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A letter from Jerome (383-384)

Sender

Receiver

Translated letter: 

"Hear, 0 daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father's house, and the king shall desire thy beauty."(1) So in the forty-fourth Psalm God speaks to the human soul, that, following Abraham's example, it should go out from its own land and from its kinsmen, and leave the Chaldaeans, that is the demons, and dwell in the country of the living, for which elsewhere the prophet sighs, saying: "I trust to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living."(2) But for you it is not enough to go out from your own land, unless you forget your people and your father's house, so that despising the flesh you may be joined to your bridegroom's embrace. "Look not behind thee," the Scripture says, "neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain; lest thou be consumed."(3) It is not right for one who has grasped the plough to look behind him or to return home from the field, or after putting on Christ's tunic to descend from the roof for other raiment. A wonder: a father charges his daughter: "Do not remember your father." "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do." (4) So it was said to the Jews. And in another place. "He that committeth sin is of the devil."(5) Born of such a parent first we black by nature, and even after repentance, until we have climbed to virtue's height, we may say, "I am black and comely, a daughter of Jerusalem."(6) You may say — I have gone out from my childhood's home, I have forgotten my father, I am born again in Christ. What reward do I receive for this? The context tells you — "And the king shall desire thy beauty." This then is the great sacrament. For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be,"(7) no longer, as there, "of one flesh," but of one spirit. Your bridegroom is not arrogant, not haughty; He has married a woman of Ethiopia. As soon as you resolve to hear the wisdom of the true Solomon, and come to Him, He will avow to you all His knowledge; He will lead you as a king to His chamber; your colour will be miraculously changed, and to you the words will be fitting: "Who is this that goeth up and hath been made white?"(8)
I am writing this to you, Lady Eustochium (I am bound to call my Lord's bride "Lady"), that from the very beginning of my discourse you may learn that I do not to-day intend to sing the praises of the virginity which you have adopted and proved to be so good. Nor shall I now reckon up the disadvantages of marriage, such as pregnancy, a crying baby, the tortures of jealousy, the cares of household management, and the cutting short by death of all its fancied blessings. Married women have their due allotted place, if they live in honourable marriage and keep their bed undefiled. My purpose in this letter is to show you that you are fleeing from Sodom and that you should take warning by Lot's wife. There is no flattery in these pages. A flatterer is a smooth-spoken enemy. Nor will there be any pomp of rhetoric in expounding the beatitude of virginity, setting you among the angels and putting the world beneath your feet.
I would have you draw from your vows not pride but fear. When you walk laden with gold you must beware of robbers. For mortals this life is a race: we run it on earth that we may receive our crown elsewhere. No man can walk secure amid serpents and scorpions. The Lord says: "My sword hath drunk its fill in heaven";(9) and do you expect peace on the earth, which yields only thorns and thistles and is itself the serpent's food? "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."(10) We are surrounded by the thronging hosts of our foes, our enemies are on every side. The flesh is weak and soon it will be ashes, but to-day it fights alone against a multitude.
But when the flesh has been melted away and the Prince of yonder world has come and found in it no sin, then in safety you shall listen to the prophet's words: "Thou shall not be afraid for the terror by night nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the trouble which haunteth thee in the darkness; nor for the demon and his attacks at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee."(11) If the hosts of the enemy beset you, if the allurements of sin begin to burn within your breast, if in your troubled thoughts you ask — "What shall I do?" Elisha's words will give you an answer: "Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them."(12) He will pray for you and will say: "Lord, open the eyes of thy handmaid that she may see." And when your eyes have been opened you will see a chariot of fire which will carry you, as it carried Elijah, up to the stars; and then you will joyfully sing: "Our soul is escaped as a sparrow out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken and we are escaped."(13)
As long as we are held down by this frail body; as long as we keep our treasure in earthen vessels,(14) and the flesh lusteth against the spirit, the spirit against the flesh: so long can there be no sure victory. Our adversary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. David says: "Thou makest darkness and it is night; wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey and seek their meat from God."(15) The devil does not look for unbelievers or for those who are without, whose flesh the Assyrian king roasted in a pot:(16) it is the Church of Christ that he hastens to ravish. According to Habakkuk: "His dainty morsels are of the choicest."(17) He desires Job's ruin, and after devouring Judas he seeks power to put all the apostles through his sieve. The Saviour came not to send peace upon the earth but a sword. Lucifer fell, Lucifer who used to rise with the dawn; and he who was nurtured in a paradise of delight heard the well-earned sentence: "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord."(18) For he had said in his heart: "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God and I will be like the Most High." Where-fore God every day says to the angels as they go down. the stairway which Jacob saw in his dream: "I have said ye are Gods and all of you are children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men and fall like one of the princes."(19) The devil fell first, and since God stands in the congregation of the Gods and judges them in the midst, the apostle writes to those who are ceasing to be Gods: "Whereas there is among you envying and strife, are ye not carnal and walk as men?"(20)
The apostle Paul, who was a chosen vessel set apart for the gospel of Christ, because of the spur of the flesh and the allurements of sin, keeps his body down and subjects it to slavery, lest in preaching to others he himself be found a reprobate. But still he sees that there is another law in his members fighting against the law of his will, and that he is still led captive to the law of sin. After nakedness, fasting, hunger, prison, scourging and torture, he turns back upon himself and cries: "Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"(21) If that is so with him, do you think that you ought to lay aside all fear? Beware, pray, lest God some day should say of you: "The virgin of Israel is fallen and there is none to raise her up."(22) I will say it boldly; though God can do all things, he cannot raise a virgin up after she has fallen. He is able to free one who has been corrupted from the penalty of her sin, but he refuses her the crown. Let us be fearful lest in our case also the prophecy be fulfilled: "Good virgins shall faint."(23) Note that it is of good virgins he speaks, for there are bad ones as well. The Scripture says: "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."(24) Virginity therefore can be lost even by a thought. Those are the evil virgins, virgins in the flesh, but not in the spirit: foolish virgins, who, having no oil in their lamps, are shut out by the Bridegroom.
But if even those virgins are virgins, and yet are not saved by their bodily virginity when they have other faults, what shall be done to those who have prostituted the members of Christ and changed the temple of the Holy Spirit into a brothel? Straightway they shall hear the words: "Come down and sit in the dust, 0 virgin daughter of Babylon; sit in the dust, for there is no throne for the daughter of the Chaldaeans; no more shalt thou be called tender and delicate. Take the millstone and grind meal; uncover thy locks, make bare thy legs, pass over the rivers; thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen."(25) And this, after the bride-chamber of God the Son, after the kisses of her kinsman and her bridegroom, she of whom once the word of the prophet sang: "Upon thy right hand stood the queen in a vestment of gold wrought about with divers colours."(26) But now she shall be made naked and her skirts shall be placed upon her face: she shall sit by the waters of loneliness and lay down her pitcher; and shall open her feet to everyone that passeth by and shall be polluted to the crown of her head.(27) Better had it been for her to have submitted to marriage with a man and to have walked on the plain, rather than to strain for the heights and fall into the depths of hell.
Let not the faithful city of Sion become a harlot, I pray you; let not demons dance and sirens and satyrs nest in the place that once sheltered the Trinity. Loose not
the belt that confines the bosom. As soon as lust begins to tickle the senses and the soft fires of pleasure envelop us with their delightful warmth, let us break forth and cry: "The Lord is on my side: I will not fear what the flesh can do unto Me."(28) When for a moment the inner man shows signs of wavering between vice and virtue, say: "Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God."(29) I would not have you allow any such thoughts to rise. Let nothing disorderly, nothing that is of Babylon find shelter in your breast. Slay the enemy while he is small: nip evil in the bud, and then you will not have a crop of tares. Hearken to the words of the Psalmist: "Hapless daughter of Babylon, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."(30) It is impossible that the body's natural heat should not sometimes assail a man and kindle sensual desire; but he is praised and accounted blessed, who, when thoughts begin to rise, gives them no quarter, but dashes them straightway against the rock: "And the Rock is Christ."(31)
Oh, how often, when I was living in the desert, in that lonely waste, scorched by the burning sun, which affords to hermits a savage dwelling-place, how often did I fancy myself surrounded by the pleasures of Rome! I used to sit alone; for I was filled with bitterness. My unkempt limbs were covered in shapeless sackcloth; my skin through long neglect had become as rough and black as an Ethiopian's. Tears and groans were every day my portion; and if sleep ever overcame my resistance and fell upon my eyes, I bruised my restless bones against the naked earth. Of food and drink I will not speak. Hermits have nothing but cold water even when they are sick, and for them it is sinful luxury to partake of cooked dishes. But though in my fear of hell I had condemned myself to this prison-house, where my only companions were scorpions and wild beasts, I often found myself surrounded by bands of dancing girls. My face was pale with fasting; but though my limbs were cold as ice my mind was burning with desire, and the fires of lust kept bubbling up before me when my flesh was as good as dead.
