VINCENT of LERINS
C
OMMONITORY
Selections
 

 Lerins

 

 


The Liturgy of the Hours, Friday OT Week 27, v.4, pp. 363-364
An instruction by St Vincent of Lerins Cap. 23; PL 50.667-668

NPNF 211, pp. 147-150l PL

ADD VINCENTIAN "CANON" ch 2.3.


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.

II. Saepe igitur magno studio et summa attentione perquirens a quamplurimis sanctitate et doctrina praestantibus viris quonam modo possim certa quadam et quasi generali ac regulari via catholicae fidei veritatem ab haereticae pravitatis falsitate discernere, hujusmodi semper responsum ab omnibus fere retuli, quod sive ego, sive quis alius vellet exsurgentium haereticorum fraudes deprehendere laqueosque vitare, et in fide sana sanus atque integer permanere, duplici modo munire [Col.0640] fidem suam, Domino adjuvante, deberet: primùm scilicet divinae legis auctoritate, tum deinde Ecclesiae catholicae traditione. Hic forsitan requirat aliquis: Cum sit perfectus Scripturarum Canon, sibique ad omnia satis superque sufficiat, quid opus est ut ei Ecclesiasticae intelligentiae jungatur auctoritas? Quia videlice Scripturam sacram pro ipsa sua altitudine non uno eodemque sensu universi accipiunt, sed ejusdem eloquia aliter atque aliter alius atque alius interpretatur; ut pene quot homines sunt, tot illinc sententiae erui posse videantur. Aliter namque illam Novatianus, aliter Sabellius, aliter Donatus exponit, aliter Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius; aliter Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillianus, aliter Jovinianus, Pelagius, Caelestius; aliter postremo Nestorius. Atque idcirco multùm necesse est, propter tantos tam varii erroris anfractus, ut propheticae et apostolicae interpretationis linea secundum Ecclesiastici et Catholici sensus normam dirigatur. In ipsa item Catholica Ecclesia magnopere curandum est 

 

[6.] Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken,  
that we hold that faith which has been believed ut id teneamus

everywhere,

always,

by all.

quod ubique,

quod semper,

quod ab omnibus
    
creditum est.

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. Hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum, quod ipsa vis nominis ratioque declarat, quae omnia fere universaliter comprehendit. Sed hoc ita demum fiet, si sequamur universitatem, antiquitatem, consensionem. .
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. Sequemur autem universitatem hoc modo, si hanc unam fidem veram esse fateamur quam tota per orbem terrarum confitetur Ecclesia; antiquitatem vero ita, si ab his sensibus nullatenùs recedamus quos sanctos majores ac patres nostros celebrasse manifestum est: consensionem quoque itidem, si, in ipsa vetustate, omnium vel certe pene omnium sacerdotum pariter et magistrorum definitiones sententiasque sectemur

CHAPTER III.What is to be done if one or more dissent from the rest.

 

[7.] What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.

[8.] But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear?

III. Quid igitur tunc faciet Christianus catholicus, si se aliqua Ecclesiae particula ab universalis fidei communione praeciderit? Quid utique nisi ut pestifero corruptoque membro sanitatem universi corporis anteponat? Quid si novella aliqua contagio non jam portiunculam tantum, sed totam pariter Ecclesiam commaculare [Col.0641] conetur? Tunc item providebit ut antiquitati inhaereat, quae prorsum jam non potest ab ulla novitatis fraude seduci. Quid si in ipsa vetustate, duorum aut trium hominum, vel certe civitatis unius aut etiam provinciae alicujus error deprehendatur? Tunc omnino curabit ut paucorum temeritati vel inscitiae, si qua sunt, universaliter antiquitus universalis Ecclesiae  decreta praeponat. Quid si tale aliquid emergat ubi nihil hujusmodi reperiatur?
Then he must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in divers times and places, yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these only, but p.133 Tunc operam dabit ut collatas inter se majorum consulat interrogetque sententias, eorum duntaxat qui diversis licet temporibus et locis, in unius tamen Ecclesiae Catholicae communione et fide permanentes, magistri probabiles exstiterunt; et quicquid non unus aut duo tantum, sed

by all,

equally,

with one consent,

openly,

frequently,

persistently,

omnes

pariter

uno eodemque consensu

aperte,

frequenter,

perseveranter tenuisse,

that he must understand that he himself also is to believe without any doubt or hesitation.  scripsisse, docuisse cognoverit, id sibi quoque intelligat absque ulla dubitatione credendum.
   

