27 February 2009

Patristic Quote of the Day

There are other things, however, which are different in different places and countries: e.g., some fast on Saturday, others do not; some partake daily of the body and blood of Christ, others receive it on stated days: in some places no day passes without the sacrifice being offered; in others it is only on Saturday and the Lord's day, or it may be only on the Lord's day. In regard to these and all other variable observances which may be met anywhere, one is at liberty to comply with them or not as he chooses; and there is no better rule for the wise and serious Christian in this matter, than to conform to the practice which he finds prevailing in the Church to which it may be his lot to come. For such a custom, if it is clearly not contrary to the faith nor to sound morality, is to be held as a thing indifferent, and ought to be observed for the sake of fellowship with those among whom we live. -- St. Augustine to Januarius (Ep. 54)


Phil said...

How interesting! Instead of recognizing matters of indifference and therefore doing whatever we see fit, Augustine says that because something is a matter of indifference we ought to observe it.

Does he draw out this idea of adiaphora in greater detail?

William Weedon said...

The whole letter is available online - just google. It makes for some good reading. He specifically mentions that this is advice he received from St. Ambrose and took to heart. Note, though, he suggests that a person is free to observe or not, but that the best option is not to make a ruckus over it. He also provides this wonderful observation in the same letter:

"But mere change of custom, even though it may be of advantage in some respects, unsettles men by reason of the novelty: therefore, if it brings no advantage, it does much harm by unprofitably disturbing the Church."