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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.”

Vincent of Lerins

In > Post-Augustinian Writings on 2012/01/24 at 9:00 AM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Vincent of Lerins. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge. 

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf211.toc.html

http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/Vincent of Lerins_The Development of Doctrine in the Catholic Church.htm

http://crossed-the-tiber.blogspot.com/2011/06/st-vincent-of-lerins-5th-century-and.html

http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/1048/Development_of_Doctrine_Vincent_of_Lerins.html

http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924029300353

http://wallmell.webs.com/Commonitory.htm

Cyril of Alexandria 376-444

In 05 Post-Augustinian Fathers on 2012/01/17 at 9:11 AM

In 412 Cyril succeeded Athanasius both to the bishopric Alexandria and as defender of the faith. This inexhaustible teacher taught with  great clarity. . In his long tenure he wrote theological studies, commentaries on many books of the Bible and innumerable letters.  Outstanding writings include his profound interpretation of Jesusʼ final prayer for unity, in his Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, where Cyril he expounds on how the Eucharist unites believers to one another, to Christ, and to the Trinity.

Ironically, Cyril was the nephew of the Patriarch of Alexandria who had persecuted Chrysostom. Cyril had been present at the Synod that deposed Chrysostom.

Cyril’s great accomplishment was to prevail over the heretical Patriarch of Constantinople.  Nestorius was  a rationalist who was inclined to semantic fussiness. His favorite phrase was “strictly speaking”.

Nestorius objected and rejected the title Mother of God applied to Mary because he said she did not precede Christ in time.  Cyril’s response was that a mother does not give birth to a nature, but to a person.

Nestorius became defensive when Cyril challenged Nestorius as dividing Christ into two different person.  Nestorius’ arrogant intellectualism drove him from mere idiosyncrasy into actual and explicit heresy, and on Christmas morning in 428 he rashly gave a sermon attacking the maternity of Mary as the mother of the Incarnate Christ.  He maintained that  “He who was formed in the womb of Mary was not God Himself, but God assumed him.”

His hearers were stunned but a courageous lawyer corrected the Patriarch:  “The eternal Word begotten before all the ages submitted to be born.”  And subsequently a bishop, on the feast of the Annunciation challenged Nestorius in his cathedral saying: “The Self-same was in the Fatherʼs bosom and in the womb of His mother…” whereupon the congregation applauded the bishop.

However,  Nestorius was adamant and began a series of sermons that lasted until Easter, repeating frequently that Christ’s humanity was only “ a garment”.

Cyril of Alexandria responded with a letter addressed to all the monks in which he stated: “I am astonished that the question should ever have been raised as to whether the Holy Virgin should be called Mother of God for it really amounts to asking: Is her Son God, or is He not?”

From the Synod of Alexandria, Cyril addressed Nestorius: “Following the Confession of the Fathers…we explain that the only-begotten Logos of God….assumed flesh of the blessed Virgin, made it His own, subjected Himself to human birth and came forth from the woman as Man, without casting off that which He was, but even in the flesh remaining the same, namely, true God in His nature….Even as a child and in his motherʼs bosom, the Logos at the same time filled the whole world. Governor of it along with His Father, for the Godhead has no bounds and limits.”

This brought on an exchange of sharp letters between Cyril and Nestorius.  In 430 Cyril sent the Pope a detailed report on the history and characteristics of the controversy, documenting every item. Pope Celestine summoned a synod at Rome which declared Nestoriusʼ views on Mary’s divine maternity as definitely heretical. Undaunted, Nestorius delivered a sermon declaring that he would never call the Christ-Child God.”

The population of Ephesus rose against him and in 432 in the name of the Pope, Cyril convened the Council of Ephesus.   Mary had been honored in Ephesus and throughout the Empire since Apostolic times.  The first known representation of her is a painting in the catacomb of Priscilla dating from the time of John the Apostle. The people of Ephesus, where had lived John with Jesusʼ mother well remembered that Christ had said to John: “Son, behold your mother” placing her in his care.

The council resolved the issue in a single day: Mary was formally proclaimed Mother of God, the Theotokos or Christ-bearer. The population awaiting the  Councilʼs decision and upon hearing it broke out in joy chanting: “Mother of God, Mother of God.”  In a torchlight procession and singing hymns, the people carried the bishops on their shoulders.

