Question: In the Creed, when we say the Rosary before Mass, we hear about Jesus descending into Hell. Why would our Lord have to go to Hell, even for a moment, before going to heaven? Why didn't the priest say the same thing in the Creed during Mass? And why didn't he say the Creed at all at Mass during the week?
Answer: Over the 2,000 years of her existence, the Church has composed several statements of Her member's belief. Most of them begin with the words, "I believe," or "Credo," in Latin. This Latin word has given us the name "creed" in English. Perhaps the earliest creed, the one we attribute to the Apostles, is said at the beginning of the Rosary (and contains the statement in question).
In the fourth century, the Council of Nicea, called to deal with the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, issued another creed. It was more explicit about the nature of Christ and His relationship to the Father and the Holy Ghost. Another council, held at Constantinople a century or so later added a few terms to the earlier creed to produce what we call today the Nicean Creed. For obvious reasons, purists call it the "Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed." And for more than equally obvious reasons, practical people call it the "Nicean Creed." This Nicean Creed, the Credo, is said at Mass on important feast days, and doesn't happen to contain the statement about Christ descending into Hell.
The first question asked about Christ who "descended into Hell" - "descendit ad inferos."; The word "inferos" sounds much like it should relate to the iron furnace, or the infernal fires. The Latin dictionary tells us that it relates simply to "the lower regions." In Christian theology, this is understood that Christ went not to the Hell of the damned, but rather to the lower region where the good people of the Old Testament awaited their redemption. This place was referred to as the "Limbo of the Fathers." In this limbo, there were those men and women who had done their best to keep God's commandments, but had been unable to enter heaven because of the original sin of Adam. When our Lord arrived there, He probably met Adam and Eve, Moses, King David, Elias, John the Baptist, and, of course, first of all, His earthly father, St. Joseph. That must have been a sentimental meeting for our Lord, and we can only assume that the thoughts of both quickly turned to the Blessed Virgin; spouse of one and Mother of the Other
After a brief period of time, the saintly souls of the of the old covenant were taken into heaven. Our Lord, of course, returned to the world for His Resurrection and to spend the forty days prior to His Ascension.
(Theologians also use the term "Limbo" to describe the state of those who die unbaptized in original sin, but who have committed no actual sin of their own. It is conjectured to be a place of natural happiness, less than that of heaven, but having none of the pains of hell.)
The Credo is said, or preferably sung, on the important feast days of the year. This includes all of the Sundays and other first and second class days of the year; those of our Lord, many of the feasts of the Blessed Virgin, those of the Apostles, and a few other major saints. In some places the Credo is sung on feasts of the Doctors of the Church; in others on feasts of the Popes. It may also be sung on the feast of the local patron saint, and at solemn votive Masses for some important public purpose.
Just as the Credo is included in certain Masses to enhance their dignity, the Gloria is said or sung to add to the joyful character of certain Masses. It is omitted in those Masses of a sorrowful or penitential character, as in funeral Masses or in Advent and Lent. A few shorter prayers follow similar rules, which can be found in most missals.