The Second Letter of St. Jerome To Pope Damasus

Letter XVI. To Pope Damasus.

This letter, written a few months after the preceding, is another appeal to Damasus to solve the writer’s doubts. Jerome once more refers to his baptism at Rome, and declares that his one answer to the factions at Antioch is, “He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me.” Written from the desert in the year 377 or 378.

1. By her importunity the widow in the gospel at last gained a hearing,294 and by the same means one friend induced another to give him bread at midnight, when his door was shut and his servants were in bed.295 The publican’s prayers overcame God,296 although God is invincible. Nineveh was saved by its tears from the impending ruin caused by its sin.297 To what end, you ask, these far-fetched references? To this end, I make answer; that you in your greatness should look upon me in my littleness; that you, the rich shepherd, should not despise me, the ailing sheep. Christ Himself brought the robber from the cross to paradise,298 and, to show that repentance is never too late, He turned a murderer’s death into a martyrdom. Gladly does Christ embrace the prodigal son when he returns to Him;299 and, leaving the ninety and nine, the good shepherd carries home on His shoulders the one poor sheep that is left.300 From a persecutor Paul becomes a preacher. His bodily eyes are blinded to clear the eyes of his soul,301 and he who once haled Christ’s servants in chains before the council of the Jews,302 lives afterwards to glory in the bonds of Christ.303

2. As I have already written to you,304 I, who have received Christ’s garb in Rome, am now detained in the waste that borders Syria. No sentence of banishment, however, has been passed upon me; the punishment which I am undergoing is self-inflicted. But, as the heathen poet says:

They change not mind but sky who cross the sea.305

The untiring foe follows me closely, and the assaults that I suffer in the desert are severer than ever. For the Arian frenzy raves, and the powers of the world support it. The church is rent into three factions, and each of these is eager to seize me for its own. The influence of the monks is of long standing, and it is directed against me. I meantime keep crying: “He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me.” Meletius, Vitalis, and Paulinus306 all profess to cleave to you, and I could believe the assertion if it were made by one of them only. As it is, either two of them or else all three are guilty of falsehood. Therefore I implore your blessedness, by our Lord’s cross and passion, those necessary glories of our faith, as you hold an apostolic office, to give an apostolic decision. Only tell me by letter with whom I am to communicate in Syria, and I will pray for you that you may sit in judgment enthroned with the twelve;307 that when you grow old, like Peter, you may be girded not by yourself but by another,308 and that, like Paul, you may be made a citizen of the heavenly kingdom.309 Do not despise a soul for which Christ died.

294    Matt. xv. 28.

295    Luke xi. 7, 8.

296    Luke xviii. 10–14.

297    Jon. iii. 5, 10.

298    Luke xxiii. 43.

299    Luke xv. 20.

300    Luke xv. 5.

301    Acts ix. 8.

302    Acts viii. 3.

303    2 Cor. xii. 10.

304    See Letter XV.

305    Hor. Epist. i. 11, 27.

306    The three rival claimants of the see of Antioch. Paulinus and Meletius were both orthodox, but Meletius derived his orders from the Arians and was consequently not recognized in the West. In the East, however, he was so highly esteemed that some years after this he was chosen to preside over the Council of Constantinople (a.d. 391). Vitalis, the remaining claimant, was a follower of Apollinaris, but much respected by the orthodox on account of his high character.

307    Matt. xix. 28.

308    Joh. xxi. 18.

309    Phi. iii. 20, R.V.

Posted in Letters | Leave a comment

The First Letter of St. Jerome To Pope Damasus

Letter XV. To Pope Damasus.

This letter, written in 376 or 377 a.d., illustrates Jerome’s attitude towards the see of Rome at this time held by Damasus, afterwards his warm friend and admirer. Referring to Rome as the scene of his own baptism and as a church where the true faith has remained unimpaired (§1), and laying down the strict doctrine of salvation only within the pale of the church (§2), Jerome asks “the successor of the fisherman” two questions, viz.:
(1) who is the true bishop of the three claimants of the see of Antioch, and
(2) which is the correct terminology, to speak of three “hypostases” in the Godhead, or of one? On the latter question he expresses fully his own opinion.

1. Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, “woven from the top throughout,”261 since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ,262 and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover “the sealed fountain” and “the garden inclosed,”263 I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul.264 I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have received the garb of Christ.265 The wide space of sea and land that lies between us cannot deter me from searching for “the pearl of great price.”266 “Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”267 Evil children have squandered their patrimony; you alone keep your heritage intact. The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold; but here the seed corn is choked in the furrows and nothing grows but darnel or oats.268 In the West the Sun of righteousness269 is even now rising; in the East, Lucifer, who fell from heaven,270 has once more set his throne above the stars.271 “Ye are the light of the world,”272 “ye are the salt of the earth,”273 ye are “vessels of gold and of silver.” Here are vessels of wood or of earth,274 which wait for the rod of iron,275 and eternal fire.

2. Yet, though your greatness terrifies me, your kindness attracts me. From the priest I demand the safe-keeping of the victim, from the shepherd the protection due to the sheep. Away with all that is overweening; let the state of Roman majesty withdraw. My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built!276 This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten.277 This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.278 But since by reason of my sins I have betaken myself to this desert which lies between Syria and the uncivilized waste, I cannot, owing to the great distance between us, always ask of your sanctity the holy thing of the Lord.279 Consequently I here follow the Egyptian confessors280 who share your faith, and anchor my frail craft under the shadow of their great argosies. I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus.281 He that gathers not with you scatters;282 he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist.

3. Just now, I am sorry to say, those Arians, the Campenses,283 are trying to extort from me, a Roman Christian, their unheard-of formula of three hypostases.284 And this, too, after the definition of Nicæa285 and the decree of Alexandria,286 in which the West has joined. Where, I should like to know, are the apostles of these doctrines? Where is their Paul, their new doctor of the Gentiles? I ask them what three hypostases are supposed to mean. They reply three persons subsisting. I rejoin that this is my belief. They are not satisfied with the meaning, they demand the term. Surely some secret venom lurks in the words. “If any man refuse,” I cry, “to acknowledge three hypostases in the sense of three things hypostatized, that is three persons subsisting, let him be anathema.” Yet, because I do not learn their words, I am counted a heretic. “But, if any one, understanding by hypostasis essence,287 deny that in the three persons there is one hypostasis, he has no part in Christ.” Because this is my confession I, like you, am branded with the stigma of Sabellianism.288

4. If you think fit enact a decree; and then I shall not hesitate to speak of three hypostases. Order a new creed to supersede the Nicene; and then, whether we are Arians or orthodox, one confession will do for us all. In the whole range of secular learning hypostasis never means anything but essence. And can any one, I ask, be so profane as to speak of three essences or substances in the Godhead? There is one nature of God and one only; and this, and this alone, truly is. For absolute being is derived from no other source but is all its own. All things besides, that is all things created, although they appear to be, are not. For there was a time when they were not, and that which once was not may again cease to be. God alone who is eternal, that is to say, who has no beginning, really deserves to be called an essence. Therefore also He says to Moses from the bush, “I am that I am,” and Moses says of Him, “I am hath sent me.”289 As the angels, the sky, the earth, the seas, all existed at the time, it must have been as the absolute being that God claimed for himself that name of essence, which apparently was common to all. But because His nature alone is perfect, and because in the three persons there subsists but one Godhead, which truly is and is one nature; whosoever in the name of religion declares that there are in the Godhead three elements, three hypostases, that is, or essences, is striving really to predicate three natures of God. And if this is true, why are we severed by walls from Arius, when in dishonesty we are one with him? Let Ursicinus be made the colleague of your blessedness; let Auxentius be associated with Ambrose.290 But may the faith of Rome never come to such a pass! May the devout hearts of your people never be infected with such unholy doctrines! Let us be satisfied to speak of one substance and of three subsisting persons—perfect, equal, coeternal. Let us keep to one hypostasis, if such be your pleasure, and say nothing of three. It is a bad sign when those who mean the same thing use different words. Let us be satisfied with the form of creed which we have hitherto used. Or, if you think it right that I should speak of three hypostases, explaining what I mean by them, I am ready to submit. But, believe me, there is poison hidden under their honey; the angel of Satan has transformed himself into an angel of light.291 They give a plausible explanation of the term hypostasis; yet when I profess to hold it in the same sense they count me a heretic. Why are they so tenacious of a word? Why do they shelter themselves under ambiguous language? If their belief corresponds to their explanation of it, I do not condemn them for keeping it. On the other hand, if my belief corresponds to their expressed opinions, they should allow me to set forth their meaning in my own words.

