Hieronymus Stridonensis
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Letter - Epistle 3
(alias 41; written in Antioch in mid-summer 374)

Written from Antioch, 374 A.D., to Rufinus in Egypt. Jerome narrates his travels and the events which have taken place since his arrival in Syria, particularly the deaths of Innocent and Hylas (3). He also describes the life of Bonosus, who was now a hermit on an island in the Adriatic (4). The main object of the letter is to induce Rufinus to come to Syria.

(Note: This English synopsis is not a translation of the Latin version.)

Ruffinum Aquileiensem, quem in Aegyptum concessisse audierat, videre, et alloqui vehementer optat, eumque de suo statu, deque Bonosi sodalis carissimi, qui in insulam quamdam poenitentiae peragendae causa secesserat, certiorem reddit. Denique ut in mutua caritate perseveret, deprecatur.

To Rufinus the Monk.

Ad Ruffinum Monachum

1. That God gives more than we ask Him for, [Ephesians 3:20] and that He often grants us things which eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man, [1 Corinthians 2:9] I knew indeed before from the mystic declaration of the sacred volumes; but now, dearest Rufinus, I have had proof of it in my own case. For I who fancied it too bold a wish to be allowed by an exchange of letters to counterfeit to myself your presence in the flesh, hear that you are penetrating the remotest parts of Egypt, visiting the monks and going round God's family upon earth. Oh, if only the Lord Jesus Christ would suddenly transport me to you as Philip was transported to the eunuch, [Acts 8:26-30] and Habakkuk to Daniel, with what a close embrace would I clasp your neck, how fondly would I press kisses upon that mouth which has so often joined with me of old in error or in wisdom. But as I am unworthy (not that you should so come to me but) that I should so come to you, and because my poor body, weak even when well, has been shattered by frequent illnesses; I send this letter to meet you instead of coming myself, in the hope that it may bring you hither to me caught in the meshes of love's net. 1. Plus Deum tribuere quam rogatur, et ea saepe concedere, quae nec oculus vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascenderunt (1. Cor. 2), licet ex sacrorum mysterio voluminum ante cognoverim; tamen in causa propria nunc probavi, Ruffine carissime. Ego enim qui audacia satis vota credebam, si vicissitudine litterarum imaginem nobis praesentiae mentiremur, audio te Aegypti secreta penetrare, Monachorum invisere choros, et coelestem in terris circumire familiam. O si nunc mihi Dominus Jesus Christus, vel Philippi ad Eunuchum (Act. 2), vel Abacuc ad Danielem (Dan. 14) translationem repente concederet, quam ego nunc tua arctis stringerem colla complexibus, quam illud os, quod mecum vel erravit aliquando, vel sapuit, impressis figerem labiis? Verum quia non tam te sic ad me venire, quam ego ad te sic ire non mereor; et invalidum, etiam quum sanum est, corpusculum crebri fregere morbi, has mei vicarias, et tibi obvias mitto, quae te copula amoris innexum, ad me usque perducant.
2. My first joy at such unexpected good tidings was due to our brother, Heliodorus. I desired to be sure of it, but did not dare to feel sure, especially as he told me that he had only heard it from some one else, and as the strangeness of the news impaired the credit of the story. Once more my wishes hovered in uncertainty and my mind wavered, till an Alexandrian monk who had some time previously been sent over by the dutiful zeal of the people to the Egyptian confessors (in will already martyrs), impelled me by his presence to believe the tidings. Even then, I must admit I still hesitated. For on the one hand he knew nothing either of your name or country: yet on the other what he said seemed likely to be true, agreeing as it did with the hint which had already reached me. At last the truth broke upon me in all its fulness, for a constant stream of persons passing through brought the report: Rufinus is at Nitria, and has reached the abode of the blessed Macarius. At this point I cast away all that restrained my belief, and then first really grieved to find myself ill. Had it not been that my wasted and enfeebled frame fettered my movements, neither the summer heat nor the dangerous voyage should have had power to retard the rapid steps of affection. Believe me, brother, I look forward to seeing you more than the storm-tossed mariner looks for his haven, more than the thirsty fields long for the showers, more than the anxious mother sitting on the curving shore expects her son. 2. Prima inopinati guadii ab Heliodoro fratre mihi est nuntiata felicitas. Non credebam certum, quod certum esse cupiebam, praesertim quum et ille ab alio se audisse diceret, et rei novitas fidem sermonis auferret. Rursum suspensa vota, nutantemque mentem quidam Alexandrinus Monachus, qui ad Aegyptios Confessores, et voluntate jam Martyres, pio plebis jam