CCC 186) From the beginning, the apostolic Church expressed and handed on her faith in brief formulae normative for all (Cf. Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:3-5, etc.). But already very early on, the Church also wanted to gather the essential elements of her faith into organic and articulated summaries, intended especially for candidates for Baptism: This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions, but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety. And just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and the New Testaments (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. illum. 5, 12: PG 33, 521-524).
To deepen and explain
(CCC 189) The first "profession of faith" is made during Baptism. The symbol of faith is first and foremost the baptismal creed. Since Baptism is given "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). The truths of faith professed during Baptism are articulated in terms of their reference to the three persons of the Holy Trinity. (CCC 190) And so the Creed is divided into three parts: "the first part speaks of the first divine Person and the wonderful work of creation; the next speaks of the second divine Person and the mystery of his redemption of men; the final part speaks of the third divine Person, the origin and source of our sanctification" (Roman Catechism I, 1, 3). These are "the three chapters of our [baptismal] seal" (St. Irenaeus, Dem. Ap. 100: SCh 62, 170).
(CCC 191) "These three parts are distinct although connected with one another. According to a comparison often used by the Fathers, we call them articles. Indeed, just as in our bodily members there are certain articulations which distinguish and separate them, so too in this profession of faith, the name articles has justly and rightly been given to the truths we must believe particularly and distinctly" (Roman Catechism, I, I, 4). In accordance with an ancient tradition, already attested to by St. Ambrose, it is also customary to reckon the articles of the Creed as twelve, thus symbolizing the fullness of the apostolic faith by the number of the apostles (Cf. St. Ambrose, Expl. symb. 8).
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