5. I implore your blessedness, therefore, by the crucified Saviour of the world, and by the consubstantial trinity, to authorize me by letter either to use or to refuse this formula of three hypostases. And lest the obscurity of my present abode may baffle the bearers of your letter, I pray you to address it to Evagrius, the presbyter, with whom you are well acquainted. I beg you also to signify with whom I am to communicate at Antioch. Not, I hope, with the Campenses;292 for they—with their allies the heretics of Tarsus293—only desire communion with you to preach with greater authority their traditional doctrine of three hypostases.

261 Joh. xix. 23.

262 Cant. ii. 15.

263 Cant. iv. 12.

264 Rom. i. 8: I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

265 I.e. holy baptism; cf. Gal. iii. 27.

266 Matt. xiii. 46.

267 Matt. xxiv. 28.

268 Matt. xiii. 22, 23.

269 Mal. iv. 2.

270 Luke x. 18.

271 Isa. xiv. 12.

272 Matt. v. 14.

273 Matt. v. 13.

274 2 Tim. ii. 20.

275 Rev. ii. 27.

276 Matt. xvi. 18.

277 Ex. xii. 22.

278 Gen. vii. 23.

279 I.e. the bread of the Eucharist, at this time sent by one bishop to another in token of communion; or possibly the allusion is different, and what Jerome means to say is: “You are the oracle of God, but owing to my present situation I cannot consult you.”

280 Certain bishops banished from their sees by Valens. See Letter III. § 2.

281 The three rival claimants of the see of Antioch. See note on Letter XVI. § 2.

282 Matt. xii. 30.

283 I.e. the field party. The Meletians were so called because, denied access to the churches of the city, they had to worship in the open air outside the walls.

284 ὑπόστασις=substantia. It is the word used in Heb. i. 3, “The express image of his person [R.V. substance].” Except at Alexandria it was usual to speak of one hypostasis as of one ousia in the Divine Nature. But at Alexandria from Origen downwards three hypostases had been ascribed to the Deity. Two explanations are given of the latter formula: (1) That at Alexandria ὑπόστασις was taken in the sense of πρόσωπον, so that by “three hypostases” was meant only “three persons.” (2) That “three hypostases” was an inexact expression standing for “three hypostatic persons” or “a threefold hypostasis.” This latter seems to be the true account of the matter. See an interesting note in Newman, Arians of the Fourth Century, Appendix IV.

285 In the Nicene Creed the Son is declared to be “of one substance [οὐσία] with the Father.”

286 This decree allowed the formula of “three hypostases” to be susceptible of an orthodox interpretation. It did not, however, encourage its use.

287 οὐσία.

288 Cauterio unionis inurimur. Sabellius recognized three “aspects” in the Godhead but denied “three persons,” at least in the Catholic sense.

289 Ex. iii. 14.

290 Ursicinus, at this time anti-pope; Auxentius, Arian bishop of Milan.

291 2 Cor. xi. 14.

292 I.e. the followers of the orthodox Bishop Meletius, who, as they had no church in Antioch, were compelled to meet for worship outside the city.

293 These appear to have been semi-Arians or Macedonians. Silvanus of Tarsus was their recognized leader.

Posted in Letters | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Letter of St. Jerome To Heliodorus, Monk

Letter XIV. To Heliodorus, Monk.

Heliodorus, originally a soldier, but now a presbyter of the Church, had accompanied Jerome to the East, but, not feeling called to the solitary life of the desert, had returned to Aquileia. Here he resumed his clerical duties, and in course of time was raised to the episcopate as bishop of Altinum.

The letter was written in the first bitterness of separation and reproaches Heliodorus for having gone back from the perfect way of the ascetic life. The description given of this is highly colored and seems to have produced a great impression in the West. Fabiola was so much enchanted by it that she learned the letter by heart.174 The date is 373 or 374 a.d.

1. So conscious are you of the affection which exists between us that you cannot but recognize the love and passion with which I strove to prolong our common sojourn in the desert. This very letter—blotted, as you see, with tears—gives evidence of the lamentation and weeping with which I accompanied your departure. With the pretty ways of a child you then softened your refusal by soothing words, and I, being off my guard, knew not what to do. Was I to hold my peace? I could not conceal my eagerness by a show of indifference. Or was I to entreat you yet more earnestly? You would have refused to listen, for your love was not like mine. Despised affection has taken the one course open to it. Unable to keep you when present, it goes in search of you when absent. You asked me yourself, when you were going away, to invite you to the desert when I took up my quarters there, and I for my part promised to do so. Accordingly I invite you now; come, and come quickly. Do not call to mind old ties; the desert is for those who have left all. Nor let the hardships of our former travels deter you. You believe in Christ, believe also in His words: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”175 Take neither scrip nor staff. He is rich enough who is poor—with Christ.

