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     (A Guide For Participating In The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom)
by the Very Reverend Michel Najim & T.L. Frazier

8.  The Creed


After the Holy Kiss, the deacon exclaims: “The Doors! The Doors! Wisdom. Be attentive.”

As we’ve already discussed when we examined the dismissal of the catechumens, originally the deacons guarded the doors of the church to prevent the entrance of unbelievers. Only baptized Christians are to participate in the eucharistic Mystery. Today, the command to guard the doors is often taken metaphorically to mean guarding the entrance to our hearts, to “watch” and be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man, as in the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins.159

While the context of the parable is Christ’s Second Coming at the consummation of the world, it can also be interpreted as the Lord’s coming to us in the Eucharist. The cry, “The doors! The doors! Wisdom! Be attentive!”, can also be interpreted within the context of the
recitation of the Creed.

Nicholas Cabasilas in the fourteenth century wrote in his commentary on the Divine Liturgy:  “Now the priest commands the congregation to proclaim that which they have learned and which they believe concerning God;...This wisdom (i.e., the Creed) is not known to the world, that is, the worldly wise, who can conceive of nothing greater or higher than the knowledge of material things, and cannot believe in the existence of a higher wisdom. It is in this wisdom that the priest asks us to open all the doors -- that is, our mouths and ears.

Open the doors in this wisdom...proclaiming and listening to these high teachings constantly; not inattentively but eagerly, devoting all your minds to it.”160 After the cry, “The doors! The doors!”, the people begin reciting the Creed composed at the Council of Nicaea
(325) and the one at Constantinople (381):

“I BELIEVE in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made; who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became human; who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; who rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; and who is coming again with glory to judge the living and the dead; and his kingdom will have no end; and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets; in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church; I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins; I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. Amen.”

Early creeds were used at baptisms as a profession of Faith for converts. But later on, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed was made the litmus test of Orthodoxy for everyone, including those already in the Church. With the rising tide of heresies in the early Church, the Creed of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils became a formula summarizing the essential articles of the Faith and revealing all private inventions as the heresies they really are. There were also, however, other factors which led the Church to insert the Creed into the Liturgy. It was originally the Non-Chalcedonian churches which pushed for the inclusion of the Creed. Because of their rejection of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451), they were erroneously dubbed “Monophysites” and “Eutychians” by the upholders of the Council.161 While denying the charge of Monophysitism, these churches nevertheless maintained that Chalcedon had betrayed the Faith established at the first two ecumenical councils, hence their motive in establishing the recitation of the Creed by all at each Liturgy. Antioch was probably the first church to introduce the recitation of the Creed; and, as we saw above when we examined the history of the Cherubic Hymn, Pseudo-Dionysius at the turn of the sixth century spoke of reciting the Creed after the Great Entrance.

The particular circumstances which led to the inclusion are as follows: The Non-Chalcedonian Emperor Anastasius I came to the throne in 491, and eventually decided to exile Patriarch Macedonius II in order to install the Non-Chalcedonian Timothy I (511-518) to the Patriarchal seat of Constantinople. He promptly imposed the Non-Chalcedonian practice of reciting the Nicene Creed at the Liturgy, which continued even after the patriarchate returned to the Chalcedonian fold. Indeed, deleting the Creed would have looked like a repudiation of Nicaea -- which was precisely the charge leveled against the Orthodox upholders of the Council of Chalcedon.

Emperor Justin II (567-578) later ordered that the addition to the Creed composed at the Second Ecumenical Council be recited as well.
In the Western churches, an interpolation has been added to the common Creed. The original Creed had simply paraphrased what Jesus said in John 15:26162 concerning the eternal relation of the Holy Spirit to the other two Persons of the Trinity: “[I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father.” But in the West, some churches during the sixth century started adding, “who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Starting in Spain, the addition spread slowly until it was finally adopted in Rome itself during the eleventh century. The Western addition, called in Latin the filioque,163 is rejected by the Orthodox as a theological error inserted into the Creed in an uncanonical manner.


159 Matthew 25:1-13.
160 Nicholas Cabasilas, A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 26. Translation by J.M. Hussey and P.A. McNulty (London:SPCK,1960), 67.
161 On Eutyches and Monophysitism, see what was written above on the Monogenes.
162 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
163 It is called this because the line in Latin reads: “qui ex Patre Filioque procedit.”

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Page created: 24-12-2012.

Last update: 24-12-2012.