The Nicene Creed – Part 1

Since these articles began appearing they have focused on the saint or event of any given Sunday or day near that Sunday. However, beginning with this article, they will focus on the Nicene Creed, the most fundamental statement of the Christian faith.
The Creed was compiled at the first two ecumenical, or general councils of the Orthodox Church, Nicea (325AD) and Constantinople (381AD) and has been used since these to express the faith. Liturgically, there are two main places where the Creed is used. The first is Baptism. The Creed is recited by the person being baptized (or that person’s sponsor) to signify that the person accepts the Orthodox faith and intends to live by it. At the Divine Liturgy the Creed is recited or sung after the Great Entrance. The Great Entrance is the time that the priest, carrying the bread and wine which will become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, comes out of the sanctuary and re-enters the sanctuary through the Royal Doors (the doors in the center of the iconastas), placing the bread and wine on the altar. There is a litany and then the Creed. Before we recite it, the priest or deacon exclaims “The doors, the doors, in wisdom let us attend.”
People usually think that these words apply to the Royal Doors of the iconastas, but in fact they refer to the doors of the church. In the early days of the Church only baptized Christians were allowed to be in the church for the part of the Liturgy which followed the Great Entrance.
The Divine Liturgy has two parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Faithful. The Liturgy of the Catechumens is the first part of the Liturgy beginning with “Blessed is the Kingdom” and ends at the Great Entrance. Catechumens are people who are preparing to be baptized or chrismated (in the early days of the church people usually entered the church as adults) who are studying the faith. This part of the The Nicene Creed – Part 1 (March 19, 2016)
Liturgy consists of psalms, the Beatitudes and the reading of the Epistle and Gospel, and sometimes the sermon. We can say that this is the teaching part of the Liturgy so learners could be present. As a matter of fact, catechumens did not learn the Creed until shortly before their baptism.
The second part of the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Faithful, when Holy Communion takes place, was only for the believers and so at the cry “The doors, the doors…” the unbaptized had to leave the church and the church doors were closed and guarded.
This practice was when Christianity was illegal and the church had to be guarded from spies. However, this reminds us that at the Liturgy, no one is a passive participant, but a member of the Body of Christ (the Church) who will receive the Body (and Blood) of Christ in Holy Communion.
The recitation of the Creed at this point reminds us that practicing our faith is not something we do from habit or as a quaint custom, but rather requires a commitment to the truth of the Christian faith as expressed in the Creed.

Fr. John