2. But what is this, and why do I foolishly importune you again? Away with entreaties, an end to coaxing words. Offended love does well to be angry. You have spurned my petition; perhaps you will listen to my remonstrance. What keeps you, effeminate soldier, in your father’s house? Where are your ramparts and trenches? When have you spent a winter in the field? Lo, the trumpet sounds from heaven! Lo, the Leader comes with clouds!176 He is armed to subdue the world, and out of His mouth proceeds a two-edged sword177 to mow down all that encounters it. But as for you, what will you do? Pass straight from your chamber to the battle-field, and from the cool shade into the burning sun? Nay, a body used to a tunic cannot endure a buckler; a head that has worn a cap refuses a helmet; a hand made tender by disuse is galled by a sword-hilt.178 Hear the proclamation of your King: “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”179 Remember the day on which you enlisted, when, buried with Christ in baptism, you swore fealty to Him, declaring that for His sake you would spare neither father nor mother. Lo, the enemy is striving to slay Christ in your breast. Lo, the ranks of the foe sigh over that bounty which you received when you entered His service. Should your little nephew180 hang on your neck, pay no regard to him; should your mother with ashes on her hair and garments rent show you the breasts at which she nursed you, heed her not; should your father prostrate himself on the threshold, trample him under foot and go your way. With dry eyes fly to the standard of the cross. In such cases cruelty is the only true affection.

3. Hereafter there shall come—yes, there shall come—a day when you will return a victor to your true country, and will walk through the heavenly Jerusalem crowned with the crown of valor. Then will you receive the citizenship thereof with Paul.181 Then will you seek the like privilege for your parents. Then will you intercede for me who have urged you forward on the path of victory.

I am not ignorant of the fetters which you may plead as hindrances. My breast is not of iron nor my heart of stone. I was not born of flint or suckled by a tigress.182 I have passed through troubles like yours myself. Now it is a widowed sister who throws her caressing arms around you. Now it is the slaves, your foster-brothers, who cry, “To what master are you leaving us?” Now it is a nurse bowed with age, and a body-servant loved only less than a father, who exclaim: “Only wait till we die and follow us to our graves.” Perhaps, too, an aged mother, with sunken bosom and furrowed brow, recalling the lullaby183 with which she once soothed you, adds her entreaties to theirs. The learned may call you, if they please,

The sole support and pillar of your house.184

The love of God and the fear of hell will easily break such bonds.

Scripture, you will argue, bids us obey our parents.185 Yes, but whoso loves them more than Christ loses his own soul.186 The enemy takes sword in hand to slay me, and shall I think of a mother’s tears? Or shall I desert the service of Christ for the sake of a father to whom, if I am Christ’s servant, I owe no rites of burial,187 albeit if I am Christ’s true servant I owe these to all? Peter with his cowardly advice was an offence to the Lord on the eve of His passion;188 and to the brethren who strove to restrain him from going up to Jerusalem, Paul’s one answer was: “What mean ye to weep and to break my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”189. The battering-ram of natural affection which so often shatters faith must recoil powerless from the wall of the Gospel. “My mother and my brethren are these whosoever do the will of my Father which is in heaven.”190 If they believe in Christ let them bid me God-speed, for I go to fight in His name. And if they do not believe, “let the dead bury their dead.”191

4. But all this, you argue, only touches the case of martyrs. Ah! my brother, you are mistaken, you are mistaken, if you suppose that there is ever a time when the Christian does not suffer persecution. Then are you most hardly beset when you know not that you are beset at all. “Our adversary as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour,”192 and do you think of peace? “He sitteth in the lurking-places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent; his eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den; he lieth in wait to catch the poor;”193 and do you slumber under a shady tree, so as to fall an easy prey? On one side self-indulgence presses me hard; on another covetousness strives to make an inroad; my belly wishes to be a God to me, in place of Christ,194 and lust would fain drive away the Holy Spirit that dwells in me and defile His temple.195 I am pursued, I say, by an enemy

Whose name is Legion and his wiles untold;196 and, hapless wretch that I am, how shall I hold myself a victor when I am being led away a captive?

