When the team from our parish goes to the small community of Meliton to have mass, we are going to an agricultural village in which there is little access to books, no schooling above the age of 14, and little contact with the outside world. Many people don't have cars so have no way of going the 45 minutes to Todos Santos - the nearest "big city", although it has only 5000 people.
When we ask the people in the congregation to do the scripture readings, they don't know how to project their voices so they can be heard by someone more than 5 feet away. They also have difficulty with uncommon words, like "holocaust" (the spanish version). Spanish, by the way, is a language, unlike English, in which every letter in a word is pronounced and the syllabic emphases are consistent, so it's actually pretty easy to read aloud.
All of this is to paint the backdrop for an insight I had last time I was there: the absolutely essential role that the Creed plays in anchoring us in our faith.
How do people in isolated communities or those who can't read hold onto faith? How did the early christians, not all of whom had copies of the Hebrew scriptures (the only scriptures available at the time)? How do the christians in countries where they are forbidden to assemble together, or to have Bibles? The Creed. Either the Apostolic or the Nicene creed will do, although of course the Nicene creed has more content.
Anyone can memorize the Creed. And when they don't have access to any other sources, the Creed alone (with the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which we can be sure of) can give them clarity about what they have put their hope in. It serves as a mini-Bible, describing the key truths of Christianity (as understood by the Apostles and the Church Fathers).
I have noticed that christians who don't come from a tradition that incorporates the Creed as part of worship tend to be more easily drawn into strange doctrines and confusion. People who have the Creed embedded in their souls may not live by it, but they are not so easily confused about what is true.In the case of the faithful in Meliton, they all know the Creed. There is no stumbling over words; there is no mumbling. They speak it with the strength that comes from assurance. And in my eyes, that is the evidence that God is at work among them.