On Development in Religious Knowledge.

 

23. [54.] But some one will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real p. 148 progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning.

XXIII. Sed forsitan dicit aliquis: Nullusne ergo in Ecclesiâ Christi profectus habebitur Religionis? Habeatur plane, et maximus. Nam quis ille est tam invidus hominibus, tàm exosus Deo, qui istud prohibere conetur? Sed ita tamen ut verè profectus sit ille fidei,[Col.0668] non permutatio. Siquidem ad profectum pertinet ut in semetipsum unaquaeque res amplificetur; ad permutationem verò, ut aliquid ex alio in aliud transvertatur. Crescat igitur oportet et multùm vehementerque proficiat tam singulorum quam omnium, tam unius hominis quam totius Ecclesiae, aetatum ac seculorum gradibus, intelligentia, scientia, sapientia, sed in suo duntaxa: genere, in eodem scilicet dogmate, eodem sensu, eademque sententia.

[55.] The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant’s limbs are small, a young man’s large, yet the infant and the young man are the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had when children; and if there be any to which maturer age has given birth these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This, then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress, this the established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or at any rate, if the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be that the whole body would become either a wreck or a monster, or, at the least, would be impaired and enfeebled.

Imitetur animarum religio rationem corporum:quae licet annorum processu numeros suos evolvant et explicent, eadem tamen quae erant permanent. Multum interest inter pueritiae florem et senectutis maturitatem; sed iidem tamen ipsi fiunt senes qui fuerant adolescentes; ut quamvis unius ejusdemque hominis status habitusque mutetur, una tamen nihilominus eademque natura, una eademque persona sit. Parva lactentium membra, magna juvenum, eadem ipsa sunt tamen. Quot parvulorum artus, tot virorum; et si qua illa sunt quae aevi maturioris aetate pariuntur, jam in seminis ratione proserta sunt; ut nihil novum postea proferatur in senibus quod non in pueris jam antè latitaverit. Undè non dubium est hanc esse legitimam et rectam proficiendi regulam, hunc ratum atque pulcherrimum crescendi ordinem, si eas semper in grandioribus partes ac formas numerus detexat aetatis quas in parvulis Creatoris sapientia praeformaverat. Quod si humana species in aliquam deinceps non sui generis vertatur effigiem, aut certe addatur quippiam membrorum numero vel detrahatur, necesse est ut totum corpus vel intercidat, vel prodigiosum fiat, vel certe debilitetur:

[56.] In like manner, it behoves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits.

ita etiam Christianae Religionis dogma sequatur has decet profectuum leges, ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate, incorruptum tamen illibatumque permaneat, et universis partium suarum mensuris cunctisque quasi membris ac sensibus propriis plenum atque perfectum sit, quod nihil praeterea permutationis admittat, nulla proprietatis dispendia, nullam definitionis sustineat varietatem.

[57.] For example: Our forefathers in the old time sowed wheat in the Church’s field. It would be most unmeet and iniquitous if we, their descendants, instead of the genuine truth of corn, should reap the counterfeit error of tares. This rather should be the result,—there should be no discrepancy between the first and the last. From doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind—wheat also; so that when in process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensue in the character of the plant. There may supervene shape, form, variation in outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same. God forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted into thorns and thistles. God forbid that in that spiritual paradise from plants of cinnamon and balsam, darnel and wolfsbane should of a sudden shoot forth.

