St Vincent of Lerins: Are You Fortifying Your Faith by Both the Divine Law and the Church's Tradition?

Feast of the Removal of the Relics of St Theodore the Commander

Vincent_of_Lerins_Square_2.jpegI HAVE often inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Christian faith from the falsehood of heretical depravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or anyone else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways: first by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Universal Church.

But, here someone perhaps will ask, “Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?” For this reason: because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way; Sabellius another; Donatus another; Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another; Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another; Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another; lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard Ecclesiastical and Universal interpretation.

Moreover, in the Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determination of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

~St. Vincent of Lerins, A Commonitory


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