And so, when all other help failed me, I used to fling myself at Jesus' feet; I watered them with my tears, I wiped them with my hair; and if my flesh still rebelled I subdued it by weeks of fasting. I do not blush to confess my misery; nay, rather, I lament that I am not now what once I was. I remember that often I joined night to day with my wailings and ceased not from beating my breast till tranquillity returned to me at the Lord's behest. I used to dread my poor cell as though it knew my secret thoughts. Filled with stiff anger against myself, I would make my way alone into the desert; and when I came upon some hollow valley or rough mountain or precipitous cliff, there I would set up my oratory, and make that spot a place of torture for my unhappy flesh. There sometimes also — the Lord Himself is my witness- — after many a tear and straining of my eyes to heaven, I felt myself in the presence of the angelic hosts and in joy and gladness would sing: "Because of the savour of thy good ointments we will run after thee."(32)
If such are the temptations of men whose bodies are emaciated with fasting so that they have only evil thoughts to withstand, how must it fare with a girl who clings to the enjoyment of luxuries? Surely, as the apostle says: "She is dead while yet she liveth."(33) Therefore, if I may advise you and if experience gives my advice weight, I would begin with an urgent exhortation. As Christ's spouse avoid wine as you would avoid poison. Wine is the first weapon that devils use in attacking the young. The restlessness of greed, the windiness of pride, the delights of ostentation are nothing to this. Other vices we easily forgo: this is an enemy within our walls and wherever we go we carry our foe with us. Wine and Youth — behold a double source for pleasure's fire. Why throw oil on the flame; why give fresh fuel to a wretched body that is already ablaze?
Paul says to Timothy: "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and for thine often infirmities."(34) Notice the reasons why wine is allowed: it is to cure pain in the stomach and to relieve a frequent infirmity and hardly then. And lest perchance we should indulge ourselves on the ground of illness, Paul recommends that but a little wine should be taken, advising rather as a physician than as an apostle — although indeed an apostle is a spiritual physician. He was afraid that Timothy might be overcome by weakness and might not be able to complete the many journeys that the preaching of the Gospel rendered necessary. In any case, he re-membered that he had said elsewhere: "Wine, wherein is wantonness,"(35) and "It is good for a man neither to drink wine nor to eat flesh."(36) Noah took wine and became drunken. But living in the rude age after the Flood, when the vine first was planted, he was unaware perhaps of its inebriating qualities. And that you may see the mystery of the Scripture in all its fullness — for the word of God is a pearl and may be pierced right through — note that after his drunkenness there followed the uncovering of his thighs: lust was near neighbour to wantonness. First the belly is swollen, then the other members are roused. "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play."(37) Lot, the friend of God, after he had been saved upon the mountain as the one man found righteous among all those thousands, was intoxicated by his daughters."(38) They may have thought that the human race had ended and have acted rather from a desire for offspring than from love of sinful pleasure; but they knew full well that the righteous man would not abet them unless he were drunken. In fact he did not know what be was doing: but although there be no wilfulness in his sin the error of his fault remains. As the result he became the father of Moab and Ammon, Israel's enernies, who "even to the fourteenth generation shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever."(39)
When Elijah in his flight from Jezebel was lying weary and alone beneath the oak tree, an angel came and raised him up and said, "' Arise and eat.' And he looked, and behold there was a cake and a cruse of water at his head."(40) Could not God have sent him spiced wine and dainty condiments and tenderly basted meats, if He had willed? Elisha invited the sons of the prophets to dinner, and when he gave them field herbs to eat he heard his guests cry out with one accord, "There is death in the pot, 0 man of God."(41) He, however, was not angry with the cooks — for he was not used to very sumptuous fare — but threw some meal upon the herbs and thus sweet-ened their bitterness by the same spiritual virtue wherewith Moses once sweetened the waters of Marah. Again, when the men sent to seize the prophet had been blinded alike in eyes and under-standing, that he might bring them unawares to Samaria, notice the food with which Elisha ordered them to be refreshed. "Set bread and water before them," he said; "let them eat and drink and go back to their master."(42) Daniel too might have had rich dishes served him from the king's table,(43) but it was a mower's breakfast that Habakkuk brought,(44) which must, methinks, have been but country fare. Therefore he was called "the man of desires,"(45) be-cause he refused to eat the bread of desire or drink the wine of lustfulness.
From the Scriptures we may collect countless divine answers condemning gluttony and approving simple food. But as it is not my present purpose to discuss the question of fasting, and an exhaustive inquiry would need a volume to itself, these few remarks from the many I could make must suffice. In any case the examples I have given will enable you to understand why the first man, obeying his belly rather than God, was cast down from Paradise into this vale of tears. You will see also why Satan tempted Our Lord Himself with hunger in the wilderness, and why the apostle cries: "Meats for the belly and the belly for meats, but God shall destroy both it and them,"(46) and why he says of the wanton: "Whose God is their belly."(47) Every man worships what he loves. Wherefore we must take all care that abstinence may bring back to Paradise those whom repletion once drove out.
You may choose perhaps to answer that a girl of good family like yourself, accustomed to luxury and down pillows, cannot do without wine and tasty food and would find a stricter rule of life impossible. To that I can only say: "Live then by your own rule, since you cannot live by God's." Not that God, the Lord and Creator of the universe, takes any delight in the rumbling of our intestines or the emptiness of our stomach or the inflammation of our lungs; but because this is the only way of preserving chastity. Job was dear to God, his purity and frankness witnessed by God's own testimony; yet hear what he thinks of the devil: "His strength is in the loins and his force is in the navel."(48) The words are used for decency's sake, but the male and female genera-tive organs are meant. So the descendant of David, destined according to the promise to sit upon his throne, is said to come from his loins. The seventy--five souls who entered into Egypt are said in the same way to have come from Jacob's thigh. And when after wrestling with the Lord the stoutness of his thigh shrank away Jacob begat no more children. Those who celebrate the Passover also are bidden to do so with their loins girded and mortified. God says to Job: "Gird up thy loins like a man."(49) John wears a leather girdle; and the apostles are bidden to gird their loins before they take the lamps of the Gospel. Ezekiel tells us how Jerusalem is found in the plain of wandering, all bespattered with blood, and he says: "Thy navel has not been cut."(50) In his assaults on men therefore all the devil's strength is in the loins: against women his force is in the navel.
Would you like to be sure that it is as I say? Here are some examples. Samson was stronger than a lion and harder than rock; alone and unprotected he chased a thousand armed men; but in Dalilah's soft arms his vigour melted away. David was chosen as a man after God's heart, and his lips had often sung of the future coming of Christ the Holy One: but as he walked upon his housetop he was fascinated by Bathsheba's nakedness and added murder to adultery. Notice for a moment that even in one's own house the eyes are never safe from danger. Therefore in repentance he says to the Lord: "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight."(51) He was a king and feared no one else but God. Solomon too, by whose lips Wisdom herself used to speak, who knew of all plants "from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall,"(52) went back from God because he became a lover of women. And that no one may trust in kinship by blood, remember that Ammon was fired by an illicit passion for his sister Thamar.
It wearies me to tell how many virgins fall daily, what notabilities Mother Church loses from her bosom: over how many stars the proud enemy sets his throne, how many hollow rocks the serpent pierces and makes his habitation. You may see many women who have been left widows before they were ever wed,(53) trying to conceal their consciousness of guilt by means of a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by a swelling womb or by the crying of their little ones they walk abroad with tripping feet and lifted head. Some even ensure barrenness by the help of potions, murdering human beings before they are fully conceived. Others, when they find that they are with child as the result of their sin, practise abortion with drugs, and so frequently bring about their own death, taking with them to the lower world the guilt of three crimes: suicide, adultery against Christ, and child murder. Yet these are the women who will say: "To the pure all things are pure. My conscience is enough for me. A pure heart is what God craves. Why should I refrain from the food which God made for enjoyment?" When they wish to appear bright and merry, they drench themselves with wine, and then joining profanity to drunkenness they cry: "Heaven forbid that I should abstain from the blood of Christ." When they see a woman with a pale sad face, they call her "a miserable Manichaean": and quite logically too, for on their principles fasting is heresy. As they walk the streets they try to attract attention and with stealthy nods and winks draw after them troops of young men. Of them the prophet's words are true: "Thou hast a whore's forehead: thou refusest to be ashamed."(54) Let them have only a little purple in their dress, and loose bandeau on their head to leave the hair free; cheap slippers, and a Maforte(55) fluttering from their shoulders; sleeves fitting close to their arms, and a loose-kneed walk: there you have all their marks of virginity. Such women may have their admirers, and it may cost more to ruin them because they are called virgins. But to such virgins as these I prefer to be displeasing.
There is another scandal of which I blush to speak; yet, though sad, it is true. From what source has this plague of "dearly beloved sisters" found its way into the Church? Whence come these unwedded wives, these new types of concubines, nay, I will go further, these one-man harlots? They live in the same house with their male-friend; they occupy the same room and often even the same bed; and yet they call us suspicious if we think that anything is wrong. A brother leaves his virgin sister; a virgin, scorning her unmarried brother, seeks a stranger to take his place. Both alike pretend to have but one object: they are seeking spiritual consolation among strangers: but their real aim is to indulge at home in carnal intercourse. About such folk as these Solomon in Proverbs speaks the scornful words: "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals and not burn his feet?"(56)
