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Ordo Kalendar + Tracts for our Times
On theFrom Commonitorium,
Development of Doctrine
Vincent of Lerins
Is there to be no development of religion in the Church of
Christ? Certainly, there is to be development and on the largest
Who can be so grudging to men, so full of hate for God, as to
try to prevent it? But it must truly be development of the faith,
not alteration of the faith. Development means that each thing
expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is
changed from one thing into another.
The understanding, knowledge and wisdom of one and all, of individuals
as well as of the whole Church, ought then to make great and
vigorous progress with the passing of the ages and the centuries,
but only along its own line of development, that is, with the
same doctrine, the same meaning and the same import.
The religion of souls should follow the law of development of
bodies. Though bodies develop and unfold their component parts
with the passing of the years, they always remain what they were.
There is a great difference between the flower of childhood and
the maturity of age, but those who become old are the very same
people who were once young. Though the condition and appearance
of one and the same individual may change, it is one and the
same nature, one and the same person.
The tiny members of unweaned children and the grown members of
young men are still the same members. Men have the same number
of limbs as children. Whatever develops at a later age was already
present in seminal form; there is nothing new in old age that
was not already latent in childhood.
There is no doubt, then, that the legitimate and correct rule
of development, the established and wonderful order of growth,
is this: in older people the fullness of years always brings
to completion those members and forms that the wisdom of the
Creator fashioned beforehand in their earlier years.
If, however, the human form were to turn into some shape that
did not belong to its own nature, or even if something were added
to the sum of its members or subtracted from it, the whole body
would necessarily perish or become grotesque or at least be enfeebled.
In the same way, the doctrine of the Christian religion should
properly follow these laws of development, that is, by becoming
firmer over the years, more ample in the course of time, more
exalted as it advances in age.
In ancient times our ancestors sowed the good seed in the harvest
field of the Church. It would be very wrong and unfitting if
we, their descendants, were to reap, not the genuine wheat of
truth but the intrusive growth of error.
On the contrary, what is right and fitting is this: there should
be no inconsistency between first and last, but we should reap
true doctrine from the growth of true teaching, so that when,
in the course of time, those first sowings yield an increase
it may flourish and be tended in our day also.
Saint Vincent of Lerins was a priest monk who lived
on the island of Lerins during the fifth century. He wrote Commonitorium,which contains what has become known as the
Vincentian Canon, the three-fold test of Catholicity: quod
ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est - what
has been believed everywhere, always and by all. He died before 450 a.d.