Thursday, May 22, 2008

St. Vincent of Lorens

Today, according to our Liturgical Calendar, we remember St. Vincent of Lerins. One of the greatest flowerings of Anglicanism has been the historic translations of the Fathers in Modern English. The translation below, by the Rev. C.A. Heurtley, D.D., is a fine example of how a fifth century Gallic Father can be made to speak so clearly to us today.

I encourage you to read St. Vincent toward his purpose, teaching us how to avoid heresy and embrace orthodoxy, but I also encourage you to contemplate the role of Anglicanism in bringing the Fathers' voices back to our contemporary discussions about the faith, the church and the orthodoxy we claim.

The COMMONITORY OF Vincent of LĂ©rins,
For the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith Against the Profane Novelties of all Heresies:
Translated by
Rev. C. A. Heurtley, D.D.,
The Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, and Canon of Christ Church.

Chapter II.

A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity.

[4.] I have often then 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 Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one 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 Catholic Church.

[5.] But here some one 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 of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

[6.] Moreover, in the Catholic 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 determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful, the words of this Church Father resound with power. This reminds us that heresy and straying from Holy Scripture in the Name of Christ is nothing new. It was unholy in the Early Church and is unholy now. Surely, however, Presiding Bishop Schori would read this differently and make it fit her new age increasingly anti-biblical views.

HowardRGiles+ said...

You are right. Katherine Schori is an unquestioning follower of our mutual Church History professor, Rebecca Lyman, who rejects the idea that the historic church is unified through the power of the Holy Spirit or providence.

They believe that St. Vincent spoke for his time and culture and that truth does not transcend the material situation of the individual.

In the traditional church, we clearly teach that truth comes from God and that it is, like Him, outside of time and space. Truth is eternal and can be attained and recognized by all peoples of all times.

Thanks for your comments!

Leslie said...

Just exactly what is your definition of "the truth?"

HowardRGiles+ said...

The Vincentian Canon, the subject of this post, would save you from my heresies. The truth is what has Always been taught, Everywhere, by Everyone and since Everyone emphasizes the great teachers of the church, I am excluded.

If pressed, I refer to several passages of Holy Scripture that reveal the essence of Truth, the world's skepticism toward Truth and the final answer to your question: Jesus Christ.

"This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (1Jn 5:6).

"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2Tim.4:4).

"Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all" (Jn.18:38). And neither do I.