Exempli gratia: Severunt majores nostri antiquitus in hac ecclesiastica segete triticeae fidei semina: iniquum valde et incongruum est ut nos eorum posteri pro germana veritate frumenti subdititium zizaniae legamus errorem. Quin potiùs hoc rectum et consequens est ut primis atque extremis sibimet non discrepantibus, de incrementis triticeae institutionis triticei quoque dogmatis frugem demetamus; ut cùm aliquid ex illis seminum primordiis accessu temporis evolvatur, et nunc laetetur et excolatur, nihil tamen de germinis proprietate mutetur: addatur licet species, forma, distinctio, eadem tamen cujusque generis natura permaneat. Absit etenim ut rosea illa catholici sensus plantaria in carduos spinasque vertantur. Absit inquam, ut in isto spiritali paradiso de cinnamomi et balsami surculis lolium repente atque aconita proveniant.

Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in this husbandry of God’s Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection. For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated. They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties.

Quodcumque igitur in hac Ecclesia Dei agricultura fide patrum satum est, hoc idem filiorum industriâ decet excolatur et observetur, hoc idem floreat et maturescat, hoc idem proficiat et perficiatur. Fas est etenim ut prisca illa coelestis [Col.0669] philosophiae dogmata processu temporis excurentur, limentur, poliantur; sed nefas est ut commutentur, nefas ut detruncentur, ut mutilentur. Accipiant, licet, evidentiam, lucem, distinctionem; sed retineant necesse est plenitudinem, integritatem, proprietatem.

[58.] For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. For if any one part of Catholic truth be given up, another, and another, and another will thenceforward be given up as a matter of course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole? On the other hand, if what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, foreign with domestic, profane with sacred, the custom will of necessity creep on universally, till at last the Church will have nothing left untampered with, nothing unadulterated, nothing sound, nothing pure; but where formerly there was a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a brothel of impious and base errors. May God’s mercy avert this wickedness from the minds of his servants; be it rather the frenzy of the ungodly.

Nam si semel admissa fuerit haec impiae fraudis licentia, horreo dicere quantum exscindendae atque abolendae Religionis periculum consequatur. Abdicata etenim qualibet parte catholici dogmatis, alia quoque atque item alia, ac deinceps alia et alia, jam quasi ex more et licito, abdicabuntur. Porro autem sigillatìm partibus repudiatis, quid aliud ad extremum sequetur, nisi ut totum pariter repudietur? sed e contra, si novitia veteribus, extranea domesticis, et profana sacratis admisceri coeperint, proserpat hic mos in universum necesse est ut nihil posthac apud Ecclesiam relinquatur intactum, nihil illibatum, nihil integrum, nihil immaculatum, sed sit ibidem deinceps impiorum ac turpium errorum lupanar ubi erat antea castae et incorruptae sacrarium veritatis. Sed avertat hoc a suorum mentibus nefas divina pietas, sitque hic potiùs impiorum furor.

[59.] But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, p. 149   does not appropriate what is another’s, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view,—if there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined, to keep and guard it. Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practised negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils,—this, and nothing else,—she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name.

Christi vero Ecclesia, sedula et cauta depositorum apud se dogmatum custos, nihil in his unquam permutat, nihil minuit, nihil addit, non amputat necessaria, non apponit superflua, non amittit sua, non usurpat aliena; sed omni industria hoc unum studet ut vetera fideliter sapienterque tractando, si qua sunt illa antiquitus informata et inchoata, accuret et poliat; si qua jam expressa et enucleata consolidet, firmet; si qua jam confirmata et definita, custodiat; denique quid unquam aliud Conciliorum decretis enisa est nisi ut quod antea simpliciter credebatur, hoc idem postea diligentius crederetur, quod antea lentius praedicabatur, hoc idem postea instantius praedicaretur, quod antea securius colebatur, hoc idem postea sollicitiùs excoleretur? Hoc, inquam semper, neque quicquam praeterea, Haereticorum novitatibus excitata, conciliorum suorum decretis catholica perfecit Ecclesia, nisi ut quod prius à Majoribus sola traditione susceperat, hoc deinde posteris etiam per Scripturae chirographum consignaret, magnam rerum summam paucis litteris comprehendendo, et plerumque, propter intelligentiae lucem, non novum fidei sensum  novae appellationis proprietate signando.

   

 


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