August 22, 2019

The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. #2

CATHOLIC CHURCH: 1 of 4 Marks of the True Church:

Next up City: St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 – 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian; Paulus Orosius (A.D. c.375-c.418), Spanish; a Christian historian, theologian, St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church ; Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458), Greek; an influential author, theologian; Arnobius Junior, (flourished in the 5th century, A.D. c.460); & St. Vincent of Lérins (A.D. c.400-445), in Latin, Vincentius, a monastic presbyter

St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 – 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. He is known both as one of the “Scythian monks” and as one of the “Desert Fathers”. His opinions on grace being in opposition somewhat to those of St. Augustine and the Church, caused him to be opposed by St. Prosper.

“This faith, that is, the faith of all Catholics, both the bishops of Africa whence he wrote, and the Gallican bishops to whom he wrote, agreed in approving. Nor has there yet been any man living who has repudiated this faith, without being guilty of the crime of unbelief, seeing that it is a profession of unbelief to deny the approved faith. Wherefore, the agreement alone of all would now suffice to refute heresy, because the authority of all is the manifestation of undoubted truth, and a perfect reason has been assigned when none dissent.

St John Cassian Icon

In so much that the man who should presume to entertain a contrary sentiment, such an one’s assertion is at once, and at the very outset, not so much to be refused to be heard, as he is to be condemned for his perversity; because he who impugns the judgment of the whole, brings with him a foregone proof of condemnation against himself; and whosoever would rescind what all have once agreed upon, has no plea to be heard. For when the truth has once been confirmed by all, whatsoever is advanced in opposition to it, is at once thereby to be acknowledged as false, in that it diverges from that judgment of truth.” {L. 1, De Incarn, Dom, t. vii. Bib. Max. SS. PP. p. 71. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 100-101}

Paulus Orosius (A.D. c.375-c.418), Spanish; a Christian historian, theologian, student and friend of Augustine of Hippo. He is best known for his “Seven Books of History Against the Pagans”. His “History of the World” is valuable, and has been frequently translated.

“The Fathers with one accord, and the Martyrs, who are now at rest, Cyprian, Hilary, and Ambrose, as also they who are still in the flesh, and are the pillars and supports of the Catholic Church, Aurelius, Augustine, Jerome, have already in their highly-approved writings, published much against this wicked heresy (Pelagianism), though without specifying the names of the heretics.

And if Celestius and Pelagius, who seem to be alive, and are dead, should now persevere in these dogmas, then clearly do they openly, as serpents hiss against the Church, a thing most lamentable, and, more lamentable still, they do this in the Church. . . .

My answer to this (viz. (Gen17:1); (Lk1:6);, quoted in support of Pelagianism) was:

We are children of the Catholic Church. Require not of us to presume to be teachers above the teachers, or judges above the judges. The Fathers whom the universal Church throughout the world approves, to whose communion it is a matter of rejoicing with you that we adhere, have decreed that these dogmas are damnable. It becomes us to obey, when they adjudge. Why ask the children what their sentiments are, when you hear what the Fathers decide? {De Arbitrii Libert, p. 449, t. vi. Bib. Max. SS. PP.The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 85-86}

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

“Thus does it seem good to this man (Nestorius), and to him alone, to think and to speak differently from all other men; though the Catholic Church which Christ has presented to Himself, has not the wrinkles which (disfigure) the man that writes these things. Rather is she without blemish, and holds the faith concerning Him in every way blameless, and has very correctly made the tradition of faith (the Nicene creed.)” {T. vii. L. ii. Adv. Nestor, p. 30. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 94 }

St Cyril of Alexandria Vatican City Guard

Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458), Greek; an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria (A.D. 423-457). He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms. His friendship for Nestorius embroiled him, for a time, with his great contemporary, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

“We have had handed down to us, and have been taught, and we hold this Catholic and Apostolic tradition and faith and confession, that one is the hypostasis — this the heretics themselves denominate substance — of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” [Hist. Eccles. I. ii. c. viii. p. 81; Vales. Cantab. 1720.(Ex. Ep. Synod. Condi. Sardic.}The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 442]

“Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to le praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain.”(Ps47)

“We have already said that the divine Scripture frequently designates as a city, not the buildings, but its internal regulation; he accordingly says that the Lord has been shown to be great, by what He has done for His city, which the sublimity of its dogmas has made conspicuous, even as a city upon a great and lofty hill; for a city, the Lord says, set upon a hill, cannot be hid. He has built, he says, this city, well, beautifully and solidly, to the joy of the whole earth. For, He built it, says the divine Apostle, “upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone.” (Eph2) …. And the Lord Himself said to blessed Peter, “And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt16)

Wherefore that phrase rooting it well is instead of founding it solidly, so as to endure without tottering, and unshaken. “The Mountain of Sion (on) the sides of the north, the city of the great King”. . . . The mountains which repel the north winds, and keep the city uninjured, one may reasonably say are the prophets and Apostles, and their various doctrines, and, furthermore, the angels who are set over believers.