Let us therefore drive off and expel from our company such women as only wish to seem and not to be virgins. Now I would direct all my words to you who, inasmuch as you have been at the beginning the first virgin of high rank at Rome, will now have to labour the more diligently so as not to lose your present and your future happiness. As for the troubles of wedded life and the uncertainties of marriage, you know of them by an example in your own family. Your sister Blesilla, superior to you in age but inferior in firmness of will, has become a widow seven months after taking a husband. How luckless is our mortal state, how ignorant of the future! She has lost both the crown of virginity and the pleasures of wedlock. Although the widowed state ranks as the second degree of chastity, can you not imagine the crosses which every moment she must bear, seeing in her sister daily that which she herself has lost? It is harder for her than for you to forgo the delights that she once knew, and yet she receives a less reward for her present continence. Still, she too may rejoice and be not afraid. The fruit that is an hundredfold and that which is sixtyfold both spring from one seed, the seed of chastity.
I would not have you consort overmuch with married women or frequent the houses of the great. I would not have you look too often on what you spurned when you desired to be a virgin. Women of the world, you know, plume themselves if their husband is a judge or holds some high position. Even if an eager crowd of visitors flocks to greet the Emperor's wife, why should you insult your Husband? Why should you, who are God's bride, hasten to visit the wife of a mortal man? In this regard you must learn a holy pride; know that you are better than they. And not only do I desire you to avoid the company of those who are puffed up by their husbands' honours, who surround themselves with troops of eunuchs, and wear robes inwrought with fine threads of gold: you must also shun such women as are widows from compulsion, not choice. Not that they ought to have desired their husbands' death; but they have been unwilling to accept their oppor-tunity for chastity. As it is, they only change their dress: their old love of show remains unchanged.
Look at them as they ride in their roomy litters with a row of eunuchs walking in front: see their red lips and their plump sleek skins: you would not think they had lost a husband, you would fancy they were looking for one. Their houses are full of flatterers, full of guests. The very clergy, whose teaching and authority ought to inspire respect, kiss these ladies on the forehead, and then stretch out their hand — you would think, if you did not know, that they were giving a benediction — to receive the fee for their visit. The women meanwhile, seeing that priests need their help, are lifted up with pride. They know by experience what a husband's -rule is like, and they prefer their liberty as widows. They call themselves chaste nuns, and after a diversified dinner they dream apostles.
Let your companions be those who are pale of face and thin with fasting, approved by their years and their conduct, who daily within their hearts sing the words: "Tell me where thou feedest thy flock, where thou makest it to rest at noon,"(57) and lovingly say: "I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ."(58) Follow your Husband's example, and like Him be subject to your parents. Walk not often abroad, and if you wish the help of the martyrs seek it in your own chamber.(59) You will never lack a reason for going out if you always go out when there is need. Take food in moderation and never over-load your stomach. Many women are temperate over wine, but intemperate as to the amount of food they take. When you rise at night to pray, let any uneasiness of breath be caused not by indigestion but by an empty stomach. Read often and learn all you can. Let sleep steal upon you with a book in your hand, and let the sacred page catch your drooping head. Let your fasts be of daily occurrence, and let refreshment ever avoid satiety. It is of no avail to carry an empty stomach for two or three days if that fast is to be made up for by a clogging repletion. The mind when cloyed straightway grows sluggish and the watered ground puts forth the thorns of lust. If ever you feel that your outward being is sighing for the bloom of youth, and if, as you lie on your couch after a meal, you are shaken by the vision of lust's alluring train, then catch up the shield of faith, and it will quench the devil's fiery darts. "They are all adulterers," says the prophet, "they have made their hearts like an oven."(60)
But do you keep close to Christ's footsteps and be ever intent upon his words. Say to yourself: "Did not our heart burn within us by the way, while Jesus opened to us the Scriptures?"(61) and again: "Thy word is tried to the uttermost, and thy servant loveth it."(62) It is hard for the human soul not to love something, and our mind of necessity must be drawn to some sort of affection. Carnal love is overcome by spiritual love: desire is quenched by desire: what is taken from the one is added to the other. Nay rather, as you lie upon your couch, say these words and repeat them continually: "By night have I sought Him whom my soul loveth."(63) Mortify your members on earth,(!64) says the apostle; and because he did so himself, he could afterwards boldly say: "I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me."(65) He who mortifies his members, and as he walks through this world knows it to be vanity, is not afraid to say: "'I am become like a leather bottle in the frost.'(66) For whatever there was in me of the moisture of lust has dried away." And again: "My knees are weak with fasting."(67) "I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin."(68)
Be thou the grasshopper of the night.(69) Wash your bed and water your couch nightly with tears. Keep vigil and be like the sparrow alone upon the housetop. Let your spirit be your harp, and let your mind join in the psalm: "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from de-struction."(!70) Who of us can say from our heart: "I have eaten ashes like bread and mingled my drink with weeping"?(71) And yet ought I not to weep and groan when the serpent again invites me to take forbidden fruit, and when, after driving us from the Paradise of virginity, he tries to clothe us in tunics of skin, such as Elijah on his return to Paradise threw upon the ground? What have I to do with the short-lived pleasures of sense? What have I to do with the sirens' sweet and deadly songs? You must not be subject to the sentence whereby condemnation was passed upon mankind: "In pain and in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children."(72) Say to yourself: "That is a Law for a married woman, but not for me." "And thy desire shall be to thy husband." Say to yourself: "Let her desire be to her husband who has not a Husband in Christ;" and at the last "Thou shalt surely die."(73) Say once more: "Death is the end of marriage. But my vows are independent of sex. Let married women keep to their own place and title: for me virginity is con-secrated in the persons of Mary and of Christ."
Some one may say: "Do you dare to dis-parage wedlock, a state which God has blessed?" It is not disparaging wedlock to prefer virginity. No one can make a comparison between two things, if one is good and the other evil. Let married women take their pride in coming next after virgins. "Be fruitful," God said, "and multiply and replenish the earth."(74) Let him then be fruitful and multiply who intends to replenish the earth: but your company is in heaven. The command to increase and multiply is fulfilled after the expulsion from Paradise, after the recognition of nakedness, after the putting on of the fig leaves which augured the approach of marital desire. Let them marry and be given in marriage who eat their bread in the sweat of their brow, whose land brings forth thorns and thistles, and whose crops are choked with brambles. My seed produces fruit a hundredfold.
"Not all men can receive God's saying, but only those to whom it is given."(75) Some men may be eunuchs of necessity: I am one by choice. "There is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. There is a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together."
(76) Now that out of the hardness of the Gentiles sons have been born to Abraham, they begin to be holy stones rolling upon the earth. So they pass through the storms of this world and roll on with rapid wheels in God's chariot. Let those stitch themselves coats who have lost that raiment which was woven from the top in one piece, and delight in the cries of infants lamenting that they are born as soon as they see the light of day. Eve in Paradise was a virgin: it was only after she put on a garment of skins that her married life began. Paradise is your home. Keep therefore as you were born, and say: "Return unto thy rest, 0 my soul."(77)
That you may understand that virginity is natural and that marriage came after the Fall, remember that what is born of wedlock is virgin flesh and that by its fruit it renders what in its parent root it had lost. "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall grow out of his roots."(78) That virgin(79) rod is the mother of Our Lord, simple, pure, unsullied; drawing no germ of life from with-out, but like God Himself fruitful in singleness. The flower of the rod is Christ, who says: "I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys."(80) In another passage He is foretold to be "a stone cut out of the mountain without hands,"(81) the prophet signifying thereby that He will be born a virgin of a virgin. The word "hands" is to be taken as meaning the marital act, as in the passage: "His left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me."(82) It agrees also with this interpretation, that the unclean animals are led into Noah's ark in pairs, while of the clean an uneven number is taken. In the same way Moses and Joshua were bidden to take off their shoes before they walked on holy ground. When the disciples were appointed to preach the new Gospel they were told not to burden themselves with shoes or shoe-latchets. And when the soldiers cast losts for Jesus' garments they found no shoes that they could take away. For the Lord could not Himself possess what He had forbidden to His servants.
I praise wedlock, I praise marriage; but it is because they produce me virgins. I gather the rose from the thorn, the gold from the earth, the pearl from the oyster. Shall the ploughman plough all day? Shall he not also enjoy the fruit of his labour? Wedlock is the more honoured when the fruit of wedlock is the more loved. Why, mother, grudge your daughter her virginity? She has been reared on your milk, she has come from your body, she has grown strong in your arms. Your watchful love has kept her safe. Are you vexed with her because she chooses to wed not a soldier but a King? She has rendered you a high service: from to-day you are the mother by marriage of God.