5. My dear brother, weigh well the various forms of transgression, and think not that the sins which I have mentioned are less flagrant than that of idolatry. Nay, hear the apostle’s view of the matter. “For this ye know,” he writes, “that no whore-monger or unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”197 In a general way all that is of the devil savors of enmity to God, and what is of the devil is idolatry, since all idols are subject to him. Yet Paul elsewhere lays down the law in express and unmistakable terms, saying: “Mortify your members, which are upon the earth, laying aside fornication, uncleanness, evil concupiscence and covetousness, which are198 idolatry, for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh.”199

Idolatry is not confined to casting incense upon an altar with finger and thumb, or to pouring libations of wine out of a cup into a bowl. Covetousness is idolatry, or else the selling of the Lord for thirty pieces of silver was a righteous act.200 Lust involves profanation, or else men may defile with common harlots201 those members of Christ which should be “a living sacrifice acceptable to God.”202 Fraud is idolatry, or else they are worthy of imitation who, in the Acts of the Apostles, sold their inheritance, and because they kept back part of the price, perished by an instant doom.203 Consider well, my brother; nothing is yours to keep. “Whosoever he be of you,” the Lord says, “that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”204 Why are you such a half-hearted Christian?

6. See how Peter left his net;205 see how the publican rose from the receipt of custom.206 In a moment he became an apostle. “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head,”207 and do you plan wide porticos and spacious halls? If you look to inherit the good things of the world you can no longer be a joint-heir with Christ.208 You are called a monk, and has the name no meaning? What brings you, a solitary, into the throng of men? The advice that I give is that of no inexperienced mariner who has never lost either ship or cargo, and has never known a gale. Lately shipwrecked as I have been myself, my warnings to other voyagers spring from my own fears. On one side, like Charybdis, self-indulgence sucks into its vortex the soul’s salvation. On the other, like Scylla, lust, with a smile on her girl’s face, lures it on to wreck its chastity. The coast is savage, and the devil with a crew of pirates carries irons to fetter his captives. Be not credulous, be not over-confident. The sea may be as smooth and smiling as a pond, its quiet surface may be scarcely ruffled by a breath of air, yet sometimes its waves are as high as mountains. There is danger in its depths, the foe is lurking there. Ease your sheets, spread your sails, fasten the cross as an ensign on your prow. The calm that you speak of is itself a tempest. “Why so?” you will perhaps argue; “are not all my fellow-townsmen Christians?” Your case, I reply, is not that of others. Listen to the words of the Lord: “If thou wilt be perfect go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and follow me.”209 You have already promised to be perfect. For when you forsook the army and made yourself an eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake,210 you did so that you might follow the perfect life. Now the perfect servant of Christ has nothing beside Christ. Or if he have anything beside Christ he is not perfect. And if he be not perfect when he has promised God to be so, his profession is a lie. But “the mouth that lieth slayeth the soul.”211 To conclude, then, if you are perfect you will not set your heart on your father’s goods; and if you are not perfect you have deceived the Lord. The Gospel thunders forth its divine warning: “Ye cannot serve two masters,”212 and does any one dare to make Christ a liar by serving at once both God and Mammon? Repeatedly does He proclaim, “If any one will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”213 If I load myself with gold can I think that I am following Christ? Surely not. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.”214

7. I know you will rejoin that you possess nothing. Why, then, if you are so well prepared for battle, do you not take the field? Perhaps you think that you can wage war in your own country, although the Lord could do no signs in His?215 Why not? you ask. Take the answer which comes to you with his authority: “No prophet is accepted in his own country.”216 But, you will say, I do not seek honor; the approval of my conscience is enough for me. Neither did the Lord seek it; for when the multitudes would have made Him a king he fled from them.217 But where there is no honor there is contempt; and where there is contempt there is frequent rudeness; and where there is rudeness there is vexation; and where there is vexation there is no rest; and where there is no rest the mind is apt to be diverted from its purpose. Again, where, through restlessness, earnestness loses any of its force, it is lessened by what it loses, and that which is lessened cannot be called perfect. The upshot of all which is that a monk cannot be perfect in his own country. Now, not to aim at perfection is itself a sin.