“For the angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him.” (Ps34)

In her houses is God known, when He shall take her in charge. One, indeed, is the Church through out all earth and sea; for which cause, when we pray, we say — “For the holy and alone Catholic and Apostolic Church, which is from one end of the earth to the other.” That same city, again, is divided into cities and towns and villages, which the prophetic word denominates houses. As every city has in it many separate houses, and is nevertheless called one city, so are there tens of thousands and countless churches, both on the islands and continents, but they are all perfected together into one Church, united by the concord of the true doctrines. In these churches, he says that the God of all is seen furnishing His own aid. He next foretells the assaults that were to be, and the conversion of her adversaries.

“For behold the kings of the earth assembled themselves, they gathered together. So they saw and wondered.” (Ps34:6)

For they hastened together as though about to make war, but when they beheld the unconquerableness of Her whom they warred against, they were struck with consternation. “For they were troubled”, he says, they were moved. (Ps34:6, 7) Having contemplated, he says, the solid foundations of the Church, and learned the unerring truth of the promise, they were seized with fear and trembling, like men who are crossing the waves (backs) of the sea, and are tossed with storms, and expecting utter destruction. Wherefore, having ceased from fighting and assaulting, they proclaim the power of their antagonist, and cry out, “As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of the Lord of Hosts, in the “City of our God.”

For not willing to admit the predictions concerning her, we have, by facts, become witnesses to their truth. “God hath founded her unto eternity.” For it is His voice, “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt16)

The prophetic word having thus shown the change of her enemies, next foretells what words they will make use of who have found safety (or salvation). “We have received Thy mercy, God, in the midst of Thy temple.” We look for, they say, this Thine aid, O Lord, knowing the unerring truth of Thy promises. For Thou didst say, “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. Distribute her houses (verse 14), so as that one may look after this, and an other after that church, and that the husbandman be set over, and take befitting care of each. And this does he order to be done, not for once, or twice, but in every generation. And for this cause he added, “That ye may relate it unto another generation. For this is our God for ever and ever, He shepherds (or feeds, rules) us for evermore.” For each generation must needs transmit to the one after it what it received from the preceding, that so the saving Gospel may be transmitted in all generations, and all men may know that He is our Lord and God, and Good Shepherd, and everlasting. For as he said, “Distribute her houses”, and committed the feeding to them, he necessarily taught that One is the “Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep”, feeding them forever and ever, and feeding not the sheep only, but those also who are called the shepherds of the sheep.”{T. i. in Ps. xlvii. pp. 907-913. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 94-97 }

St. Vincent of Lérins (A.D. c.400-445), in Latin, Vincentius, a monastic presbyter and ecclesiastical writer in the island of Lérins, he was a man learned in the Holy Scriptures, and well instructed in the knowledge of the doctrines of the Church, with a view to overthrow the sects of the heretics. He composed in elegant and clear language a very powerful dissertation, which, concealing his own name, he entitled Peregrinus against Heretics.

Commonitory of St Vincent (Lerins)

“When often inquiring from very many men excelling in holiness and learning, how I might, by some general and undeviating (or ordinary) way, discern the truth of Catholic faith from the falseness of heretical pravity, I have received from almost all something like this answer:

That when I or any of the faithful would hear of deceptions, and wished to avoid the snares of the heretics as they spring up, and remain safe and sound in the sound faith, he ought to fortify with God’s assistance, in two ways, his faith.

First, that is, by the authority of the divine Law;

Secondly, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.


Here some one perhaps may ask,: Seeing that the Canon of the Scriptures is perfect, and self-sufficient, and more than sufficient, for all things, what need is there that the authority of the Church’s understanding (interpretation) be joined unto it?

The reason is, because all men do not take the Sacred Scripture, on account of its very profoundness, in one and the same sense; but this man and that man, in this way, and that way, interprets the sayings thereof; that as many opinions almost as there are men, would seem to be capable of being drawn therefrom.

For: IS this NOT the Christian church of today with the winds of every direction blowing this belief this way and that? St Vincent saw in his day the very CHAOS brought when “MEN” self interpret scripture, to their own demise.

  • Novatian expounds in one way,
  • in another Photinus
  • in another Sabellius
  • in another Donatus
  • in another Arius, Eunomius, and Macedonius
  • in another Apollinaris and Priscillian,
  • in another Jovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, and in another, in fine, Nestorius.

And for this cause very necessary it is, on account of the many doublings of error so varied, that the line of interpretation, both of prophets and Apostles, be directed according to the rule (standard) of the ecclesiastical and Catholic sense. Again, in the Catholic Church itself, very great care is to be taken that we hold that which hath been believed everywhere, always, and by all men.

For Catholic is truly and properly that, as the very force and nature of the word declares, which comprises all things in general, after a universal manner; and this is thus, in fine, attained, — if we follow universality, antiquity, consent.

  • Now, we shall follow universality thus, if we confess this one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses.
  • antiquity, thus, if we in no wise recede from those senses which it is manifest that our holy elders and Fathers openly maintained.
  • consent, likewise (shall we follow) in the same manner, if, in this antiquity itself, we adhere to the definitions and sentiments of all, or at least of nearly all the priests and doctors together.
  • What then shall a Catholic Christian do, if some small part of the Church cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith?
  • What, indeed, but prefer the healthfulness of the whole body before the pestiferous and corrupt member?
  • What if some novel contagion attempt to taint no longer a small part only, but the whole Church alike?