dudum fuerat transmissus obsequio, manifestus ad credulitatem nuntii auctor impulerat. Fateor et in hoc meam labasse sententiam. Nam cum et patriam tuam ignoraret, et nomen, in eo tamen [al. tantum] plus videbatur afferre, quod eadem asserebat, quae jam alius indicaverat. Tandem plenum veritatis pondus erupit: Ruffinum enim Nitriae esse, et ad beatum perrexisse Macarium, crebra commeantium multitudo referebat. Hic vero tota credulitatis frena laxavi, et tunc vere aegrotum esse me dolui. Et nisi me attenuati corporis vires quadam compede praepedissent, nec mediae fervor aestatis, nec navigantibus semper incertum mare, pia festinatione gradienti valuisset obsistere. Credas mihi, frater, non sic tempestate jactatus portum nauta prospectat: non sic sitientia imbres arva desiderant: nec sic curvo assidens littori anxia filium mater exspectat.
3. After that sudden whirlwind dragged me from your side, severing with its impious wrench the bonds of affection in which we were knit together, The dark blue raincloud lowered o'er my head: On all sides were the seas, on all the sky. (Aeneid. lib. III). I wandered about, uncertain where to go. Thrace, Pontus, Bithynia, the whole of Galatia and Cappadocia, Cilicia also with its burning heat, one after another shattered my energies. At last Syria presented itself to me as a most secure harbor to a shipwrecked man. Here, after undergoing every possible kind of sickness, I lost one of my two eyes; for Innocent, the half of my soul, was taken away from me by a sudden attack of fever. The one eye which I now enjoy, and which is all in all to me, is our Evagrius, upon whom I with my constant infirmities have come as an additional burden. We had with us also Hylas, the servant of the holy Melanium, who by his stainless conduct had wiped out the taint of his previous servitude. His death opened afresh the wound which had not yet healed. But as the apostle's words forbid us to mourn for those who sleep, and as my excess of grief has been tempered by the joyful news that has since come to me, I recount this last, that, if you have not heard it, you may learn it; and that, if you know it already, you may rejoice over it with me. 3. Postquam me a tuo latere subitus turbo convulsit: postquam glutino caritatis haerentem impia distraxit avulsio; Tunc mihi caeruleus supra caput astitit imber: tunc maria undique, et undique coelum (Aeneid. lib. III). Tandem in incerto peregrinationis erranti, cum me Thracia, Pontus, atque Bithynia, totumque Galatiae et Cappadociae iter, et fervido Cilicum terra fregisset aestu, Syria mihi velut fidissimus naufrago portus occurrit. Ubi ego quidquid morborum esse poterat expertus, ex duobus oculis unum perdidi, Innocentium enim, partem animae meae, repentinus febrium ardor abstraxit. Nunc uno et toto mihi lumine Evagrio nostro fruor, cui ego semper infirmus ad laborem cumulus accessi. Erat nobiscum et Hylas sanctae Melanii famulus, qui puritate morum, maculam servitutis abluerat: et hic necdum obductam rescidit cicatricem. Verum quia de dormientibus contristari Apostoli voce prohibemur, et nimia vis moeroris laeto superveniente nuntio temperata est, indicamus haec tibi, ut si nescis, discas; si ante cognovisti, pariter gaudeamus.
4. Bonosus, your friend, or, to speak more truly, mine as well as yours, is now climbing the ladder foreshown in Jacob's dream. [Genesis 28:12] He is bearing his cross, neither taking thought for the morrow [Matthew 6:34] nor looking back at what he has left. [Luke 9:62] He is sowing in tears that he may reap in joy. As Moses in a type so he in reality is lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. [Numbers 21:9] This is a true story, and it may well put to shame the lying marvels described by Greek and Roman pens. For here you have a youth educated with us in the refining accomplishments of the world, with abundance of wealth, and in rank inferior to none of his associates; yet he forsakes his mother, his sisters, and his dearly loved brother, and settles like a new tiller of Eden on a dangerous island, with the sea roaring round its reefs; while its rough crags, bare rocks, and desolate aspect make it more terrible still. No peasant or monk is to be found there. Even the little Onesimus you know of, in whose kisses he used to rejoice as in those of a brother, in this tremendous solitude no longer remains at his side. Alone upon the island—or rather not alone, for Christ is with him—he sees the glory of God, which even the apostles saw not save in the desert. He beholds, it is true, no embattled towns, but he has enrolled his name in the new city. Garments of sackcloth disfigure his limbs, yet so clad he will be the sooner caught up to meet Christ in the clouds. No watercourse pleasant to the view supplies his wants, but from the Lord's side he drinks the water of life. Place all this before your eyes, dear friend, and with all the faculties of your mind picture to yourself the scene. When you