The apostle says: "Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord."(83) Why so? Because he himself was a virgin, not by order but of his own free will. Those people must not be listened to who pretend that he had a wife. When he is discussing continence and recommending perpetual chastity, he says: "I wish that all men were even as I myself."(84) And later: "'I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I."(85) And in another place: "Have we not power to lead about women even as the other apostles?"(86) Why then has he no command-ment from the Lord concerning virginity? Because that which is freely offered is worth more than what is extorted by force, and to command virginity would have been to abrogate wedlock. It would have been a stern task to force men against their nature and to extort from them the life that angels enjoy: more-over it would have meant condemning in a way what has been ordained.
The old law had a different ideal of felicity. There it is said: "Blessed is he who hath seed in Zion and a family in Jerusalem":(86) and cursed is the barren woman who beareth not children. And again: "Thy children shall be as olive plants around thy table."(87) To such men riches are promised, and we are told that "there was not one feeble man among the tribes."(88) But to-day the word is: "Think not that you are a dry tree; for instead of sons and daughters you have a place for ever in heaven."(89) Now the poor are blessed, and Lazarus is set before Dives in his purple. Now he who is weak has thereby the greater strength. But in the old days the world was empty of people, and, omitting those whose childlessness was but a type for the future, the only benediction possible was the gift of children. It was for this reason that Abraham in his old age married Keturah; that Jacob was hired with mandrakes; and that fair Rachel — a type of the Church — complained of the closing of her womb.
But gradually the crop grew high and the reaper was sent in. Elijah was a virgin, and so was Elisha, and so were many of the sons of the prophets. Jeremiah was told that he must not take a wife. He had been sanctified in his mother's womb, and now that the captivity was drawing near he was for-bidden to marry. The apostle gives the same injunction in different words: "I think therefore that this is good by reason of the present distress namely that it is good for a man to be as he is."(90) What is this distress which abrogates the joys of wedlock? The apostle tells us: "The time is short: it remaineth that those who have wives be as though they had none."(91) Now is Nebuchadnezzar again drawing nigh. Now has the lion come out from his den. What to me is a wife, if she shall fall as a slave to some proud king? What good will little ones do, if their lot must be that which the prophet deplores: "The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst; the young children ask for bread and there was none to break it"?(92) In the old days, as I have said, the virtue of continence was confined to men, and Eve continually bore children in travail. But now that a virgin has con-ceived in the womb a child, upon whose shoulders is government, a mighty God, Father of the age to come, the fetters of the old curse are broken. Death came through Eve: life has come through Mary. For this reason the gift of virginity has been poured most abundantly upon women, seeing that it was from a woman it began. As soon as the Son of God set foot on earth, He formed for Himself a new household, that as He was adored by angels in heaven He might have angels also on earth. Then chaste Judith once more cut off the head of Holofernes. Then Haman — whose name means "iniquity" — was once more burned in his own fire. Then James and John forsook father and net and ship, and followed the Saviour: they put behind them the love of their kin, the ties of this world, and the care of their home. Then first the words were heard: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."(93)
For no soldier takes a wife with him when he is marching into battle. Even when a disciple was fain to go and bury his father, the Lord forbade him and said: "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests: but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head."(94) So you must not complain if you are scantily lodged. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife. There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband."(95)
How great are the inconveniences involved in wedlock, and how many anxieties encompass it, I think I have briefly described in my treatise against Helvidius(96) on the perpetual virginity of the blessed Mary. It would be tedious to go over the same ground again, and anyone who wishes to can draw from my little spring. But lest I should be thought to have passed over this subject completely, I will say now that the apostle bids us pray without ceasing, and that the man who in the married state renders his wife her due cannot so pray. Either we pray always and are virgins; or we cease to pray that we may per-form our marital service. The apostle says also: "If a virgin marry she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh."(97) At the outset of my book I promised that I should say little or nothing of the troubles of wedlock, and now I give you the same warning again. But if you wish to know from how many vexations a virgin is free and by how many a wife is fettered, you should read Tertullian's "To a philosophic friend,"(98) and his other treatises on virginity; the blessed Cyprian's notable book; the writings of Pope Damasus in prose and verse; and the essays recently written by our own Ambrose for his sister.(99) In these he has poured forth his soul with such eloquence that he has sought out, set forth, and arranged all that bears on the praise of virgins.
I must proceed by a different path. Far from trumpeting the praises of virginity, I only wish to keep it safe. To know what is good is not enough; when you have chosen it you must guard it with jealous care. The first is a matter of judgment and we share it with many: the second calls for labour and for that few care. The Lord says: "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,"(100) and "Many are called but few are chosen."(101) There-fore before God and Jesus Christ and His chosen angels I adjure you to guard what you have, and not lightly to expose to the public gaze the vessels of the Lord's temple which priests alone are allowed to see. No man that is profane may look upon God's
sanctuary. When Uzziah laid hands upon the ark,(102) which it was not lawful to touch, he was struck down by sudden death. And no vessel of gold or silver was ever so dear to God as the temple of a virgin's body. What was shadowed in the past presaged the reality of to-day. You indeed may speak frankly to strangers and look at them with kindly eyes: but the unchaste see differently. They cannot appreciate the beauty of the soul, they only regard the beauty of the body. Hezekiah showed God's treasure to the Assyrians, but the Assyrians only saw in it something to covet.(103) And so it was that Judaea was rent asunder by continual wars, and that the first things taken and carried away were the Lord's vessels. From them as drinking cups Belshazzar quaffed his wine — for the crown of vice is to pollute what is noble — surrounded by his concubines at the feast.(104)
Never incline your ear to words of mischief. Men often make an improper remark, that they may test a virgin's real purpose. If you hear it with pleasure and are ready to unbend at a joke, they approve of all you say, and anything you deny they deny also. They call you both merry and good, one in whom there is no guile. "Behold," they cry, "a true hand-maid of Christ: behold complete frankness. She is not like that rough, ugly country fright who probably could not find a husband just for that reason." A natural weakness easily beguiles us. We willingly smile on such flatterers, and although we may blush and say we are unworthy of their praise, the soul within us rejoices to hear their words.
Like the ark of the covenant Christ's bride should be overlaid with gold within and without; she should guard the law of the Lord. As in the ark there was nothing but the tablets of the covenant, so in you let there be no thought of anything outside. On that mercy seat it is God's pleasure to sit as once He sat upon the cherubim. He sends His disciples, that as He rode upon the foal of an ass, so He may ride upon you, setting you free from the cares of this world so that you may leave the bricks and straw of Egypt and follow Him, the true Moses, through the wilder-ness and enter the land of promise. Let no one prevent you, neither mother nor sister nor kinswoman nor brother: the Lord hath need of you. If they seek to hinder, let them fear the scourges that fell on Pharaoh, who, because he would not let God's people go to worship Him, suffered what is written in the Scriptures. Jesus entered into the temple and cast out those things which were not of the temple. For God is jealous and He does not allow His Father's house to be made a den of robbers. In any case where money is counted, where there are pens of doves for sale, where simplicity is slain, where a virgin's breast is disturbed by thoughts of worldly business, there at once the veil of the temple is rent and the Bridegroom rising in anger says: "Your house is left unto you desolate."(105)
Read the Gospel, and see how Mary sitting at the feet of the Lord is preferred to the busy Martha. Martha, in her anxious and hospitable zeal, was preparing a meal for the Lord and His disciples: but Jesus said to her: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But few things are needful or one. And Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her."
(106) Be thou too Mary, and prefer the Lord's teaching to food. Let your sisters run to and fro, and seek how they may entertain Christ as a guest. Do you once for all cast away the burden of this world and sit at the Lord's feet, and say: "I have found him whom my soul sought; I will hold him, I will not let him go."(107) And He will answer: "My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her."(108) And that mother is the Jerusalem that is in heaven.
Let the seclusion of your own chamber ever guard you; ever let the Bridegroom sport with you within. If you pray, you are speaking to your Spouse: if you read, He is speaking to you. When sleep falls on you, He will come behind the wall and will put His hand through the hole in the door(109) and will touch your flesh. And you will awake and rise up and cry: "I am sick with love."(110) And you will hear Him answer: "A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed."(111) Go not from home nor visit the daughters of a strange land, though you have patriarchs for brothers and rejoice in Israel as your father. Dinah went out and was seduced.(112) I would not have you seek the Bridegroom in the public squares; I would not have you go about the corners of the city. You may say: "I will rise now and go about the city: in the streets and in the broad ways I will seek Him whom my soul loveth."(113) But though you ask the watchmen: "Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?" no one will deign to answer you. The Bridegroom cannot be found in the city squares. "Strait and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life."(114) And the Song goes on: "I sought him but I could not find him: I called him but he gave me no answer."
