Monday, September 30, 2013

Saint Jerome (c.342-420)

Memore morti

The Feast of Saint Jerome
September 30th, 2013

There's a lot to like about Saint Jerome. As a saint at least. Probably not so much as a friend. If for no other than his name must have been brutal to get out, as he was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius. Doesn't exactly lend itself well to endearing nicknames. His temperament didn't help make any more endearing either. Known even in youth as one of incredible intelligence, even if it was manifested by the edge of a sharp tongue. In an effort to curb his passions and appetites, he drove himself out into the dessert near Antioch. Still, his letters still found their way out of the wilderness, to challenge those who, in all honesty, most likely needed the challenge. Here are just two examples:

An example of his style is the harsh diatribe against the artifices of worldly women, who "paint their cheeks with rouge and their eyelids with antimony, whose plastered faces, too white for human beings, look like idols; and if in a moment of forgetfulness they shed a tear it makes a furrow where it rolls down the painted cheek; women to whom years do not bring the gravity of age, who load their heads with other people's hair, enamel a lost youth upon the wrinkles of age, and affect a maidenly timidity in the midst of a troop of grandchildren." In a letter to Eustochium, he writes with scorn of certain members of the Roman clergy; "All their anxiety is about their clothes...You should take them for brides grooms rather than for clerics; all they think about is knowing the names and houses and doings of rich ladies."
Eventually, he found his way down to Bethlehem, where he created a monastery right next to the Church of the Nativity, and in the caves underneath he worked on honing his Hebrew for the sake of translation of the Sacred Scriptures (having already mastered Greek and Latin as a youth). It his love of Scripture for which he is most known. In his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, he famously quipped,

I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: "Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find." Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: "You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God." For if, as Paul says, "Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God," and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
Let us dedicate ourselves to study of the Sacred Scriptures. Let us especially pour over the words of Christ our savior in the Gospels themselves. Hear the words of the Word made flesh and let them form a heart enlightened by the light of faith.

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