One of the indications of the way in which a phrase from the Nicene Creed would have been ‘heard’ in the ancient Church is to look at other sources that speak to the same issues the Creed addresses. When it comes to ‘one baptism for the remission of sins’, consider the following inscription on a baptistry in the Lateran Basilica, dating from the mid-fifth century, in the time frame that the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was formulated.
Here a people of godly race are born of heaven;
the Spirit gives them life in the fertile waters.
The Church-Mother in these waves bears her children
the virginal fruit she conceived by the Holy SpiritHope for the kingdom of heaven, you who are reborn in this spring,
for those who are born but once have no share in the life of blessedness.
Here is to be found the source of life, which washes the whole universe,
which gushed from the wound of Christ.
Sinner, plunge into the fountain to wash away your sin.
The water receives the old man, and in his place makes the new man rise.
You wish to become innocent, cleanse yourself in this bath,
whatever your burden may be, Adam’s sin or your own.
There is no difference between those who are reborn; they are one,
in a single baptism, a single Spirit, a single faith.
Let none be afraid of the number of the weight of their sins:
those who are born of this stream will be made holy.
That is a remarkable theology of baptism and new creation, forgiveness and union with Christ and his Church.