Would that failure to find Him were all. You will be wounded and stripped, you will lament and say: "The watchmen who go about the city found me: they smote me, they wounded me, they took away my veil from me."(115) If this was the punish-ment that going forth brought to her who said: "I sleep but my heart waketh," and "A bundle of myrrh is my cousin unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts";(116) if she, I say, suffered so much because she went abroad, what shall be done to us who are but young girls, to us who, when the bride goes in with the Bridegroom, still remain with-out? Jesus is jealous: He does not wish others to see your face. You may excuse yourself and say: "I have drawn my veil, I have covered my face, I have sought Thee there, and I have said: 'Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest Thy flock, where Thou makest it to rest at noon. For why should I be as one that is veiled beside the flocks of Thy companions?'"(117) But He will be wroth and angry, and He will say: "If thou know not thyself, 0 thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock and feed thy goats beside the shepherd's tents."(118) "Though you be fair," says He, "and though of all faces yours be dearest to the Bridegroom, yet unless you know yourself and keep your heart with all diligence and avoid the eyes of lovers, you will be turned from My bridal-chamber to feed the goats which shall be set on the left hand."
Therefore, my Eustochium, daughter, lady, fellow--servant, sister — for the first name suits your age, the second your rank, the third our religion, and the last our affection — hear the words of Isaiah: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation of the Lord be over-past."(119) Let foolish virgins roam abroad; do you for your part stay within with the Bridegroom. If you shut your door, and according to the Gospel precept pray to your Father in secret, He will come and knock, and He will say: "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man open, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me."(120) And you forthwith will eagerly make reply: "It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying 'Open to me, my sister, my nearest, my dove, my undefiled.'" You must not say: "I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?"(121) Arise straightway and open: lest, if you linger, He pass on and leave you mournfully to cry: "I opened to my cousin, but my cousin was gone."(122) Why need the door of your heart be closed to the Bridegroom? Let it be open to Christ but closed to the devil, according to the saying: "If the spirit of him who hath power rise up against thee, leave not thy place."(123) Daniel when he could no longer remain below withdrew to an upper room, but he kept its windows open towards Jerusalem. Do you too keep your windows open on the side where light may enter and you may see the eye of the Lord. Open not those other windows of which it is said: "By our windows death came in."(124)
You must also avoid with especial care the traps that are set for you by a desire for vainglory. Jesus says: "How can ye believe, which receive glory one from another?"(125) Consider then how evil that thing must be whose presence forbids belief. Let us rather say: "Thou art my glorying," and, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord,"(126) and, "If I yet pleased men I should not be the servant of Christ,"(127) and, "Far be it from me to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world hath been crucified unto me and I unto the world,"(128) and again, "In God we boast all the day long; my soul shall make her boast in the Lord."(129)
When you are giving alms, let God alone see you. When you are fasting, keep a cheerful face. Let your dress be neither elegant nor slovenly, and let it not be noticeable by any strangeness that might attract the notice of passers-by and make people point their fingers at you. If a brother dies or the body of a beloved sister has to be carried to burial, take care that you do not attend such funerals too often, or you may die yourself. Do not try to seem very devout nor more humble than is necessary. It is possible to seek glory by avoiding it. Many men who screen from view their poverty, charity, and fasting, reveal their desire for admiration by the very fact that they spurn it, and, strangely enough, seek praise while avoiding it. From the other perturbations of the mind, from exultation, despondency, hope and fear I find many free; but desire for praise is a fault which few escape, and that man is best whose character, like a fair skin, is disfigured by the fewest blemishes.
I am not going to warn you against boasting of your wealth, or priding yourself on your birth, or setting yourself up as superior to others. I know your humility, I know that you can say from your heart: "Lord, my heart is not haughty nor my eyes lofty."(130)
I know that with you, as with your mother, the pride through which the devil fell finds no lodging. Therefore it would be superfluous to write to you on this subject: for indeed it is the height of folly to teach a pupil what he already knows. But beware lest your contempt for the world's boastfulness breed in you a boastfulness of another kind. Harbour not the secret thought that as you have ceased to please in cloth of gold you may now try to please in homespun. When you come into a gathering of brethren and sisters, do not sit in too lowly a place or pretend that you are unworthy of a footstool. Do not lower your voice on purpose, as though you were worn out by fasting; nor yet lean upon a friend's shoulder imitating the gait of one who is completely exhausted. Some women indeed actually disfigure themselves, so as to make it obvious that they have been fasting. As soon as they catch sight of anyone they drop their eyes and begin sobbing, covering up the face, all but a glimpse of one eye, which they just keep free to watch the effect they make. They wear a black dress and a girdle of sackcloth; their feet and hands are unwashed: their stomach alone — because it cannot be seen — is busy churning food. Of these the psalm is sung every day: "The Lord will scatter the bones of them that please themselves."(131) Other women change their garb and put on men's dress; they cut their hair short and lift up their chins in shameless fashion; they blush to be what they were born to be — women, and prefer to look like eunuchs. Others again dress themselves in goat's hair, and returning to their childhood's fashions put on a baby's hood and make themselves look like so many owls.
Women are not the only persons of whom I must warn you. Avoid those men also whom you see loaded with chains and wearing their hair long like a woman's, in contravention of the apostle's precept;(132) and with all this a shaggy goat's beard, a black cloak, and bare feet braving the cold. All these things are plain signs of the devil. Antimus some time ago was the sort of man I mean, and just lately Sophronius(133) has been another for Rome to groan over. Such men as these make their way into noble houses, and deceive "silly women laden with sins, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."(134) They put on a mournful face and pretend to make long fasts, which for them are rendered easy by secret nocturnal banquets. I am ashamed to say more, lest I should seem to be using the language of invective rather than of admonition.
There are other men — I speak of those of my own order — who only seek the office of presbyter and deacon that they may be able to visit women freely. These fellows think of nothing but dress; they must be nicely scented, and their shoes must fit without a crease. Their hair is curled and still shows traces of the tongs; their fingers glisten with rings; and if there is wet on the road they walk across on tiptoe so as not to splash their feet. When you see these gentry, think of them rather as potential bridegrooms than as clergymen. Indeed some of them devote their whole life and all their energies to finding out about the names, the households, and the characters of married ladies.
I will give you a brief and summary portrait of the chief practitioner in this line, that from the master's likeness you may recognize his disciples. He rises with the sun in haste; the order of his morning calls is duly arranged; he takes short cuts, and importunately thrusts his old head almost into the bedchambers of ladies still asleep. If he sees a cushion, or an elegant table cover, or indeed any article of furniture that he fancies, he begins praising and admiring it and takes it in his hand, and so, lamenting that he has nothing like this, he begs or rather extorts it from the owner, as all the women are afraid to offend the town gossip. He hates chastity and he hates fasting: what he likes is a savoury lunch — say a plump young bird such as is commonly called a cheeper. He has a rough and saucy tongue always well equipped with abusive words. Wherever you betake yourself, he is the first man you see. What-ever news is noised abroad, he either originates the story or else exaggerates it. He changes horses every hour; and his nags are so sleek and spirited that you might take him to be own brother to Diomede of Thrace.(135)
Our cunning enemy fights against us with many varied stratagems. "The serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made."(136) So the apostle says: "We are not ignorant of his devices."(137) Neither an affected shabbiness nor an elaborate elegance of attire becomes a Christian. If you feel ignorant or have any doubt about some passage in Scripture, ask advice from some man whose life commends him, whose age puts him above suspicion, and whose reputation stands high with all; one who can say: "I have espoused you to one husband, a chaste virgin to present to Christ."(138) If there is no one at hand able to resolve your difficulty, remember that peaceful ignorance is better than dangerous instruction. You walk in the midst of snares, and many veteran virgins, whose chastity never was doubted, on the very threshold of death have let the crown slip from their hands.
If any of your handmaids have taken the vow with you, do not lift yourself up against them or pride yourself as being the mistress. From now you all have one Bridegroom; you sing psalms together; together you receive the Body of Christ. Why then should you separate at meals? You must challenge other mistresses: let the respect paid to your virgins be an invitation for the rest to do the same. If you find one of your girls weak in faith, take her aside, comfort and caress her, make her chastity your treasure. But if one merely pretends to have a vocation in order to escape from service, read aloud to her the apostle's words: "It is better to marry than to burn."(139)
Cast from you like the plague those idle and inquisitive virgins and widows who go about to married women's houses and surpass the very parasites in a play by their unblushing effrontery. "Evil communications corrupt good manners,"(140) and these women care for nothing but their belly and its adjacent members. Creatures of this sort will give you wheedling advice: "My pretty pet, make the best of what you have and live your own life. What is the use of saving for your children?" Flown with wine and wantonness, they instil all sorts of mischief into a girl's mind, and tempt even the firmest soul with the soft delights of pleasure. "And when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ they will marry, having condemnation because they have rejected their first faith."(141)

Do not seek to appear over-eloquent or compose trifling songs in verse. Do not in false refinement follow the sickly taste of those married ladies who habitually speak with a lisp and clip all their words, now pressing their teeth together, and now opening their lips wide, fancying that anything produced naturally is countrified. So much do they like adultery even of the tongue. "What communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial?"(142) What has Horace to do with the Psalter,Virgil with the Gospels and Cicero with Paul? Is not a brother made to stumble if he sees you sitting at table in an idol's temple? Although unto the pure all things are pure and nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving, still we ought not to drink the cup of Christ and the cup of devils at the same time. I will tell you the story of my own unhappy experience.
Many years ago for the sake of the kingdom of heaven I cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and, what was harder, from the dainty food to which I had been used. But even when I was on my way to Jerusalem to fight the good fight there, I could not bring myself to forgo the library which with great care and labour I had got together at Rome. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast, only to read Cicero afterwards. I would spend long nights in vigil, I would shed bitter tears called from my inmost heart by the remembrance of my past sins; and then I would take up Plautus again. Whenever I returned to my right senses and began to read the prophets, their language seemed harsh and barbarous. With my blind eyes I could not see the light: but I attributed the fault not to my eyes but to the sun. While the old serpent was thus mocking me, about the middle of Lent a fever attacked my weakened body and spread through my inmost veins. It may sound incredible, but the ravages it wrought on my unhappy frame were so persistent that at last my bones scarcely held together.
Meantime preparations were made for my funeral: my whole body grew gradually cold, and life's vital warmth only lingered faintly in my poor throbbing breast. Suddenly I was caught up in the spirit and dragged before the Judge's judgment seat: and here the light was so dazzling, and the brightness shining from those who stood around so radiant, that I flung myself upon the ground and did not dare to look up. I was asked to state my condition and replied that I was a Christian. But He who pre-sided said: "Thou liest; thou art a Ciceronian, not a Christian. 'For where thy treasure is there will thy heart be also.'"(143) Straightway I became dumb, and amid the strokes of the whip — for He had ordered me to be scourged — I was even more bitterly tortured by the fire of conscience, considering with myself the verse: "In the grave who shall give thee thanks?"(144) Yet for all that I began to cry out and to bewail myself, saying: "Have mercy upon me, 0 Lord, have mercy upon me": and even amid the noise of the lash my voice made itself heard. At last the bystanders fell at the knees of Him who presided, and prayed Him to pardon my youth and give me opportunity to repent of my error, on the understanding that the extreme of torture should be inflicted on me if ever I read again the works of Gentile authors. In the stress of that dread hour I should have been willing to make even larger promises, and taking oath I called upon His name: "0 Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books or read them, I have denied thee."
After swearing this oath I was dismissed, and returned to the upper world. There to the surprise of all I opened my eyes again, and they were so drenched with tears, that my distress convinced even the incredulous. That this experience was no sleep nor idle dream, such as often mocks us, I call to wit-ness the judgment seat before which I fell and the terrible verdict which I feared. May it never be my lot again to come before such a court as that! I profess that my shoulders were black and blue, and that I felt the bruises long after I awoke from my sleep. And I acknowledge that henceforth I read the books of God with a greater zeal than I had ever given before to the books of men.
You must also avoid the sin of love of money. Not merely must you refuse to claim what belongs to another, for that is an offence punished by the laws of the State; you must also give up clinging to your own property, which has now become no longer yours. The Lord says: "If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?"(145) "That which is another man's" is a mass of gold and silver; "that which is your own" is the spiritual heritage of which it is said elsewhere: "The ransom of a man's life is his riches."(146) "No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."(147) By Mammon understand riches: for in the heathen tongue of the Syrians riches are so called. The thorns that choke our faith are the taking thought for our subsistence. Care for the things of the Gentiles is the root of love of money.
But you say: "I am a delicate girl and I cannot work with my hands. If I reach old age and fall sick who will take pity on me?" Hear Jesus speak-ing to the apostles: "Take no thought what ye shall eat; nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feedeth them."(148) If clothing fail you, the lilies shall be put before you.(149) If you are hungry, you shall hear how blessed are the poor and hungry among men. If any pain afflict you, read the words: "Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities," and, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."(150) Rejoice in all God's judgments; for does not the psalmist say: "The daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, 0 Lord"?(151) Let the words be ever on your lips: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thitber,"(152) and, "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."(153)
But to-day you see many women packing their wardrobes with dresses, putting on a fresh frock every day, and even so unable to get the better of the moth. The more scrupulous sort wear one dress till it is threadbare, but though they go about in rags their boxes are full of clothes. Parchments are dyed purple, gold is melted for lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels: and Christ lies at their door naked and dying. When they hold a hand out to the needy, they sound the trumpet. When they invite to a love-feast,(154) they hire a crier. Just lately I saw the greatest lady in Rome — I will not give her name, for this is not a satire — standing in the church of the blessed Peter with her band of eunuchs in front. She was giving money to the poor with her own hand to increase her reputation for sanctity; and she gave them each a penny! At that moment — as you might easily know by experience — an old woman, full of years and rags, ran in front of the line to get a second coin; but when her turn came she got, not a penny, but the lady's fist in her face, and for her dreadful offence she had to pay with her blood.
"The love of money is the root of all evil,"(155) and therefore the apostle calls it slavery to idols. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you."(156) The Lord will never let a righteous soul die of hunger. The psalmist says: "I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread."(157) Elijah was fed by ministering ravens. The widow of Zarephath, herself and her sons within an ace of death that night, went hungry that she might feed the prophet: by a miracle the flour barrel was filled and he who had come to be fed supplied food. The apostle Peter says: "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk."(158) To-day many people, though they do not say it in words, by their deeds declare: "Faith and pity have I none; but such as I have, gold and silver, these give I thee not." Having food and raiment let us be content. Hear the words of Jacob in his prayer: "If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, then shall the Lord be my God."(159) He prayed only for necessities; yet twenty years after-wards he returned to the land of Canaan, rich in goods and richer still in children. Endless are the examples that Scripture supplies teaching us to beware of love of money.
As I have touched on this subject — if Christ allows I keep it for a special book — I will relate an incident that occurred not many years ago at Nitria. A brother, rather thrifty than avaricious, forgetting that the Lord was sold for thirty pieces of silver, left behind him at his death a hundred gold coins which he had earned by weaving linen. The monks held a council as to what was to be done with it, for there were about five thousand of them in the neighbour-hood living in separate cells; some said that the money should be distributed among the poor; others that it should be given to the Church; others that it should be sent back to the dead man's parents. But Macarius, Pambos, Isidore,(160) and the other Fathers, the Holy Spirit speaking by them, decreed that the coins should be buried with their owner, saying: "Thy money perish with thee."(161) Let no one think their decision too harsh; for so great a fear has fallen upon all in Egypt that it is now a crime to leave a single gold piece.
Since I have mentioned the monks, and know that you like to bear about holy things, lend me your ear awhile. There are in Egypt three classes of monks. First, there are the cenobites,(162) callled in their Gentile tongue Sauhes,(163) or, as we should say, men living in a community. Secondly, there are the anchorites,(164) who live in the desert as solitaries, so called because they have withdrawn from the society of men. Thirdly, there is the class called Remnuoth,(165) a very inferior and despised kind, though in my own province(166) they are the chief if not the only sort of monks. These men live together in twos and threes, seldom in larger numbers, and live according to their own will and ruling. A portion of what they make they contribute to a common fund which provides food for all. In most cases they live in cities or in fortified places, and anything they sell is very dear, the idea being that their workmanship, not their life, is sanctified. Quarrels are frequent among them; for while they supply their own food, they will not brook subordination. It is true that they compete with one another in fasting, making what should be a private matter an occasion for a triumph. Everything with them is done for effect: loose sleeves, big boots, clumsy dress, constant sighing, visiting virgins, disparaging the clergy, and when a feast day comes, they eat so much that they make themselves ill.
Avoiding these then as though they were the plague, let us come to the more numerous class who live together and are called, as we have said, cenobites. Among them the first principle of their association is to obey superiors and do whatever they command. They are divided into sections of ten and a hundred; each tenth man is over nine others, while the hundredth has ten such officers under him. They live apart from each other, but in adjoining cells. No monk may visit another before three o'clock in the afternoon, except only the deans or leaders of ten, whose business it is to comfort with soothing words any one disturbed by restless thoughts: until then, there is a cessation of all business. After three o'clock they meet together to sing psalms and duly read the Scriptures. When the prayers have ended and all have sat down, one, whom they call Father, stands up in their midst and discourses; a silence so complete being observed while he is speaking that no one dares to look at his neighbour or to clear his throat. The highest praise that can be given to the preacher is the weeping of his audience. But the tears that run down their cheeks are silent, and not even a sob reveals their emotion. But when he begins to announce the kingdom of Christ, the future happiness, and the coming glory you may see everyone with a gentle sigh and lifted gaze saying to himself: "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove. For then would I fly away and be at rest."(167)
After the discourse the meeting breaks up, and each set of ten goes with its Father to its own table; taking turns to serve, each man for a week at a time. No noise is made over the food; no one talks while eating. The fare consists of bread, pulse and greens, and salt and oil is their only condiment. The old men alone receive wine, they often having a special meal prepared in company with the children, so that the weariness of age is refreshed and the weakness of childhood is not impaired. They then rise from table together and after singing a hymn return to their quarters. There each one talks till evening with his friends thus: "Have you noticed So-and-so? What grace he has and what powers of silence! How soberly he walks!" If they see that any one is weak, they comfort him: if he is fervent in love for God, they encourage his zeal. At night, besides the common prayers, each man keeps vigil in his own chamber; and so the deans go round to each cell, and putting their ears to the doors carefully ascertain what the inmates are doing. If they catch a monk in slothfulness, they do not upbraid him: but, hiding what they know, they visit him more frequently, and by beginning themselves to pray exhort rather than drive him to his devotions. Every day has its allotted task: the work done is handed to a dean and by him brought to the bursar, who once a month with fear and trembling gives an account to the Community Father. The bursar also tastes the dishes when they are cooked, and as no one is allowed to say: "I am without a tunic or a cloak or a rush mattress," he so arranges their entire store that none need ask and none go without. If any one is taken ill, he is moved to a larger room, and is there so sedulously tended by the older monks, that he misses neither the luxuries of cities nor a mother's loving care. Every Lord's day they give their whole time to prayer and reading: which indeed are their usual occupations on ordinary days when work is over. Every day they learn by heart a passage of Scripture. Fasting is regular throughout the year, but in Lent alone an increase of strictness is permitted. After Whitsuntide a midday meal takes the place of the evening repast, and thus the tradition of the Church is satisfied and they avoid overloading their stomachs with a double quantity of food. The Essenes also follow these rules, as we learn from Philo, Plato's imitator, and from Josephus,(168) the Greek Livy, in the second book of his Jewish Captivity.
