The term is from the Latin and Greek for "father." It is the study of the lives and writings of the "Fathers" of the first centuries of the church. It now usually includes the study of the contributions of the "Mothers" of this period as well, when their history and works can be discovered. The patristic age is described as including the first five to eight centuries of the church. It was the time of the great debates concerning the church's faith and theology, including the christological and trinitarian controversies. Patristic sources provide the basis for the fundamental orthodoxy of Christian belief. The patristic period was the time of many of the great Doctors of the Church, who have been recognized for their theological significance and personal holiness. These Doctors of the Church in the patristic age included Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, and Athanasius in the east; and Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great in the west. Traditional Anglican reverence for the patristic age was renewed by the Oxford Movement in the nineteenth century. John Keble, John Henry Newman, and Edward Pusey began work on the Library of the Fathers in 1836. This was a series of English translations of selected patristic sources. The first volume in this series was the Confessions of St. Augustine, edited by Pusey, and published in 1838. The catechumenate in the Episcopal Church reflects the use of patristic sources for traditions of Christian formation and preparation for baptism.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.