Everybody's Doing It

St. Vincent of Lerins taught that if a religious practice is carried out 'always, everywhere, and by all,' it's the real thing

BY: Father Peter Gillquist


It's so easy to get into one of those seemingly endless and insoluble doctrinal debates with someone from another branch of Christianity. You can be at school, at work, or in a friend's living room, when suddenly someone will make a statement like this:

"Well, my pastor doesn't believe in infant baptism." Or, "Liturgical worship is boring; nothing but vain repetition, so we just have hymns and a sermon." You can argue these questions all day and all night, and you won't settle anything with your coworker or friend.

Nonetheless, you can effectively present the Orthodox Church's position on these contentious doctrinal questions, for on them the Church speaks with one voice. But how can you find out what that position is? Where can you turn for help?

Enter St. Vincent of Lerins. He was born in Gaul (today's France), probably in the late fourth century. St. Vincent was a monk who lived on the island of Lerins, now known as St. Honorat, just off France's southern coast. His best-known book is his "Commonitories," written in about 434 A.D.

St. Vincent is famous for this single brief sentence: "Hold fast that faith which has been believed everywhere, always and by all." Believe it or not, that short phrase gives the Church solid, reliable guidance in interpreting the Bible. It was so useful that it came to be known as "the Vincentian Canon."

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