During the Catechism before Baptism, can the Symbol of Faith be said only
once or must it be said three times as mentioned in the Euchologion?
Answer to Question 12
The Symbol of Faith (The Creed) is said according to the manuscripts and
the Euchologia three times. According to Symeon of Thessalonica, “the
confession of the sacred symbol of faith is said by the mouth ardently (by
the candidate or the sponsor in the case of infants). And this is said
thrice, confirming the confession, but also in honour of the Three
Hypostatic Godhead” (Dialogue, chapter 62). That the triple repetition is
due to the above mentioned reasons is clear. But originally it was not
said three times in the one day. The pre-baptismal offices were done on
repeated gatherings of the catechumen: it could be that the triple
repetition also foresaw a way to better learning the Creed. The reason
does not exist today because, supposedly at least, the candidate or the
sponsor know it well.
But also take note that the Exorcism prayers were not said only once as
they are today, but at least three times as required by certain rubrics.
According to the codices of Sinai 996 and Koutloumousiou 343, the five
preparatory prayers were said eight or ten times. According to Symeon of
Thessalonica - “if there is time, then the beginning of the Exorcism and
the other prayers must not only be said once, but many times; for in the
Euchologion it is written that they are to be said eight or ten times and
because this was the custom of the ancient Church, on each day for seven
days it was said by the priest responsible for the catechism of the
candidates and again on the eighth day by the Bishop or the Priest who was
to carry out the Baptisms: and thus were they baptized by the Bishop or
Priest. And we have seen pious Priests saying the prayers three times and
then Baptizing” (Dialogue, chapter 61).
The course of the matter is clear.
When the Baptismal practices were concentrated into one day, the eight and
ten times of the ancient Euchologia began to be reduced to many times (if
there was time) then to three and finally to once. From what Symeon says,
it appears that many Priest did not say the prayers thrice, but once only.
This is what finally prevailed and with a Synodical decision in the time
of the Patriarch of Constantinople John (1376) it was endorsed that the
be said only once.
The reciting of the Symbol of Faith has followed the same route and
already it has become the general practice of being said only once. This
is not something that can be characterized as an innovation because it has
been preceded by the example of the Exorcism prayers.