However, as I am writing now about virgins, all these details about monks may seem rather superfluous. I will proceed to the third class, who are called anchorites. They go out from a monastery and live in the desert, taking nothing with them but bread and salt. The founder of the system was Paul,(169) and Antony(170) made it famous: going back, the first example was given by John the Baptist. The prophet Jeremiah also describes such a solitary: "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke from his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him, he is filled full of reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever."(171) The struggles of the anchorites and their life, in the flesh but not of the flesh, I will unfold to you on some other occasion, if you wish. Let me now return to my subject, for I was speaking of love of money when I digressed to the monks. With them as examples before you, you will look down not only on gold and silver and worldly possessions, but even on earth itself and the sky. United to Christ, you will sing: "The Lord is my portion."(172)
Moreover, although the apostle bids us to pray without ceasing and although to the saints their very sleep is an orison, yet we ought to have fixed hours for prayer, so that if perchance we are occupied with any business the time itself may remind us of our duty. Everyone knows that the set times are the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours, at dawn and at evening. No food should be taken except after prayer, and before leaving the table thanks should be rendered to our Creator. We should rise from our bed two or three times in the night, and go over those passages of Scripture which we know by heart. Let prayer arm us when we leave our lodging: when we return from the streets let us pray before we sit down, nor give our miserable body rest until our soul is fed. In everything we do, in every step we take let our hand trace the sign of the Lord's cross. Speak against no one, and slander not thy mother's son. "Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he standeth or falleth; yea, he shall be made to stand, for the Lord hath power to make him stand."(173) If you have fasted for the space of two or three days, do not think that you are better than those who have not fasted. You fast and are angry; another eats and wears a smiling face. You work off your irritation and hunger by quarrelling with others; your neigh-bour feeds in moderation and gives thanks to God. Therefore Isaiah proclaims to us every day: "Is it such a fast, that I have chosen, saith the Lord?"(174) And again: "In the day of your fast ye find your own pleasure and oppress all your labourers. If ye fast for strife and contention and to smite with the fist of wickedness, how fast ye unto me?"(175) What sort of fast can that be when not only does the night fall upon a man's wrath, but even the full moon leaves it unchanged? Look to yourself and glory not in the fall of others, but only in your own works.
Neither take pattern by those women who have thought for the flesh, and are always reckoning up their income and their daily household expenditure. For the eleven apostles did not weaken by Judas'
treachery; and though Phygellus(176) and Alexander(177) made shipwreck the rest did not falter in the race of faith. Nor say: "So-and-so enjoys her own property; she is honoured by men; the brethren and the sisters assemble at her house. Has she ceased to be a virgin for that?" In the first place, it is doubtful if such an one is a virgin. "For the Lord will not see as man seeth; for man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh upon the heart."(178) Furthermore, even if she is a virgin in body, I am not sure that she is a virgin in spirit. The apostle has defined a virgin thus: "She must be holy both in body and in spirit."(179) In fine, let her keep her own glory to the last. Let her over-ride Paul's judgment; let her enjoy her good things and live! Let us follow better examples.
Set before your eyes the blessed Mary, whose purity was such that she earned the reward of being the mother of the Lord. When the angel Gabriel came down to her in man's form, and said: "Hail, thou that art highly favoured; the Lord is with thee," she was filled with terror and consternation and could not reply; for she had never been greeted by a man before. Soon, however, she learned who the messenger was, and spoke to him: she who had been afraid of a man conversed fearlessly with an angel. You too may be perhaps the Lord's mother. "Take thee a great new roll and write in it with the pen of a man who is swiftly carrying off the spoils,"(180) and when you have gone to the prophetess, and conceived in your womb and brought forth a son,(181) say: "Lord, we have been with child by thy fear, we have been in pain, we have brought forth thy spirit of thy salvation which we have wrought upon the earth."(182) Then shall your son reply: "Behold my mother and my brethren."(183) And He whose name just before you had inscribed upon the tablet of your heart, and had written with a pen upon its new surface, after He has recovered the spoils from the enemies and has stripped principalities and powers, nailing them to His cross, He having been conceived grows to manhood, and as He becomes older regards you not as His mother but as His bride. To be as the martyrs, or as the apostles, or as Christ, is a great struggle, but for that struggle there is a great reward.
All such efforts are only of avail when they are made within the Church; when we celebrate the passover in one house; if we enter the ark with Noah; if, while Jericho is falling, we shelter beneath the roof of the justified harlot Rahab. Such virgins as there are said to be among the different kinds of heretics, or with the followers of the filthy Manes,(184) must be considered, not virgins, but prostitutes. If the devil is the author of their body, how can they honour a thing fashioned by their foe? It is because they know that the name of virgin brings glory with it that they go about as wolves in sheep's clothing. Antichrist pretends to be Christ: and even so they falsely cloak their shameful lives under an honourable title. Rejoice, my sister; rejoice, my daughter; rejoice, my virgin; you have begun to be in truth that which these others only feign to be.
All the things that I have set out in this letter will seem hard to her who loves not Christ. But one who regards all the pomp of this world as dross, and holds everything under the sun as vain, if only he may win Christ; one who has died with his Lord and risen again and crucified the flesh with its weaknesses and lusts; he will freely cry: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?"(185) And again: "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord."
For our salvation the Son of God became the Son of Man. Ten months He awaits birth in the womb, He endures distress, He comes forth covered with blood, He is swathed in napkins, He is comforted with caresses. Though He holds the world in His closed hand, He is contained by the narrow space of a manger. I say nothing of the thirty years He lived in obscurity, content with His parents' poverty. He was scourged and says not a word. He is crucified and prays for His crucifiers. "What then shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."(186) The only fitting return we can make Him is to pay for blood with blood; and as we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, to die willingly for our Redeemer. What saint was ever crowned without a contest? Righteous Abel is murdered. Abraham runs the risk of losing his wife. And, not to enlarge my screed beyond all measure, look for yourself and you will find that all the saints have suffered adversity. Solomon alone lived in luxury, and that is perhaps the reason why he fell. "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."(187) Is it not better to fight for a short space, to carry a camp-stake,(188) to put on arms, to faint beneath a breastplate, and then to know the joy of victory, rather than to become slaves for ever because we could not hold out for a single hour?
Love finds nothing hard: no task is difficult if you wish to do it. Consider all that Jacob bore to win Rachel, his promised bride. The Scripture tells us: "Jacob served seven years for Rachel. And they seemed to him but a few days for the love he had to her."(189) So he himself afterwards says: "In the day the drought consumed me and the frost by night."(190) Let us also love Christ and ever seek His embraces. Then everything difficult will seem easy; all things long we shall think to be short; and smitten with His javelin we shall say as each hour passes: "Woe is me that I have prolonged my pilgrimage."(191) "For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."(192) "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed."(193) Whenever your lot seems hard, read Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians: "In labours more abundant; in stripes above measure; in prisons more frequent; in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness, and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."(194) Who of us at least can claim for himself the smallest part of this catalogue of virtues? Certainly he could afterwards boldly say: "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day."(195)
And yet we frown if our food seems to lack savour, and fancy that we are doing God a favour when we drink water with our wine. If that water is a trifle too warm, the servant must pay for it with his blood: we smash the cup, knock the table over, and the whip whistles in the air. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force."(196) Unless you use violence you will never seize the kingdom of heaven. Unless you knock importunately you will never receive the sacramental bread. Does it not seem to you to be truly violence when the flesh desires to be as God and to ascend to the place whence angels fell that it may judge angels?(197)
Come out, I pray you, awhile from your prisonhouse, and picture before your eyes the reward of your present labours, a reward "which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man."(198) What will be the splendour of that day, when Mary, the mother of the Lord, shall come to meet you, attended by her bands of virgins: when, the Red Sea past and Pharoah with his hosts drowned beneath its waves, one, with timbrel in her hand, shall chant to her responsive choir: "Let us sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he hath thrown into the sea."(199) Then shall Thecla(200) fly rejoicing to your arms. Then shall your Spouse Himself come to meet you and say: "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away, for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone."(201) Then shall the angels gaze in wonder and cry: "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun?"(202) The daughters shall see you and bless you; yea, the queens shall proclaim and the concubines shall praise you.
And then another chaste band will be there to greet you. Sarah will come with the wedded; Anna,(203) the daughter of Phanuel, with the widows. In the one company you will see your natural, and in the other your spiritual mother.(204) The one will rejoice in having borne you, the other will exult in having taught you. Then truly will the Lord ride upon His ass and enter the heavenly Jerusalem. Then the little ones — of whom in Isaiah the Saviour says: "Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me"(205) — shall lift up palms of victory and with one accord shall sing: "Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest."(206) Then shall the hundred and forty and four thousand hold their harps before the thorne and before the elders and sing the new song. And no man shall be able to sing that song save the appointed company: "These are they which were not defiled with women — for they are virgins; these are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth."(207) As often as this world's vain display delights you; as often as you see in life some empty glory, transport yourself in thought to Paradise and begin to be now what you will be hereafter. Then will you hear your Spouse say: "Set me as a seal in thine heart and as a seal upon thine arm."(208) And then, fortified alike in mind and body, you will cry: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown in it."(209)