8. Driven from this line of defence you will appeal to the example of the clergy. These, you will say, remain in their cities, and yet they are surely above criticism. Far be it from me to censure the successors of the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians.218 Having the keys of the kingdom of heaven, they judge men to some extent before the day of judgment, and guard the chastity of the bride of Christ. But, as I have before hinted, the case of monks is different from that of the clergy. The clergy feed Christ’s sheep; I as a monk am fed by them. They live of the altar:219 I, if I bring no gift to it, have the axe laid to my root as to that of a barren tree.220 Nor can I plead poverty as an excuse, for the Lord in the gospel has praised an aged widow for casting into the treasury the last two coins that she had.221 I may not sit in the presence of a presbyter;222 he, if I sin, may deliver me to Satan, “for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved.”223 Under the old law he who disobeyed the priests was put outside the camp and stoned by the people, or else he was beheaded and expiated his contempt with his blood.224 But now the disobedient person is cut down with the spiritual sword, or he is expelled from the church and torn to pieces by ravening demons. Should the entreaties of your brethren induce you to take orders, I shall rejoice that you are lifted up, and fear lest you may be cast down. You will say: “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”225 I know that; but you should add what follows: such an one “must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, chaste, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker but patient.”226 After fully explaining the qualifications of a bishop the apostle speaks of ministers of the third degree with equal care. “Likewise must the deacons be grave,” he writes, “not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then, let them minister, being found blameless.”227 Woe to the man who goes in to the supper without a wedding garment. Nothing remains for him but the stern question, “Friend, how camest thou in hither?” And when he is speechless the order will be given, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”228 Woe to him who, when he has received a talent, has bound it in a napkin; and, whilst others make profits, only preserves what he has received. His angry lord shall rebuke him in a moment. “Thou wicked servant,” he will say, “wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”229 That is to say, you should have laid before the altar what you were not able to bear. For whilst you, a slothful trader, keep a penny in your hands, you occupy the place of another who might double the money. Wherefore, as he who ministers well purchases to himself a good degree,230 so he who approaches the cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.231

9. Not all bishops are bishops indeed. You consider Peter; mark Judas as well. You notice Stephen; look also on Nicolas, sentenced in the Apocalypse by the Lord’s own lips,232 whose shameful imaginations gave rise to the heresy of the Nicolaitans. “Let a man examine himself and so let him come.”233 For it is not ecclesiastical rank that makes a man a Christian. The centurion Cornelius was still a heathen when he was cleansed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Daniel was but a child when he judged the elders.234 Amos was stripping mulberry bushes when, in a moment, he was made a prophet.235 David was only a shepherd when he was chosen to be king.236 And the least of His disciples was the one whom Jesus loved the most. My brother, sit down in the lower room, that when one less honorable comes you may be bidden to go up higher.237 Upon whom does the Lord rest but upon him that is lowly and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at His word?238 To whom God has committed much, of him He will ask the more.239 “Mighty men shall be mightily tormented.”240 No man need pride himself in the day of judgment on merely physical chastity, for then shall men give account for every idle word,241 and the reviling of a brother shall be counted as the sin of murder.242 Paul and Peter now reign with Christ, and it is not easy to take the place of the one or to hold the office of the other. There may come an angel to rend the veil of your temple,243 and to remove your candlestick out of its place.244 If you intend to build the tower, first count the cost.245 Salt that has lost its savor is good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of swine.246 If a monk fall, a priest shall intercede for him; but who shall intercede for a fallen priest?

10. At last my discourse is clear of the reefs: at last this frail bark has passed from the breakers into deep water. I may now spread my sails to the breeze; and, as I leave the rocks of controversy astern, my epilogue will be like the joyful shout of mariners. O desert, bright with the flowers of Christ! O solitude whence come the stones of which, in the Apocalypse, the city of the great king is built!247 O wilderness, gladdened with God’s especial presence! What keeps you in the world, my brother, you who are above the world?248 How long shall gloomy roofs oppress you? How long shall smoky cities immure you? Believe me, I have more light than you. Sweet it is to lay aside the weight of the body and to soar into the pure bright ether. Do you dread poverty? Christ calls the poor blessed.249 Does toil frighten you? No athlete is crowned but in the sweat of his brow. Are you anxious as regards food? Faith fears no famine. Do you dread the bare ground for limbs wasted with fasting? The Lord lies there beside you. Do you recoil from an unwashed head and uncombed hair? Christ is your true head.250 Does the boundless solitude of the desert terrify you? In the spirit you may walk always in paradise. Do but turn your thoughts thither and you will be no more in the desert. Is your skin rough and scaly because you no longer bathe? He that is once washed in Christ needeth not to wash again.251 To all your objections the apostle gives this one brief answer: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory” which shall come after them, “which shall be revealed in us.”252 You are too greedy of enjoyment, my brother, if you wish to rejoice with the world here, and to reign with Christ hereafter.