Nestorius was deposed as Patriarch of Constantinople and the clergy and monks began to accept the decision of the Pope and the Council of Ephesus.  This council had also stated that Jesus Christ lives forever and that He governs “and exercised judgment in his successors.”

Athanasius, the two Gregorys and Ambrose had often used the Greek title of “Theotokos” which had been used by Christians from earliest days.  While the recently deceased Augustine, who did not speak Greek never used the term, he often declared his belief in Maryʼs immaculate conception in order to become become Mother of God.

Nestorius’s challenge and demand that the term “Christokos” instead is an example of going off in the strictly literal interpretation of Scripture which led him into a Christological doctrine claiming the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus.

Condemned at the Council of Ephesus, this Christological heresy had to be re-condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and this condemnation led to to the Nestorian Schism.  Subsequently, Church in Persia and other Eastern churches began to refer to themselves as Nestorian Christians. However, in the West, it quickly disappeared, never having had a real following there.

Cyril of Alexandria

In > Post-Augustinian Writings on 2012/01/17 at 9:00 AM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Cyril of Alexandria. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge. 

http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_author/22/St._Cyril_of_Alexandria.html

Letter of Cyril to John of Antioch http://saints.sqpn.com/letter-of-saint-cyril-of-alexandria-to-john-of-antioch/

To Nestorius Epistle of Cyril of Alexandria to Nestorius

Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius with the XII Anathamatism http://saints.sqpn.com/epistle-of-saint-cyril-of-alexandria-to-nestorius-with-the-xii-anathematisms/

Leo the Great

In > Post-Augustinian Writings on 2011/08/08 at 3:41 PM

Below is a collection of links to primary resources and to various writings of Leo the Great. Each source has something different to offer.  Many of these sources will lead you to other sources of interest.  So, feel free to be a detective and seek out the information that is most helpful or relevant to you.  Our hope is that the search will lead you to a deeper Faith or simply enrich your knowledge. 

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.html

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360351.htm

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3603.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00011.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00012.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00013.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00014.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00015.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00017.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00018.htm

http://www.synaxis.org/cf/volume35/ECF00019.htm#4d9bf608

Sermon on the day of his ordinationhttp://saints.sqpn.com/stl04002.htm 
Sermon on the anniversary of his consecrationhttp://saints.sqpn.com/stl04003.htm
Letter to the Bishop of Aquileia http://saints.sqpn.com/stl04004.htm
Letter to various bishopshttp://saints.sqpn.com/stl04005.htm

Leo the Great 400-461

In 05 Post-Augustinian Fathers on 2011/08/08 at 3:39 PM

Roman-born Leo served in the Church’s diplomatic corps, carrying letters from popes to Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria and others.  In an age imperial weakness Leo would established himself as an outstanding personality in the Western Roman Empire which would collapse in 476, shortly after his death.

During the time of the pope Leo was serving and would succeed, he was sent to Gaul by the Emperor in order to settle an ecclesiastical dispute.  Leo did so with alacrity, his chief aim always being to sustain the unity of the Church.  Not long after becoming Pope, he saw that he needed to energetically combat the heresies which were now threatening church unity in the West. While councils of bishops had spoken clearly against the numerous errors, heresies persisted as heretical emperors convened puppet councils to reach predetermined heretical conclusion.

Prolific teacher and preacher, he wrote many letters and gave numerous homilies on doctrinal matters. His ninety six extant sermons are remarkable for their profundity, clearness of expression and quality of style. They demonstrate his lofty conception of the dignity of his office and his thorough conviction of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome as well as the decisive manner of his activities in the role of supreme pastor. One hundred and forty three of his letters are extant as well as thirty sent to him.

Leo fought the Pelagians and Manichaeans.  Driven out of Africa by the Vandal invasion, the Manicheans had come to Rome and formed a secret community.  Leo would convert a substantial number of them; but it took an imperial decree from a supportive emperor to rid Rome and the provinces  of the diehards. The Eastern bishops soon followed Leoʼs example in handling the Manichaeans.

Disorder in all aspect of life followed the constant ravages of the disruption resulting from the continual ravages of the barbarians. The rules of morality were being seriously violated. Leo saw himself as supreme pastor whose duties included the maintenance of strict ecclesiastical discipline. Having responsibility for the Universal Church both in the East and West, Leo never neglected the domestic interests of the Church at Rome. He insisted on the exact observance of the ecclesiastical precepts and with his tremendous energy applied himself to restore order and morality, fearlessly rebuking offenders.

