“Sophronius’s formula, ‘an apostolic and ancient tradition,’ did not mean that everything ‘ancient’ as therefore automatically ‘apostolic.’ All the orthodox theologians knew that in some instances ‘antiquity means foolishness.’ Even Irenaeus had erred in teaching the idea of the millenium. But while all that was ancient was not apostolic or orthodox, all that was orthodox had to have been apostolic and was therefore ancient.” – Jaroslav Pelikan [#1, p. 22]

The Authority of the Church Fathers

“We do not invent new formulas as our opponents charge, but we confess the statements of the fathers. Nor do we make up terms according to our own ideas, for this is a presumptuous thing to do, the work and invention of a heretical and deranged mind. But what has been understood and stated by the saints, that we reverently adduce as our authority.” – St. Maximus the Confessor (Theological and Polemical Opuscula) [#1, p. 20]

“An apostolic and ancient tradition has prevailed in the holy churches throughout the world, so that those who are inducted into the hierarchy sincerely refer everything they think and believe to those who have held the hierarchy before them. For…all their running would be in vain if an injustice were to be done to the faith in any respect.” – St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (Synodical Epistle) [#1, p. 22]

“I could also tell you of other things, which Christ did not say. But what is the point of that? As we have received from the holy fathers, so we believe, because they were taught these things from God.” – John V of Jerusalem (Against Constantinus Cabalinus on the Images) [#1, p. 22]


“Endeavour to divide the Christian world into patriarchates, as the schismatical Churches of the East would have it, each patriarch, in this supposition, would have the same privileges which we here attribute to the Pope; and in like manner none could appeal from his decisions, for there must always be a limit which cannot be overstepped. The sovereignty would be divided, but would always exist; it would only be necessary to make a change in the Creed, and say, ‘I believe in divided and independent Churches.’ To this monstrous idea we should find ourselves driven; but it would ere long be improved upon by temporal princes, who, making very little account of this vain patriarchal division, would establish the independence of their particular churches, and disencumber themselves of the patriarch, as has happened in Russia; so that, instead of one infallibility, rejected as too sublime a privilege, we should have as many as it would suit policy to create by the division of states. Religious sovereignty, fallen in the first instance from the Pope to patriarchs, would descend afterwards from them to synods, and all would end by Anglican supremacy and pure Protestantism; an inevitable state of things, and which can only be more or less delayed or avowed wherever the Pope reigns not. Once admit appeal from his decrees, and there is no longer government, unity, or a visible Church.” – Count Joseph de Maistre (The Pope; Considered in His Relations with the Church, Temporal Sovereignties, Separated Churches, and the Cause of Civilization, p. 6)

“The Russian Church goes so far as to sing the following hymn: ‘O! St. Peter, prince of the apostles! apostolic primate! immovable rock of faith, in recompense of thy confession, eternal foundation of the Church; pastor of the speaking flock; bearer of the keys of heaven; chosen from among all the apostles to be, after Jesus Christ, the first foundation of the Holy Church — rejoice! rejoice! never-to-be-shaken pillar of the orthodox faith! chief of the apostolic college!’ She adds: ‘Prince of the apostles, thou hast quitted all, and hast followed the Master, saying, I will die with thee; with thee I shall live a life of happiness. Thou hast been the first bishop of Rome, the honour and the glory of the very great city. On thee has the Church been consolidated.'” – Count Joseph de Maistre (The Pope; Considered in His Relations with the Church, Temporal Sovereignties, Separated Churches, and the Cause of Civilization, p. 45-46)


“And if the very claim to infallible arbitration in religious disputes is of so weighty importance and interest in all ages of the world, much more is it welcome at a time like the present, when the human intellect is so busy, and thought so fertile, and opinion so manifold. The absolute need of a spiritual supremacy is at present the strongest of arguments in favour of the fact of its supply. Surely, either an objective revelation has not been given, or it has been provided with means for impressing its objectiveness on the world. If Christianity be a social religion, as it certainly is, and if it be based on certain ideas acknowledged as divine, or a creed, (which shall here be assumed,) and if these ideas have various aspects, and make distinct impressions on different minds, and issue in consequence in a multiplicity of developments, true, or false, or mixed, as has been shown, what power will suffice to meet and to do justice to these conflicting conditions, but a supreme authority ruling and reconciling individual judgments by a divine right and a recognized wisdom? In barbarous times the will is reached through the senses; but in an age in which reason, as it is called, is the standard of truth and right, it is abundantly evident to any one, who mixes ever so little with the world, that, if things are left to themselves, every individual will have his own view of them, and take his own course; that two or three will agree today to part company tomorrow; that Scripture will be read in contrary ways, and history, according to the apologue, will have to different comers its silver shield and its golden; that philosophy, taste, prejudice, passion, party, caprice, will find no common measure, unless there be some supreme power to control the mind and to compel agreement.” – Bl. John Henry Newman (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, p. 89-90)

Sola Scriptura?

“Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: ‘With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?’ For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.” – Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics (Chapter 19)

“Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, ‘as many as walk according to the rule,’ which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, ‘Who are you?'” – Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics (Chapter 37)

“Your design clearly is to deprive Scripture of all authority, and to make every man’s mind the judge what passage of Scripture he is to approve of, and what to disapprove of. This is not to be subject to Scripture in matters of faith, but to make Scripture subject to you. Instead of making the high authority of Scripture the reason of approval, every man makes his approval the reason for thinking a passage correct. If, then, you discard authority, to what, poor feeble soul, darkened by the mists of carnality, to what, I beseech you, will you betake yourself? Set aside authority, and let us hear the reason of your beliefs. Is it by a logical process that your long story about the nature of God concludes necessarily with this startling announcement, that this nature is subject to injury and corruption? And how do you know that there are eight continents and ten heavens, and that Atlas bears up the world, and that it hangs from the great world-holder, and innumerable things of the same kind? Who is your authority?” – St. Augustine of Hippo, Contra Faustum (Book 32, § 19)

“But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.” – St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium (Chapter 2)

Faith and Works

“Let us flee from all vanity, let us entirely hate the works of the evil way. Do not entering in privily stand apart by yourselves, as if ye were already justified, but assemble yourselves together and consult concerning the common welfare. For the scripture saith; ‘Woe unto them that are wise for themselves, and understanding in their own sight’. Let us become spiritual, let us become a temple perfect unto God. As far as in us lies, let us exercise ourselves in the fear of God, [and] let us strive to keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. The Lord judgeth the world without respect of persons; each man shall receive according to his deeds. If he be good, his righteousness shall go before him in the way; if he be evil, the recompense of his evil-doing is before him; lest perchance, if we relax as men that are called, we should slumber over our sins, and the prince of evil receive power against us and thrust us out from the kingdom of the Lord.” – St. Barnabas, Epistle (4:10-13)

“The good servant receives the bread of his labor with confidence; the lazy and slothful cannot look his employer in the face. It is requisite, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of well-doing; for of Him are all things.” – Pope St. Clement I, Epistle to the Corinthians (Chapter 34)

“Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but [truly] will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one. For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. … Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness.” – St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans (Chapter 3)

“We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. … [Some think] that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness.” – St. Justin Martyr, First Apology (Chapter 43)

“Here [Romans 2:7] also he [St. Paul] awakens those who had drawn back during the trials, and shows that it is not right to trust in faith only. For it is deeds also into which that tribunal will enquire.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on Romans


“If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen, To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius

But some (I know not how) wrong the most sacred beauty of the dogmas of the Church and wrinkle the holy and all-pure Virgin, bringing her down to the unseemly rottenness of their own ideas and arming against us a multitude of new-fangled inventions. For they accuse, as something bastard and uncomely, yea rather as going beyond all fit language, the word Mother of God, which the holy fathers before us have constructed for the holy Virgin…” – St. Cyril of Alexandria, Tomes Against Nestorius (Book 1)

It is just the same also in the case of the Mother of the Lord. For the [honor] which we give to her is referred to Him Who was made of her incarnate.” – St. John Damascene, An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (Book 4, Chapter 16)

“She is our mother — the mother of our life, the mother of our incarnation, the mother of our light. As the apostle says of our Lord: He became for us by God’s power our wisdom and justice, and holiness and redemption. She then, as mother of Christ, is the mother of our wisdom and justice, of our holiness and redemption. She is more our mother than the mother of our flesh. Our birth from her is better, for from her is born our holiness, our wisdom, our justice, our sanctification, our redemption. Praise the Lord in his holy ones, say the Scriptures. If our Lord is to be praised in those holy ones through whom he brings to being deeds of power and miracles, how much more is he to be praised in her in whom he fashioned himself, who is wonderful beyond all wonders.” – St. Aelred [#2]

“Meekly, then, did grace make election of the pure Mary alone out of all generations. For she proved herself prudent truly in all things; neither has any woman been born like her in all generations. She was not like the primeval virgin Eve, who, keeping holiday alone in paradise, with thoughtless mind, unguardedly hearkened to the word of the serpent, the author of all evil, and thus became depraved in the thoughts of her mind; and through her that deceiver, discharging his poison and refusing death with it, brought it into the whole world; and in virtue of this has arisen all the trouble of the saints. But in the holy Virgin alone is the fall of that (first mother) repaired.” – St. Gregory the Wonderworker, First Homily

“Let, then, the life of Mary be as it were virginity itself, set forth in a likeness, from which, as from a mirror, the appearance of chastity and the form of virtue is reflected. From this you may take your pattern of life, showing, as an example, the clear rules of virtue: what you have to correct, to effect, and to hold fast.” – St. Ambrose, Concerning Virginity (Book 2, Chapter 2)


1. The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700) (The Christian Tradition, vol. 2. Written by Jaroslav Pelikan. The University of Chicago Press.)

2. The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 1988, Print)