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30 March 2014
posted by Canon Dakin on 04-04-2014

4th Sunday of Lent

Why are we saying the Apostles Creed during Lent? It is because of what happened today in Rome during the 4th and 5th cent. There are two strands to Lent, reception and reconciliation: the reception of new Christians and the reconciliation of those who, once baptised, had fallen away.  The preparation of new converts was the first concern.  Baptism, seen as dying and rising with Christ to a new life, was originally limited to the night of the Resurrection, the celebration of Easter.  Those who had shown an interest in learning about Christianity found someone to sponsor them and for two years would have been allowed to attend Mass only as far as the homily. The Church would have appointed a godparent to help them to understand what they were hearing and to encourage them in living a Christian life. On the first Sunday of Lent they were brought before the bishop who would question the godparent about their progress. If the answers were favourable they were chosen for baptism at Easter and called the elect. Today. to define their faith more exactly and let them know precisely what they would be professing to believe as Christians, they heard for the first time the summary of faith we call the Apostles Creed. Then the bishop told them to go and learn it. It was not a matter of going into a corner with a book or a slip of paper. The creed was never written down. They would have to pick it up, by repetition, from their godparents. They needed to be word perfect because next Sunday they would have to take their turn to stand up and recite it aloud. Otherwise the creed in those days was never heard at Mass. It was only in the 9th cent. in response to a suggestion by the German Emperor that the creed appeared at Mass in Rome and then it was the Nicene Creed. Our new missal has given us the opportunity of using the Apostles Creed as an alternative and that is especially fitting today and next Sunday whilst the gospel today is full of significance for those preparing for baptism. They were called the ‘enlightened’- those who had once been blind to the truth and had come to see the light. In our cathedrals this year on the first Sunday of Lent over three thousand men and women presented themselves to their bishop in anticipation of being received into the Church at Easter. We will pray for them.    

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