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 Catholic Culture Winter 2018
The Nicene Creed—Answering a Threat to the Early Church
 At Mass, most Catholics stand and pray together the Nicene Creed, which begins,
“I believe in one God, the Father almighty....” In both Creeds, we a irm our belief
in the great mystery of our faith—the Holy Trinity. Some parishes pray the Apostles’ Creed instead. We proclaim that we believe in one God and that there are Three Persons who share God’s divine nature: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The original form of the Nicene Creed was written at Nicaea, a city in Asia Minor, present-day Turkey. In the year 325, Christian leaders met at Nicaea to solve the problem of a heresy, or false doctrine, that threatened to destroy the unity of the Church. This heresy was called Arianism and was named for Arius, the theologian who originated it. According to Arius, Jesus was not divine. He was a man created by God to do God’s work, but he was not both God and man.
This icon shows the Council of Nicaea
 During the fourth century, Arianism spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire. The Council of Nicaea was the first big step in putting out the fire. Then in 381, the leaders of the Church met again to combat Arianism. This time, they met at Constantinople, which is known today as Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. Here Church leaders revised and strengthened the Nicene Creed. These two Church councils, with their clear statement of what Christians believe, did much to control the spread of Arianism.
Two saintly theologians stand out in the struggles against Arianism—Saint Athanasius (295–373), whose feast day is May 2, and Saint Hilary of Poitiers (315–368), whose feast day is January 13. Both men dedicated their lives to the defeat of Arianism, and both su ered persecution at the hands of powerful Arian Church and secular leaders. But they persevered in their writing and preaching.
The next time you pray the Nicene Creed, you might thank Saint Athanasius and Saint Hilary for what they did to defeat a false teaching and to pass on the true teachings of Jesus to Christians, then and now.
       A Service of
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