Unanimity in ubiquity

April 27 2012

In the latter part of the second century of the Roman Empire’s existence, Saint Irenaeus of Lyon – a Christian Father who was an approximate contemporary of the pagan Greek man of letters Publius Aelius Aristeides [post] – was paying an implicit tribute to the Empire in extolling the unity of the Catholic Church throughout the Hellenic World.

“Having received this gospel and this faith, … the Church, in spite of her dispersal throughout the World, preserves these treasures as meticulously as if she were living under one single roof. She believes in these truths as unanimously as if she had only one soul and a single heart, and she preaches them and expounds them and hands them down as concordantly as if she had only one mouth. While the languages current in the World are diverse, the force of the [Church’s] [bracket in original] tradition is one and the same everywhere. There is no variety in the faith or in the tradition of the churches that have established themselves in the Germanies or in the Spains or among the Celts or in the East or in Egypt or in North-West Africa, or, again, of the churches that have established themselves at the World’s centre. Just as God’s creature the Sun is one and the same throughout the World, so likewise the Gospel of the Truth shows its light everywhere.” [Footnote: Irenaeus: Contra Haereses, Book II, chap. x, § 2 (Migne, J.-P.: Patrologia Graeca, vol. vii, cols. 552-3) […].]

Irenaeus, a Greek, was aware of Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism. Other heresies were in the future.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

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