2013 09 01 consubstantial

Why is it that US Catholics are required to say made-up things like “consubstantial” and “was incarnate” when saying the Nicene Creed, but the French are allowed to speak actual French instead?

While Americans say, “consubstantial with the Father,” the French say, “of the same nature as the Father,” (“de même nature que le Père”).

While Americans say, “by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man,” the French say, “by the Holy Spirit, he took flesh from the Virgin Mary, and made himself man,” (“par l’Esprit Saint, il a pris chair de la Vierge Marie, et s’est fait homme”).  In the French version, Mary is not just a vessel, not just incidental, but rather has a fruitful womb which gives “flesh.”  (Luke 1:42 (NRSV))

Are the French overdue for a Vatican revision to their Creed or have they already refused to do Latin-speak, preferring instead to speak actual French?   Anyone know?  Anyone know why American pew-sitters will recite anything they are told to recite?

How many Americans just continue to say, “one in being with the Father,” and “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary,” because they cannot say the tongue-twister words of the new American version?

The French version does not follow the English, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God;” rather, the French says, “He is God, born of God, light, born of the light, true God, born of the true God.” (“Il est Dieu, né de Dieu, lumière, née de la lumière, vrai Dieu, né du vrai Dieu,”) always keeping a distinction between Father and Son, by repeating that the Son is “born.”  Such repetition is not in the Latin.  Perhaps the French do it their way to make sure that all the faithful understand that the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father??  Of course I’m not sure what the intent is.  Perhaps it is simply that they don’t care to be instructed by Italians at the Vatican on how to speak French.

Interesting that in the phrase “le Père; et par lui tout a été fait,” the words “par lui” can mean either “by him” or “through him,” so it is up to the reader to decide if “all was made” by the Father (the “Père,” just mentioned) or through the Son.   Strictly speaking, since the Father has just been mentioned, “him” would have to mean the Father, unless it is very clear someone else mentioned earlier was intended.  So you get, “the Father, and by him all was made.”  Unless you remember the Council of Nicaea and then you know who made what and through whom it was made.

Any French majors out there are welcome to help me refine my translations.   I hope that what I remember of the French I knew in high school is sufficient for getting me through this post.  Maybe not.

There are many ways to view scripture, tradition, and history.  I am glad that the Church is a family of faiths, not monolithic – it has unity, not uniformity.


Link to Creed at US bishops’ website

Link to Creed at French bishops’ website–symbole-de-nicee.html

Links to episcopal conferences at the Catholic News Agency

Creeds viewed on or about August 27, 2013

Update: Mention of a 1957 prayer book was removed – the creed in the prayer book was not a translation of the adjoining Latin, but a different creed.

This entry was posted in Contrasts, Translations and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t like the frivilous ad after such a serious topic. I need to re-interpret the creed so that I can believe what I believe.

  2. Sister Lea says:

    I like what you have done here, V. As for “Anyone know why American pew-sitters will recite anything they are told to recite?” Many of those pew-sitters have been driven away by the fact that they cannot recite words that interpret dogmas cemented in stone. Dogmas ought to be living truths which give meaning and direction to our lives.
    You might like GOD GOING ROGUE at

  3. Sister Lea says:

    Reblogged this on Catholic, NON-Roman Western Style and commented:
    Good points here! And GOOD QUESTIONS!

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