11. It shall come, it shall come, that day when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality.253 Then shall that servant be blessed whom the Lord shall find watching.254 Then at the sound of the trumpet255 the earth and its peoples shall tremble, but you shall rejoice. The world shall howl at the Lord who comes to judge it, and the tribes of the earth shall smite the breast. Once mighty kings shall tremble in their nakedness. Venus shall be exposed, and her son too. Jupiter with his fiery bolts will be brought to trial; and Plato, with his disciples, will be but a fool. Aristotle’s arguments shall be of no avail. You may seem a poor man and country bred, but then you shall exult and laugh, and say: Behold my crucified Lord, behold my judge. This is He who was once an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and crying in a manger.256 This is He whose parents were a workingman and a working-woman.257 This is He, who, carried into Egypt in His mother’s bosom, though He was God, fled before the face of man. This is He who was clothed in a scarlet robe and crowned with thorns.258 This is He who was called a sorcerer and a man with a devil and a Samaritan.259 Jew, behold the hands which you nailed to the cross. Roman, behold the side which you pierced with the spear. See both of you whether it was this body that the disciples stole secretly and by night.260 For this you profess to believe.

My brother, it is affection which has urged me to speak thus; that you who now find the Christian life so hard may have your reward in that day.

174 See Ep. lxxvii. 9.

175 Matt. vi. 33.

176 Rev. i. 7.

177 Rev. i. 16.

178 A reminiscence of Tertullian.

179 Matt. xii. 30.

180 Nepotian, afterwards famous as the recipient of Letter LII., and the subject of Letter LX.

181 Phi. iii. 20, R.V.

182 Virg. A. iv. 367.

183 Pers. iii. 18.

184 Virg. A. xii. 59.

185 Eph. vi. 1.

186 Matt. x. 37.

187 Luke ix. 59, 60.

188 Matt. xvi. 23.

189 Acts xxi. 13

190 Luke viii. 21; Matt. xii. 50.

191Matt. viii. 22.

192 1 Pet. v. 8.

193 Ps. x. 8, 9.

194 Phi. iii. 19.

195 1 Cor iii. 17.

196 Virg. A. vii. 337.

197 Eph. v. 5.

198 So Jerome, although the Vulg. has “is.”

199 Col. iii. 5, 6.

200 Matt. xxvi. 15.

201 Publicarum libidinum victimæ; words borrowed from Tertullian, de C. F. II. 12.

202 Rom. xii. 1.

203 Acts v., Ananias and Sapphira.

204 Luke xiv. 33.

205 Matt. iv. 18–20.

206 Matt. ix. 9.

207 Matt. viii. 20.

208 Rom. viii. 17.

209 Matt. xix. 21.

210 Matt. xix. 12.

211 Wisd. i. 11.

212 Luke xvi. 13.

213 Luke ix. 23.

214 1 Joh. ii. 6.

215 Matt. xiii. 58.

216 Luke iv. 24.

217 Joh. vi. 15.

218 In the sacrament of baptism.

219 1 Cor. ix. 13, 14.

220 Matt. iii. 10.

221 Luke xxi. 1–4.

222 Cf. Letter CXLVI.

223 1 Cor. v. 5.

224 Deut. xvii. 5, 12.

225 1 Tim. iii. 1.

226 1 Tim. iii. 2, 3.

227 1 Tim. iii. 8–10.

228 Matt. xxii. 11–13.

229 Luke xix. 23.

230 1 Tim. iii. 13.

231 1 Cor. xi. 27.

232 Rev. ii. 6.

233 1 Cor. xi. 28.

234 Susannah 45 sqq.

235 Amos vii. 14.

236 1 Sam. xvi. 11–13.

237 Luke xiv. 10.

238 Isa. lxvi. 2.

239 Luke xii. 48.

240 Wisd. vi. 6.

241 Matt. xii. 36.

242 Matt. v. 21, 22.

243 Matt. xxvii. 51.

244 Rev. ii. 5.

245 Luke xiv. 28.

246 Matt. v. 13.

247 Rev. xxi. 19, 20.

248 From Cyprian, Letter I. 14 (to Donatus).

249 Luke vi. 20.

250 From Cyprian, Letter LXXVII. 2 (to Nemesianus).

251 Joh. xiii. 10.

252 Rom. viii. 18.

253 1 Cor. xv. 53.

