Vincent of Lerins d. 445

In 05 Post-Augustinian Fathers on 2012/01/24 at 9:11 AM

Vincent of Lerins was an army officer who became alarmed by the moral dangers which surrounded him and with the vanity of his goals. He saw time as a thief which robbing us of our fleeting moments.  He concluded that true faith is necessary to salvation no less than morality, and that salvation was the foundation of Christian virtue.  He then entered the famous monastery of Lerins off the coast of Gaul.

Three years after the Council of Ephesus and acutely anguished by the numerous heresies which had ravaged the Church, he wrote his Commentary Against Heretics. Clear, eloquent and well reasoned, its purpose was to protect the faithful from the false and confusing mixtures of the heretics’ subtle refinements as well as to bring back those who had been led astray by heresies.

Lerins’ position was clear:  “To avoid the perplexity of errors, we must interpret the Holy Scriptures by the tradition of the Catholic Church, as the clue to conduct us in the truth. For this tradition, derived from the Apostles, manifests the true meaning of the Holy Scriptures, and all novelty in faith is a certain mark of heresy; and, in religion, nothing is more to be dreaded than itching ears after new teachers.”

He maintained that “They who have made bold with one article of faith will proceed on to others; and what will be the consequence of this reforming of religion, but only that these refiners will never have done till they have reformed it quite away.”

Looking back at the history of the early church, so marked by heretical ideas, Lerins pondered a universal rule to guide Christians in measuring proposed doctrines.  He found his answer in the Tradition of the Church Fathers and in the teaching of the Church.  His conclusion was/is simple and comprehensive:

Hold fast to “the Faith that has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.” With this guidelines, one can study the Church Fathers and find in Tradition and the Church “the Faith that has been believed everywhere, always and by all”. This formula reveals: universality, antiquity and consent.

Lerins recommended that we: “interrogate the opinions of the ancients…particularly those who living in diverse times and places, yet continuing the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand as acknowledged and approved authorities.  There, whatever is discovered   to have been held, written, taught ” not just by one or two of these, but everywhere, always and by all, is that is what you must believe without any doubt or hesitation.”

Thus, Lerins sketched out the ground rules for the field known today Patristics, the study of the Church Fathers, all of whom meet the criteria of: orthodox doctrine, holiness of life, antiquity and Church approval.”


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