Thursday, June 9, 2011

The "I"s Or The "We"s?

Beginning Sunday, November 27, 2011, we will no longer say "We believe in one God..." in the Profession of Faith.

The new translation will be "I believe in one God..."

Why the change from We to I?

The answer is: the new translation more literally reflects the Latin text, which is credo (the singular "I believe") not credimus (the plural "we believe").

The Latin text of the Nicene-Constantinople creed as found in the liturgy is the singular "I" not "we."

Further justification in favor of "I" rather than "we" focuses on the personal profession of each member of the assembly. On Sunday, November 27, the language of the assembly will affirm that each individual person is directly for himself or herself acknowledging his or her avowal of the theology of the creed.

Each member of the congregation will publicly acknowledge (as he or she sees it, as he or she individually believes it) the dogmas of the Roman Catholic understanding of the faith as spelled out by the Council of Nicea in 325 and revised and supplemented by the Council of Constantinople in 381.

Both Councils were gatherings of Church leaders who were directly charged with the responsibility of determining and promulgating sound doctrine. Among the controverted issues they addressed were the divinity of Jesus and the relationship of the Spirit to Father and Son.

Later Councils handed on the doctrinal decisions and dogmatic tradition of these two Councils.

So, on the one hand, the new language of "I" rather than "we" more literally translates the Latin text and makes more personal and individual the acceptance of the teachings of the creed.

On the other hand, however, the profession of faith as formulated by Nicea and Constantinople and handed on by later Councils uses the expression credimus (the plural "we believe"), or in the Greek language (the language of the two Councils) pisteuomen (the plural "we believe.")

So the question is, why did the Latin liturgical text become the singular "I believe" when the documentation of the Councils has the plural "we believe"? (A copy of the Nicean creed as written by Eutyches in 449 has the singular, but scholars are divided on its reliability.)

Historically, the plural "we" finds support in the traditional wording of the creed, and theologically, the "we" connotes that the doctrines are not an individual's statement of belief but rather the official and formal declaration of the catholic (whole) Church.

"We believe" affirms the communal expression of faith, placing each one who professes belief by means of this creed into the context of the Body of Christ. The plural further echoes the more traditional profession made by believers for centuries, and reflects the full communion of saints.

Both the singular and the plural have their proponents and both support their theologies with significant argumentation.

But once again we are caught up as Church in a distraction. We argue and theologize about such minutia, and thereby avoid more significant matters. No wonder we are often accused of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

In the final analysis I doubt it really matters whether one says "I" or "we."

And I suspect when November 27 rolls 'round, there'll be a mixture of the singular "I" and plural "we" as the People of God (or more likley the priest-presider) expresses faith in the words of the creed.

It will be interesting to see who gets more upset: the "I"s or the "we"s!

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