Saint Irenaeus (d. 202 A.D.) has been teaching us where to find God’s Truth since the Second Century of existence of the Church:
“Being our trials of such big proportions, it is vain to look for the Truth elsewhere if you can easily find it in the Church, for the Apostles deposited the plenitude of the Truth in the Church, like in a rich big barn, so that everyone who yearns for the Truth can drink from the Source of Life in the Church. In Her you shall find the open door to Life; all other pathways are full of thieves and way layers. That is the reason why it is necessary to avoid these dangerous paths and to love dearly everything that belongs to the Church, thus keeping the sound heritage of the Truth (Against the heresies, book III, 1, 1-2, 1-3; 4-1).
Saint Irenaeus fiercely combated the Gnostic heretics. He often talked about the misfortune of those who forsake the Church:
“The preaching of the Church is firm and solid from all standpoints; it never changes and has the benefit of the testimony of Prophets, Apostles and Disciples. Their testimony comprehends beginning, middle and end, in other words, the totality of God’s economy and action, the foundation of our faith, which infallibly targets human salvation. That is the reason why we keep with zeal and care the faith we received from the Church, like a most precious treasure deposited in a most exquisite vessel. Under the influx of the Holy Spirit of God, this faith is incessantly renewed and incessantly renews its containing vessel. For as the Divine breath was entrusted to the moulded clay, the same way “God’s Gift” (John 4, 10) was entrusted to the Church so that all Her members could share it and be revivified by this Gift. God put the communion with the Christ in the hands of the Church, in other words, God gave the Holy Spirit to the Church, a guarantee of incorruptibility, confirmation of our faith and the stairway of our ascension towards God: ‘Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues’ (The First Letter to the Corinthians 12, 28). The Church received from God everything She needs to co-operate with the action of the Holy Spirit. Those who refuse to join the Church are excluding themselves from the Holy Spirit and thus blocking real Life to nourish them through their false doctrines and depraved actions. For where the Church is, the Spirit of God is there as well and where the Spirit of God is, the Church and all the grace are there as well. Indeed, the Spirit is also the Truth. Consequently, those who do not participate in it are not being nourished and vivified by the breast of the Mother; those who cannot drink from the pure Source that springs from the Body of Christ ‘have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water’ (Jeremiah 2, 13); they dig holes on the ground and they drink polluted water from the swamps. They run away from the Church because they fear being unmasked and they reject the Spirit because they do not want to be instructed. They have become strangers to the Truth and therefore they are doomed to thrust themselves into all kinds of mistake: their mistakes will cause their downfall. They make the fatal mistake of having a different idea at each new moment about major issues and they lack a solid unchangeable doctrine. Rather than Disciples of the truth, they are sophists of words. They did not build their foundations on the Rock, but on sand, and sand full of brittle” (Against the Heresies, Book III, 24, 1).
Saint Epiphany (dead on 403 A.D.), great combatant against the heresies, follows the same line of Saint Irinaeus:
“There is One Real Pathway, the Catholic Church and only one pathway to the Truth. On the other hand, heresies have left the real pathways because they took wrong turns to the left or to the right: therefore they are abandoned to themselves and they gradually drown in their mistakes.
Alas, then, o servants of God and children of God’s Holy Church, who know the safe rules of faith! Do not allow the voices of strangers to lead you astray from the Church and do not allow them to mislead you with false assumptions of the so-called sciences (Haer. 59, c. 12s).
Also Saint Vincent of Lerins (dead on 450 A.D.) also combated the Pelagian heresy and he affirms that:
“Asking diligently and attentively to numerous eminent authorities on sanctity and doctrine which safe norm I could use, as regular and generic as possible, to tell the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heresy, that is the uniform answer they all gave me: those who want to find out the emerging fraud of the heretic, avoid their traps and stay safe and sound in faith, should shelter their own faith under double Divine protection: first under the authority of the Divine Law and second under the Tradition of the Church” (Commonitorium).
Professor Felipe Aquino
Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino