Sunday, September 30, 2018

Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus

(Reposted from 2017.)

Today is the feast of St. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, better known as St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church. An ascetic who apparently only became a priest because he was forced to by his bishop, Paulinus II of Antioch, he spent time in Constantinople with St. Gregory of Nazianzen before going with Paulinus to a synod in Rome under Pope St. Damasus I. His brilliance was recognized immediately, and Damasus arranged for him to stay at Rome. There he got along quite well with women and no one else; as he encouraged women to become ascetics, the Romans became quite hostile to him. It doubtless did not help that he was frank, caustic, and abrasive. He was eventually forced to return to Antioch, at which point he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Egypt. He spent the last, long phase of his life in a cave near Bethlehem, a small community of ascetics gathering around him, and died September 30, 420.

From his famous Helmeted Introduction to the Book of Kings:

While these things may be so, I implore you, reader, that you might not consider my work a rebuke of the ancients. Each one offers to the Tabernacle of God what he is able. Some offer gold and silver and precious stones; others, linen and purple, scarlet and blue. It will go well with us, if we offer the skins and hair of goats. For the Apostle still judges our more contemptible parts more necessary. From which both the whole of the beauty of the Tabernacle and each individual kind, a distinction of the present and future Church, is covered with skins and goat-hair coverings, and the heat of the sun and the harmful rain are kept off by those things which are of lesser value. Therefore, first read my Samuel and Kings; mine, I say, mine. For whatever we have learned and know by often translating and carefully correcting is ours. And when you come to understand what you did not know before, either consider me a translator, if you are grateful, or a paraphraser, if ungrateful, although I am truly not at all aware of anything of the Hebrew to have been changed by me....

But I also ask you, handmaidens of Christ, who have anointed the head of your reclining Lord with the most precious myrrh of faith, who have in no way sought the Savior in the tomb, for whom Christ has now ascended to the Father, that you might oppose the shields of your prayers against the barking dogs which rage against me with rabid mouth and go around the city, and in it they are considered educated if slandering others. I, knowing my humility, will always remember these sentences: "I will guard my ways, so I will not offend with my tongue; I have placed a guard on my mouth, while the sinner stands against me; I was mute, and humiliated, and silent because of good things."

Dion, "The Thunderer". The lyrics are from a poem by Phyllis McGinley. Jerome was indeed no "plaster sort of saint", but he gave people's minds a "godly leaven", and by his very existence shows that "it takes all kinds to make a Heaven."

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