In those twilight years of a formerly well organized Roman Empire, the language barrier had grown as fewer spoke Latin and less Greek; travel throughout the empire had become exceedingly dangerous. Leo had noted that the world of language lacked sufficient theological terminology. For him the essential word was “person” which  was not a well-defined concept in either Greek or Latin.  Neither language had an adequate word for person or individual; the terminological references were all communal referring to tribe or clan.  Therefore, Leo would stress the centrality of the Person of Christ whenever His nature was under discussion.

The importance, magnitude and problems involved in clarification called for a superb theological mind. But, Athanasius, Basil, Chrysostom, Augustine and Jerome were dead. Cyril of Alexandria alone was holding down the theological fort and would die around the time Leo became pope.  The Council of Nicaea in 325 established that Christ is God. The Council of Ephesus in 431, that Mary is Mother of God.  Now the question to be answered was what was the truth about the two natures of Christ which hand remained insufficiently clarified.  The Church needed a definitive answer to this difficult theological question of fundamental importance to Christianity.  And Leo was the man to see that the question was answered.

An Eastern priest called Eutyches led the Monosphysites, a heretical group that distorted the teaching of the Incarnation, maintaining that there was only one instead of two natures in Christ.  When the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated him, Eutyches appealed to Pope Leo. Leo investigated the disputed question  and sent a powerful and sublimely written letter to the Patriarch.  This magnificent theological work is known as the TOME.  In it he confirmed the doctrine of the Incarnation and the union of the Divine and human natures in the one Person of Christ.

At the request of Leo, Emperor Theodosius II convened a general council in order to restore peace to the Church. The Council of Chalcedon solemnly accepted Leo’s dogmatic letter to the Patriarch as the expression of the Catholic Faith concerning the Person of Christ.  At this council, the Creed of Nicaea was read as well as statements from the Council of Constantinople, and so were some epistles of Cyril, ending with Leoʼs Tome being read in full.

The Tome stated clearly the traditional doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ: that Jesus Christ is one person with two distinct natures, divine and  human.  That he is One and the same Christ, Lord, Only-begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.  After discussion, at another session of the council, a confession of faith was drawn up in which the bishops stated: “This is the Faith of the Fathers.  this is the Faith of the Apostles.  We all believe thus; the orthodox believe thus; anathema to him who does not believe thus. Peter has spoken through Leo; the Apostle taught thus.  We are for no other definition.  Nothing is wanting in this.”  The council then referred to Leo as  “the very one commissioned with the guardianship of the Vine by the Savior.” When the people heard the decisions, they cried out:  “Peter has spoken through Leo!”

While these theological issues were being dealt with, the Roman Empire as a whole was imperilled, plagued by barbarians.  Pannonia (Hungary) fell to the Huns; Goths occupying Gaul and Northern Spain; the Suevi were in Portugal; Vandals had left Southern Spain for North Africa and had captured Carthage.  A disturbed imperial princess  had sent Attila a ring  which he interpreted as a marriage offer giving him claim to half of the Roman Empire. A massive invasion of Huns headed by Attila had previously crossed the Danube, sieged and conquered much of Byzantium. Emperor Marcian prevented their taking Constantinople by pushing them westward.

Leo moral authority manifested itself even in temporal affairs. In 452 Attila and his Huns were poised to take Rome. Pope Leo himself went out to meet Attila. No one knows that they said to each other but when their talk was over Attila turned his army around and rode off, never to return.  Later, in 455 when Rome was captured by the Vandals, Leo obtained from them a promise that they would not destroy the city or harm the citizens.  However, the malicious Vandals did loot, taking sacred vessels and the great seven branched candlestick Emperor Titus had taken from the Temple at Jerusalem when it was destroyed 400 years before.  Barbarous as were the invaders, Leo also clearly saw them as  souls to be saved.

Leo’s pontificate is considered one of the most significant and important in Christian antiquity. In the days when the Western portion of the Roman Empire was disintegrating and the Eastern portion was splintered by dogmatic controversies  Leo the Great guided the Church for twenty one years.  When Leo and the Emperor died in 461, the Western  Western Roman Empire had just fifteen years to live.

Orthodox Belief

In > Post-Augustinian Writings on 2011/04/08 at 3:24 AM

‘What has been believed everywhere, always and by all.”  Lerins