In the last seven weeks we have studied the lives and teachings of the Church Fathers. They remind us that not all the truths revealed for us by God are found in the Bible; some truths are found in Divine Tradition. Scripture and Tradition are of equal value as sources of revelation.
Divine Tradition is the unwritten word of God, revealed truths taught by Christ and His apostles, which were given to the Church only by word of mouth and not through the Bible. The truths originally handed down by word of mouth were gradually recorded. By the end of the fourth century there were written records of Tradition such as: decrees of Popes and councils, creeds, liturgical books, acts of martyrs, writings of the Fathers, and inscriptions on tombs and monuments.
"Development of doctrine" is the growth in the Church's understanding of the truths of divine revelation. St. Vincent of Lerins and the recently beatified John Henry Newman taught eloquently on the subject.
The writing of St. Vincent was used at the Office of Readings last Friday (Friday of Week 27). He compared the development of doctrine to the development of body: "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."
"Development means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing into another."
The understanding of revealed truths can develop and become more explicit over the course of time, but revealed truths can never be changed or be added onto. Blessed Newman pointed out the infallibly of the Church as the principle of preservation in the development of doctrine.
There are three steps in the handing down of tradition. Monsignor Schumacher illustrated these three steps with the example of infant baptism.
The first of the three steps is oral tradition. After the Ascension of Christ, the apostles began to baptize infants, and they ordered other disciples to do likewise. The latter went to distant countries and told their own disciples to do the same thing. Nobody was alarmed by the practice and nobody objected to it. As the faith spread, so did the practice.
The second step is written tradition. In the second century someone wrote about infant baptism in his book. Other writers followed and wrote about infant baptism as a normal practice of the time, and within 100 years it was recounted numerous times.
The third and final step is the solemn declaration of the Church. In the 16th century someone questioned the practice of infant baptism. Therefore the Church, by her infallible authority, solemnly declared infant baptism to be right and true; so what was first oral tradition, and then written tradition, now became a declared article of faith.
Reading the Fathers
The Church Fathers had great love for Sacred Scripture. Their reflections and commentaries on the Scriptures are spiritual gems. The Navarre Bible and The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible contain commentaries which are solid in Catholic doctrine and rich in spiritual content. There are numerous references to the teachings of the Fathers in these commentaries.
Daily reading of the Fathers is beneficial to our spiritual life. I warmly recommend a new book compiled by Mike Aquilina: A Year with the Church Fathers - Patristic Wisdom For Daily Living. In this book the wisest, most practical teachings of the Fathers of the Church are gathered. They are presented in a format suitable for daily meditation and inspiration.
「教義的進展」是教會對啟示真理認識的加深。聖味增爵.雷冷(萊林. 聖文生) St. Vincent of Lerins和近日被宣福的若望,亨利.廖文Bl. John Henry Newman，特別精於這方面的教導。
教會的教父們都酷愛聖經，他們慎密的思考和註釋是靈性的寶庫。英文的 The Navarre Bible 和 The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible對教義及屬靈的詮釋，甚為豐富。詮釋內多次轉載教父們的教導。
每日閱讀教父們的教訓，對我們的靈修生活大有裨益。容我在此推薦彌格.阿奎諾Mike Aquilina編箸的一本新書 A Year with the Church Fathers --- Patristic Wisdom For Daily Living。該書包涵了教父們最明智、最實用的教訓，適用於日常的默想和思維啟迪。
Published at Pax Sinica column (October 11) of The B.C . Catholic newspaper