Apostles' Creed History: Its Probable Marian Roots

By Jose Ma J Fernandez 

While looking at possible sources for a likely article on the various versions of the Apostles Creed – mainly the original Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed – one particular common thread kept coming up, even in articles written by varying shades of theologians and spiritual writers. Almost to a man, they agreed on the Apostolic roots of the original Creed, attributing each of the articles to particular Apostles, and reporting that the process was most likely inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Then, one writer or commentator mentioned a chapter in the book, The Mystical City of God by Venerable Mother Mary of Agreda, a visionary who was blessed with having been able to “see” entire episodes in the life of Our Lord from the perspective of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This chapter – which I remembered reading some time back since I have the book and have used it for spiritual reading on occasion – did, indeed, contain the time when the Apostles laid down the foundations of what we now know as the Creed.

The book I have is an abridged version published by TAN Books, and is contained in Chapter 5, which deals with the period after the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and the Martyrdom of St Stephen. It is that period about a year after the death and Resurrection of the Lord when the infant Church gravitated towards the protective mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the leadership of St Peter. According to the visionary, Our Mother pondered on the persecution that broke out after the martyrdom of St Stephen, the need for the apostles and disciples to disperse and spread the gospel, but guided by some sort of formula that would contain the essence of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

She prayed for a formula that the Apostles could carry with them as they ventured forth to carry the Lord’s command to preach the gospel. Our Lady then presented her desire to her Son in prayer, one that persisted for 40 days during which Our Lord gave the Seat of Wisdom the framework and articles that He desired to see in the proposed formula.

But the humble Virgin also wished for the faithful to recognize the primacy of Peter as head of the Church, and he was then inspired to gather all the Apostles and disciples with our Lady in attendance and declared that they should recluse themselves in prayer to seek the Lord’s guidance. They first participated in the celebration of the Eucharist by St Peter, after which they agreed to pray and fast for ten days, which they then extended to 40 days. During this time, they asked the Holy Spirit – upon the advice of Mother Mary, the Spouse of the Spirit – to guide them in the undertaking.

At the end of the 40 day of prayer and fasting, Our Lady requested each of the 12 Apostles to define a mystery of Christ as the Holy Spirit would inspire them to do. This is what each of them said:

St Peter: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth”,

St Andrew: “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord”,

St James the Greater: “Who was conceived through the operation of the Holy Ghost (Spirit), born of the Virgin Mary”,

St John: “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was Crucified, Died, and was Buried”,

St Thomas: “Descended into Hell, arose from the dead on the 3rd day”,

St James the Less: “Ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty”,

St Philip: “From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”,

St Bartholomew: “I believe in the Holy Ghost (Spirit)”,

St Matthew: “In the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints”,

St Simon: “Forgiveness of Sins”,

St Thaddeus: “The resurrection of the flesh”,

St Matthias: “Life Everlasting, Amen.”

After the formula had been completed, the Holy Spirit gave His seal of approval by allowing all present to hear a heavenly voice proclaim: “…You have decided well.”

Then, the Mother of the Lord led the Apostles in thanking the Trinity for having helped them, and specifically thanked the Holy Spirit for His inspiration and help in their desire to be effective instruments of the Will of the Lord. Shortly after, in a sign of humility, the Mother of God then prostrated herself before St Peter as head of the Church, and proclaimed her belief in the formula of Catholic doctrine as given to them through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This is a beautiful word-picture, and also a wonderful expression of one of the great foundations of the Sacred Tradition of the Church, most of the details of which have been lost to us through time, leaving only the Apostles’ Creed and its essence to guide us. 

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