Then, likewise, shall he see to it that he cleave unto antiquity, which is now utterly incapable of being seduced by any craft of novelty.

What if, in antiquity itself, there be discovered some error of two or three men, or of some one city or province even? Then shall he by all means give heed that he prefer, before the temerity or ignorance of a few, the decrees, if such there be, universally (received) of old, of a general council.

What if some such case arise, wherein nothing of this nature can be found? Then shall he bestow his labor to consult and interrogate the collated sentiments of the ancients, — of those to wit who, though living at different times and places, yet remaining in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, were trustworthy teachers; and whatsoever he shall recognize that not one or two only, but all alike, with one unvarying consent, plainly, frequently, unswerving-ly held, wrote, taught, that let him understand is to be also believed by him without any doubt. ( this then is the error of Protestants, that understand NOT that Luther, in his disbelief could NOT lead a Catholic astray into his NEW religion.) “95 Thesis OR 5 Solas matter NOT 1 WHIT , only the Denial of TRUTH as taught by the Holy Fathers and Apostles.) {The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 101-104}

“On those issues of faith that the fathers believed, we are to believe in this binding manner, that whatsoever either all, or the greater number of them, with one and the same mind or sense, plainly, frequently, and unswervingly, as in a kind of council of teachers agreeing together, have confirmed by receiving, holding, and delivering the faith, let that be held as a thing undoubted, certain, and settled.

But whatsoever sentiment, any, although he be holy and learned, although a bishop, although a confessor and martyr, may have entertained beside all, or even contrary to all, let that be separated from the authority of the common, public, and general sentiment, and placed among his own proper, and secret, and private slight opinions; lest, with the utmost peril of eternal salvation, we do, according to the sacrilegious custom of heretics and schismatics, having forsaken the ancient truth of universal doctrine, follow the novelty of some one man. [such as Martin Luther???, nothing new under the sun here folks!!!]

The holy and Catholic consent of which blessed fathers, lest any one think that he may rashly contemn, the Apostle says, in his first epistle to the Corinthians,

“And God indeed hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, of which himself was one; secondly, prophets, as Agabus, of whom we read in the Acts; thirdly, doctors”,

who are now called expounders (tractatores), whom this same Apostle sometimes also name prophets, for that by them the mysteries of the prophets are laid open to the people. These men, therefore, disposed of God, throughout times and places, in the Church of God, whosoever despise them when they concur in any one sentiment touching the understanding of Catholic doctrine, despises not man, but God; from the truth teaching unity of which men that none dissent, the same Apostle very earnestly entreats, saying,

“But I beseech you, brethren, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but be you perfect, in the same mind, and in the same judgment.” (1Cor1:10) {Adv. Haecres. n. xxviii. / The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 444-445}

  • If the words, the sentiments, the promises of Scripture, are appealed to by the Devil and his disciples, of whom some are false apostles, some false prophets and false teachers, and all without exception heretics, what are Catholics and the sons of Mother Church to do?
  • How are they to distinguish truth from falsehood in the sacred Scriptures?

They must be very careful to pursue that course which, in the beginning of this Commonitory [a book affirming authentic Christianity by Vincent], we said that holy and learned men had commended to us, that is to say, they must interpret the sacred Canon according to the traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of Catholic doctrine in which the very Catholic and Apostolic Church it is necessary for them to follow universality, antiquity, consent.

And if at any time a part opposes itself to the whole, novelty to antiquity, the dissent of one or a few who are in error to the consent of all or at all events of the great majority of Catholics, then they must prefer the soundness of the whole to the corruption of a part; in which same whole they must prefer the religion of antiquity to the profaneness of novelty.

And in antiquity itself, in like manner, to the temerity of one or of a very few they must prefer, first of all, the general decrees, if such there be, of a Universal Council, or if there be no such, then, what is next best, they must follow the con-sentient belief of many and great masters. Which rule having been faithfully, soberly, and scrupulously observed, we shall with little difficulty detect the noxious errors of heretics as they arise. The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 348-349

“As we have said in the past, this always has been, and also is to this day, the custom of Catholics, to approve the true faith in these two ways:

  1. first, by the authority of the divine Scripture (the canon);
  2. secondly, by the tradition of the Catholic Church: not because the canon alone is not sufficient of itself for all things, but because very many interpreting the divine words according to their own pleasure, conceive various opinions and errors; and for this cause it is necessary that the interpretation of the heavenly Scripture be directed according to the one rule of the ecclesiastical sense, in those questions, to wit, especially upon which the foundations of the whole Catholic doctrine do depend.” {Adv. Hæres. n. xxix. /Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 350}

This profound statement prophetically identifies the illnesses of the Evangelical Protestant Christian movement that has metastasized and led to 49,000 separate churches worldwide.( see prior essay) END PART II

Next up City Part 3 Catholicism from the Early Church Fathers.

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