The saints of God are a great gift to all who are in the Church. Through their intercessions, our prayers are multiplied before God. Learning of their holy lives and deeds, we are inspired and encouraged in our spiritual journeys. In venerating their relics, we are sometimes blessed with healing or other miracles.
A few of the saints have provided us with another blessing – that of clarity of thought. Those holy fathers of the church with particular skill in articulating the truth have left a lasting mark, a “milestone” to serve as an anchor for future generations. St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107), in the letters he wrote on his way to martyrdom, clearly defined for us the role of the Bishop as the unifying figure in the Church. St. Athanasius (c. 296-373), in his work On the Incarnation, clarified for all Christians the issue of Christ’s humanity and divinity. St. John of Damascus (c. 657-749) made clear the church’s position regarding icons in his On the Divine Images.
St. Vincent of Lerins gave all future generations a method of determining Christian truth in the midst of novelty and imaginative speculation.
Gallican by ethnic heritage and brought up as a Christian, Vincent began his professional life as a career military officer. But, weary of the distractions and cares of the world, he resigned his commission to “get away from it all” for awhile and contemplate his future.
He retired to a small, remote island off the coast of Provence. Here he reflected on how he had spent his life so far and how he might make the best of what time remained for him on this earth. As a devout Christian, he wanted to make certain that, at the Last Judgement, he would be counted among the worthy sheep, a true follower of Christ.
It was clear to Vincent that his calling was to the monastic life. So his island retreat became the place for his monastery, one which eventually became known far and wide for the holiness of its inhabitants.
Deeply troubled by the heresies which were rampant in his time, the monk Vincent set out to provide Christians with a means for determining what constitutes the one Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox faith. Using the name “Peregrinus”, he wrote A Commonitory Against Heretics just three years after the Third Ecumenical Council, held in Ephesus in 431, which condemned the Nestorian heresy (the claim that there were two persons in Christ, one divine and the other human; and refusal to use the term “Theotokos”). St. Vincent declared that, unless a doctrine has been believed “in all places, at all times, and by all Christian people”, it is not a part of the Catholic faith. Using this simple test, all novel ideas and innovations, which those who alter Christianity to suit their own purposes and ambitions would promote, are recognized as the heresies which they truly are.
St. Vincent described heretics as like poisoners who would offer lethal drugs in place of helpful medicine, as they quote scripture out of context and misquote and re-interpret passages to suit themselves. In doing so, they follow the example of the devil, who quoted scripture to our Lord when he tempted Him in the wilderness.
Among the plethora of Christian denominations today, the Orthodox Church has maintained the standard of St. Vincent in holding fast to the Catholic faith. The marks of universality, antiquity, and general consent have always guided the Church and will continue to serve those who seek the true faith.