Original letter: 

[orig.text Hilberg or Wright]

Historical context: 

In this long letter written to Eustochium when she chose the life of ascetic virginity, but clearly intended for a larger audience, Jerome sets out what J.N.D. Kelly calls his "challenging programme" for the virgin life and also attacks the "rottenness which, as he saw it, was infecting great numbers of would-be Christians in Rome" Jerome, His Life, Writings, and Controversies (New York: Harper and Row, 1975), 101. It is also in this letter that Jerome tells the famous story of his vision, in which the heavenly judge condemned him as a Ciceronian, not a Christian (22.30). Glorifying virginity as the best mode of life, Jerome tells her and other virgins what to avoid, how to live daily life, and about the models for ascetic virginity, the three types of monks in Egypt. Since most of the women dedicated to religion in Rome at this time were widows, Jerome makes much of the virgin as bride of Christ, using erotic language from the Song of Songs, and in a phrase that shocked some readers, telling Eustochium that by becoming the spouse of Christ she makes her mother a mother-in-law of God, "socrus dei," 22.20 (see Kelly, 251 and note 43). Jerome was also attacked for the Manichean tone of his extreme regimen, see Elizabeth A. Clark, The Origenist Controversy, The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate (Princeton: Princeton University, 1992), 15-16.

Scholarly notes: 

(1) Psalm xIv. 11. (Vulg. Psalm xliv.)
(2) Psalm xxvii, 13.
(3) Genesis, xix, 17.
(4) St. John, viii, 44.
(5) I John, iii, 8.
(6) Song of Solomon, i.5. Jerome here alters the text of the Vulgate: "Nigra sum sed formosa, filiae Jerusalem." Vulg. Cant., i.4.
(7) Ephesians, v.31.
(8) Song of Solomon, viii. 5. (Septuagint.)
(9) Isaiah, xxxiv, 5.
(10) Ephesians, vi, 12.
(11) Psalm xci, 5.
(12) 2 Kings, vi, 16.
(13) Psalm cxxiv, 7.
(14) 2 Corinthians, iv, 7.
(15) Psalm civ, 20.
(16) Reference doubtful, but perhaps cf. Jeremiah xxix, 22.
(17) Habakkuk, i, 16.
(18) Isaiah, xiv, 13.
(19) Psalm lxxxii, 6.
(20) 1 Corinthians, iii, 3.
(21) Romans, vii, 24.
(22) Amos, v, 2.
(23) Amos, viii, 13.
(24) St. Matthew, v, 28.
(25) Isaiah, xlvii, 1.
(26) Psalm xliv, 10. Vulgate.
(27) Ezekiel, xvi, 25. cf. Jeremiah, xiii, 26.
(28) Psalm cxviii, 6.
(29) Psalm xlii, 11.
(30) Psalm cxxxvii, 9.
(31) 1 Corinthians, x, 4.
(32) Song of Solomon, i, 3.
(33) 1 Timothy, v, 6.
(34) 1 Timothy, v, 23.
(35) Ephesians, v, 18.
(36) Romans, xiv, 21.
(37) Exodus, xxxii, 6.
(38) Genesis, xix, 16, 35.
(39) Deuteronomy, xxiii, 3.
(40) 1 Kings, xix, 4-7.
(41) 2 Kings, iv, 40.
(42) 2 Kings, vi, 18 ff.
(43) Daniel, i, 8.
(44) Apoc. Bel and the Dragon, 33.
(45) Cf. Dan, x, 11, "a man greatly beloved" (A. and R.V.); the Septuagint has ...; but Jerome here renders the Vulgate "desideriorum vir" after his own fashion.
(46) 1 Corinthians, vi, 13.
(47) Philippians, iii, 19.
(48) Job, xl, 16.
(49) Job, xxxviii, 3.
(50) Ezekiel, xvi, 4.
(51) Psalm li, 4.
(52) 1 Kings, iv, 33.
(53) i.e., unmarried women who pretend to be widows.
(54) Jeremiah, iii, 3.
(55) The "Maforte" was a sort of cape, usually of a lilac colour.
(56) Proverbs, vi, 27.
(57) Song of Solomon, i, 7.
(58) Philippians, i, 23.
(59) A visit to a martyr's shrine was often made an excuse for going abroad.
(60) Hosea, vii, 4.
(61) St. Luke, xxiv, 32.
(62) Psalm cxix, 140 (cviii, Vulg)
(63) Song of Solomon, iii, 1.
(64) Colossians, iii, 5.
(65) Galatians, ii, 20.
(66) Psalm cxix, 83. A.V. has "smoke" for "frost." jerome quotes the Vulgate (cxviii).
(67) Psalm cix, 24.
(68) Psalm cii, 5.
(69) I.e., Be as active at night as the grasshopper is in the daytime when he is always heard. Cf. Virg, Ec. II, 13, "sole sub ardenti resonant arbusta cicadis."
(70) Psalm ciii, 2.
(71) Psalm cii, 9.
(72) Genesis, iii, 16.
(73) Genesis, ii, 17.
(74) Genesis, i, 28.
(75) St. Matthew, xix, 11.
(76) Ecclesiastes, iii, 5.
(77) Psalm cxvi, 7.
(78) Isaiah, xi, 1. (Vulgate)
(79) Psalm cxvi, 7.
(80) Song of Solomon, ii, 1.
(81) Daniel, ii, 45.
(82) Song of Solomon, ii, 6.
(83) 1 Corinthians, vii, 25.
(84) 1 Corinthians, vii, 7, 8.
(85) 1 Corinthians, ix, 5.
(86) Isaiah, xxxi, 9. LXXX. version.
(87) Psalm cxxviii, 3.
(88) Psalm cv, 37.
(89) Cf. Isaiah, lvi, 3.
(90) 1 Corinthians, vii, 26.
(91) 1 Corinthians, vii, 29.
(92) Lamentations, iv, 4.
(93) St. Mark, viii, 34.
(94) St. Matthew, viii, 20.
(95) 1 Corinthians, vii, 32-34.
(96) Cf. Appendix [of this edition], p.489.
(97) 1 Corinthians, vii, 28.
(98) Not extant.
(99) The De habitu virginum of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (fl.258), is still extant, as are the three books De Virginibus of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, which were written for Marcellina (pp.187 and 485); the treatise of Damasus is now lost.
(100) St. Matthew, xxiv, 13.
(101) St. Matthew, xx, 16.
(102) 2 Samuel, vi, 6, 7.
(103) 2 Kings, xx, 15.
(104) Daniel, v, 2.
(105) St. Mattthew, xxiii, 38.
(106) St. Luke, x, 41.
(107) Song of Solomon, iii, 4.
(108) Song of Solomon, vi, 9.
(109) i.e., to pull the latch open.
(110) Song of Solomon, v, 8.
(111) Song of Solomon, iv, 12.
(112) Genesis, xxxiv, 1.
(113) Song of Solomon, iii, 2.
(114) St. Matthew, vii, 14.
(115) Song of Solomon, v, 7.
(116) Song of Solomon, i, 13.
(117) Song of Solomon, i, 7.
(118) Song of Solomon, i, 8.
(119) Isaiah, xxvi, 20.
(120) Revelation, iii, 20.
(121) Song of Solomon, v, 2, 3.
(122) Song of Solomon, v, 6.
(123) Ecclesiastes, x, 4.
(124) Jeremiah, ix, 21.
(125) St. John, v, 44.
(126) 1 Corinthians, i, 31.
(127) Galatians, i, 10.
(128) Galatians, vi, 14.
(129) Psalm xliv, 8.
(130) Psalm cxxxi, 1.
(131) Psalm liii, 5. (Roman Psalter.)
(132) 2 Corinthians, xi, 14.
(133) According to F. A. Wright, in his edition, both Antimus and Sophronius are unknown.
(134) 2 Timothy, iii, 6.
(135) Cf. Virgil, Aeneid, I, 752. Diomede was a great horseman.
(136) Genesis, iii, 1.
(137) 2 Corinthians, ii, 11.
(138) 2 Corinthians, xi, 2.
(139) 1 Corinthians, vii, 9.
(140) 1 Corinthians, xv, 33.
(141) 1 Timothy, v, 11.
(142) 2 Corinthians, vi, 14.
(143) St. Matthew, vi, 21.
(144) Psalm, vi, 5.
(145) St. Luke, xvi, 12.
(146) Proverbs, xiii, 8.
(147) St. Matthew, vi, 24.
(148) St. Matthew, vi, 25.
(149) St. Matthew, vi, 28.
(150) 2 Corinthians, xii, 7, 10.
(151) Psalm xcvii, 8.
(152) Job, 1, 21.
(153) 1 Timothy, vi, 7.
(154) In the early Church the Eucharist was preceded by an "agape," or love-feast. All contributed, all sat down together, and the meal ended with a psalm.
(155) 1 Timothy, vi, 10.
(156) St. Matthew, vi, 33.
(157) Psalm xxxvii, 25.
(158) Acts, iii, 6.
(159) Genesis, xxviii, 20.
(160) Cf. Index and Appendix [of Wright's edition], p.484.
(161) Acts, viii, 20.
(162) From the Greek for "living a life in common."
(163) An Egyptian word not elsewhere found.
(164) From the Greek for "to withdraw."
(165) Monks who lived in groups under no fixed rule. Cf, Cassian, Collat., xviii, 7.
(166) I.e., Pannonia.
(167) Psalm, lv, 6.
(168) Cf. Josephus, Jewish War, II, 8.
(169) Paul the hermit, whose life Jerome wrote.
(170) Cf. index [of Wright's edition].
(171) Lamentations, iii, 27.
(172) Psalm lxxiii, 26.
(173) Romans, xiv, 4.
(174) Isaiah, lviii, 5.
(175) Isaiah, lviii, 3.
(176) 2 Timothy, 1, 15.
(177) 1 Timothy, i, 19, 20.
(178) 1 Samuel, xvi, 7.
(179) 1 Corinthians, vii, 34.
(180) Isaiah, viii.
(181) Isaiah, viii, 3: "and I went unto the prophetess and she conceived and bare a son." Jerome, however, puts his own interpretation on the Hebrew, and "prophetess" should here be "prophet." "As it stands the quotation is meaningless." (Fremantle).
(182) Isaiah, xxvi, 18. (Vulgate.)
(183) St. Matthew, xii, 49.
(184) Founder of the sect of the Manicheans, who believed that matter as such is essentially evil.
(185) Romans, viii, 35-38.
(186) Psalm cxvi, 12.
(187) Hebrews, xii, 6.
(188) A Roman soldier carried a stake, which he fixed in the ground at the end of the day's march as part of the rampart round the camp.
(189) Genesis, xxix, 20.
(190) Genesis, xxxi, 40.
(191) Psalm cxix, 5. (Vulgate.)
(192) Romans, viii, 18.
(193) Romans, v, 3.
(194) 2 Corinthians, xi, 23.
(195) 2 Timothy, iv, 7.
(196) St. Matthew, xi, 12.
(197) 1 Corinthians, vi, 3.
(198) 1 Corinthians, ii, 9.
(199) Exodus, xv, 21.
(200) A virgin of Iconium said to have been converted by Paul.
(201) Song of Solomon, ii, 10.
(202) Song of Solomon, vi, 9 (slightly altered), 10.
(203) Cf. St. Luke, ii, 36.
(204) I.e., Paula and Marcella. Cf. Appendix [of Wright's edition], p.487.
(205) Isaiah, viii, 18.
(206) St. Matthew, xxi, 9.
(207) Revelation, xiv, 4.
(208) Song of Solomon, viii, 6.
(209) Song of Solomon, viii, 7.

Printed source: 

Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Epistulae, ed. Isidorus Hilberg, 3 v. (New York: Johnson, 1970, repr.1910-18), ep.22; translation and annotation from F.A.Wright, Select Letters of St. Jerome (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1933, repr.1980), pp.52-159.

date

383-384