254 Matt. xxiv. 46.

255 1 Thess. iv. 16.

256 Luke ii. 7.

257 From Tertullian, de Spect. xxx.

258 Matt. xxvii. 28, 29.

259 Joh. viii. 48.

260 Matt. xxvii. 64.

Posted in Letters | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Letter of St. Jerome To Castorina, His Maternal Aunt

Letter XIII. To Castorina, His Maternal Aunt.

An interesting letter, as throwing some light on Jerome’s family relations. Castorina, his maternal aunt, had, for some reason, become estranged from him, and he now writes to her to effect a reconciliation. Whether he succeeded in doing so, we do not know. The date of the letter is 374 A.D.

The apostle and evangelist John rightly says, in his first epistle, that “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.”168 For, since murder often springs from hate, the hater, even though he has not yet slain his victim, is at heart a murderer. Why, you ask, do I begin in this style? Simply that you and I may both lay aside past ill feeling and cleanse our hearts to be a habitation for God. “Be ye angry,” David says, “and sin not,” or, as the apostle more fully expresses it, “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”169 What then shall we do in the day of judgment, upon whose wrath the sun has gone down not one day but many years? The Lord says in the Gospel: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”170 Woe to me, wretch that I am; woe, I had almost said, to you also. This long time past we have either offered no gift at the altar or have offered it whilst cherishing anger “without a cause.” How have we been able in our daily prayers to say “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,”171 whilst our feelings have been at variance with our words, and our petition inconsistent with our conduct? Therefore I renew the prayer which I made a year ago in a previous letter,172 that the Lord’s legacy of peace173 may be indeed ours, and that my desires and your feelings may find favor in His sight. Soon we shall stand before His judgment seat to receive the reward of harmony restored or to pay the penalty for harmony broken. In case you shall prove unwilling—I hope that it may not be so—to accept my advances, I for my part shall be free. For this letter, when it is read, will insure my acquittal.

168 1 Joh. iii. 15.

169 Ps. iv. 4, LXX.; Eph. iv. 26.

170 Matt. v. 23, 24.

171 Matt. vi. 12.

172 This is no longer extant.

173 John xiv. 27.

Posted in Letters | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Letter of St. Jerome To Antony, Monk

Letter XII. To Antony, Monk.

The subject of this letter is similar to that of the preceding. Of Antony nothing is known except that some mss. describe him as “of Æmona.” The date of the letter is 374 A.D.

While the disciples were disputing concerning precedence our Lord, the teacher of humility, took a little child and said: “Except ye be converted and become as little children ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”158 And lest He should seem to preach more than he practised, He fulfilled His own precept in His life. For He washed His disciples’ feet,159 he received the traitor with a kiss,160 He conversed with the woman of Samaria,161 He spoke of the kingdom of heaven with Mary at His feet,162 and when He rose again from the dead He showed Himself first to some poor women.163 Pride is opposed to humility, and through it Satan lost his eminence as an archangel. The Jewish people perished in their pride, for while they claimed the chief seats and salutations in the market place,164 they were superseded by the Gentiles, who had before been counted as “a drop of a bucket.”165 Two poor fishermen, Peter and James, were sent to confute the sophists and the wise men of the world. As the Scripture says: “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.”166 Think, brother, what a sin it must be which has God for its opponent. In the Gospel the Pharisee is rejected because of his pride, and the publican is accepted because of his humility.167

Now, unless I am mistaken, I have already sent you ten letters, affectionate and earnest, whilst you have not deigned to give me even a single line. The Lord speaks to His servants, but you, my brother servant, refuse to speak to me. Believe me, if reserve did not check my pen, I could show my annoyance in such invective that you would have to reply—even though it might be in anger. But since anger is human, and a Christian must not act injuriously, I fall back once more on entreaty, and beg you to love one who loves you, and to write to him as a servant should to his fellow-servant. Farewell in the Lord.

158 Matt. xviii. 3.

159 Joh. xiii. 5.

160 Luke xxii. 47.

161 Joh. iv. 7.

162 Luke vii. 40 sqq.: the heroine of this story is identified by Jerome with Mary Magdalene.

163 Matt. xxviii. 1, 9.

164 Matt. xxiii. 6, 7.

165 Isa. xl. 15.

166 1 Pet. v. 5.

167 Luke xviii. 9 sqq.

Posted in Letters | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment