( d.c. 340)

 Monk reading, Medieval illum ms.



Vincent of Lérins, St (d. before 450), the author of the ‘Commonitorium’. Little is known for certain about his life beyond the fact that, after a period in secular employment, he became a monk on the island of Lérins. Although the view has recently been challenged, it is generally thought that here, as a Semipelagian, he opposed the teaching of St Augustine on predestination and was prob. the object of Prosper of Aquitaine’s ‘Responsiones ad capitula objectionum Vincentianarum’ (which preserve the substance of the ‘objectiones’). J. Madoz discovered and in 1940 published a text of Vincent’s ‘Excerpta’, the earliest known Augustinian florilegium. Vincent’s main work, the ‘Commonitorium’, written under the pseudonym ‘Peregrinus’, was designed to provide a guide to the determination of the Catholic faith; it embodies the famous Vincentian Canon (q.v.).

Vincentian Canon. The threefold test of Catholicity laid down by St Vincent of Lérins in his ‘Commonitorium’ (2.3), namely quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (‘what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all’). By this triple test of ecumenicity, antiquity, and consent, the Church is to differentiate between true and false traditions. The order of the tests is to be noted, as the canon was very frequently misquoted with ‘antiquity’ (quod semper) first by English writers in the 19th century.

Despite his emphasis on tradition, Vincent maintained that the final ground of Christian truth was Holy Scripture, and that the authority of the Church was to be invoked only to guarantee its right interpretation. He did not, however, preclude a development in matters of doctrine, maintaining that in the process of history the truth of Scripture often became more fully explicated. Feast day, 24 May.

Crit. edn. of his surviving works (‘Commonitorium’ and ‘Excerpta’) by R. Demeulenaere (CCSL 64, 1985, pp. 125–231), with introd. [in Fr.] and bibl. The numerous earlier edns. of the ‘Commonitorium’ incl. that of É. *Baluze (Paris, 1663; 3rd edn., 1684 [excellent for its period], repr. in J. P. Migne, PL 50. 637–86) and R. S. Moxon (Cambridge Patristic Texts, 1915). Eng. trs. by C. A. Heurtley (NPNCF, 2nd ser. 11, 1894, pp. 123–59), R. E. Morris (Fathers of the Church, 7 [1949], pp. 255–332), and others. Excerpta Vincentii Lirinensis según el Códice de Ripoll, No. 151, ed., with introd., by J. Madoz, SJ (Estudios Onienses, 1st ser. 1; Madrid, 1940). Id., El concepto de la tradición en S. Vicente de Lerins (Analecta Gregoriana, 5; Rome, 1933). W. O’Connor, C.S.Sp., ‘Saint Vincent of Lerins and Saint Augustine’, Doctor Communis, 16 (1963), pp. 123–257. H. J. Sieben, Die Konzilsidee der Alten Kirche (1979), pp. 148–70 (‘Der Konzilsbegriff des Vinzenz von Lerin’). A. Hamman in Quasten (cont.), Patrology, 4 (1986), pp. 546–51. G. Bardy in DTC 15 (pt. 2; 1950), cols. 3045–55, s.v.; M. Parmentier in TRE 35 (2003), pp. 109–11, s.v. ‘Vinzenz von Lérins’.

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