realize the effort of the fighter then you will be able to praise his victory. Round the entire island roars the frenzied sea, while the beetling crags along its winding shores resound as the billows beat against them. No grass makes the ground green; there are no shady copses and no fertile fields. Precipitous cliffs surround his dreadful abode as if it were a prison. But he, careless, fearless, and armed from head to foot with the apostle's armor, [Ephesians 6:13-17] now listens to God by reading the Scriptures, now speaks to God as he prays to the Lord; and it may be that, while he lingers in the island, he sees some vision such as that once seen by John. [Revelation 1:9-10] 4. Bono si laudes, et ejus solitudo. Bonosus tuus, imo ut verius dicam, noster, scalam praesagatam meus, et, Jacob somniante jam scandit: portat crucem suam, nec de crastino cogitat, nec post tergum respicit. Seminat in lacrymis, ut in gaudio metat. Et sacramento Moysi, serpentem in eremo suspendit (Num. 21. 9). Cedant huic veritati, tam Graeco quam Romano stylo, mendaciis ficta miracula. Ecce puer honestis saeculi nobiscum artibus institutus, cui opes affatim, dignitas apprime inter aequales erat, contemptu matre, sororibus, et carissimo sibi germano, insulam pelago circumsonante naufragam, cui asperae cautes et nuda saxa et solitudo terrori est, quasi quidam novus paradisi colonus insedit. Nullus ibi agricolarum, nullus Monachorum ne parvulus quidem, quem nosti, Onesimus, quo velut fratre in osculo fruebatur, in tanta vastitate adhaeret lateri [al. alteri] comes. Solus ibi, imo jam Christo comitante non solus, videt gloriam Dei, quam etiam Apostoli, nisi in deserto non viderant. Non quidem conspicit turritas urbes; sed in novae civitatis censu dedit nomen suum. Horrent sacco membra deformi [al. deformia]; sed sic melius obviam Christo rapietur in nubibus. Nulla curiporum amoenitate perfruitur; sed de latere Domini aquam vitae bibit. Propone haec tibi ante oculos, amice dulcissime, et in praesentiam rei totus animo ac mente convertere. Tunc poteris laudare victoriam, cum laborem praeliantis agnoveris. Totam circa insulam fremit insanum mare, et sinuosis montium illisum scopulis aequor reclamat. Nullo terra gramine viret, nullis vernans campus densatur umbraculis. Abruptae rupes, quasi quemdam horrore [al. horroris] carcerem claudunt. Ille securus, intrepidus, et totus de Apostolo armatus (Ephes. 6. 16), nunc Deum audit, dum divina relegit, nunc cum Deo loquitur, cum Dominum rogat: et fortasse ad exemplum Joannis (Apoc. 1. 9) aliquid videt, dum in insula commoratur.
5. What snares, think you, is the devil now weaving? What stratagems is he preparing? Perchance, mindful of his old trick, he will try to tempt Bonosus with hunger. But he has been answered already: Man shall not live by bread alone. [Matthew 4:4] Perchance he will lay before him wealth and fame. But it shall be said to him: They that desire to be rich fall into a trap and temptations, [1 Timothy 6:9] and For me all glorying is in Christ. [1 Corinthians 1:31] He will come, it may be, when the limbs are weary with fasting, and rack them with the pangs of disease; but the cry of the apostle will repel him: When I am weak, then am I strong, and My strength is made perfect in weakness. He will hold out threats of death; but the reply will be: I desire to depart and to be with Christ.[Philippians 1:23] He will brandish his fiery darts, but they will be received on the shield of faith. [Ephesians 6:16] In a word, Satan will assail him, but Christ will defend. Thanks be to You, Lord Jesus, that in Your day I have one able to pray to You for me. To You all hearts are open, Thou searchest the secrets of the heart, You see the prophet shut up in the fish's belly in the midst of the sea. [Jonah 2:1-2] You know then how he and I grew up together from tender infancy to vigorous manhood, how we were fostered in the bosoms of the same nurses, and carried in the arms of the same bearers; and how after studying together at Rome we lodged in the same house and shared the same food by the half savage banks of the Rhine. You know, too, that it was I who first began to seek to serve You. Remember, I beseech You, that this warrior of Yours was once a raw recruit with me. I have before me the declaration of Your majesty: "Whosoever shall teach and not do shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:19 May he enjoy the crown of virtue, and in return for his daily martyrdoms may he follow the Lamb robed in white raiment! [Revelation 14:4] For in my Father's house are many mansions, [John 14:2] and one star differs from another star in glory.[1 Corinthians 15:41] Give me strength to raise my head to a level with the saints' heels! I willed, but he performed. Do Thou therefore pardon me that I failed to keep my resolve, and reward him with the guerdon of his deserts.

I may perhaps have been tedious, and have said more than the short compass of a letter usually allows; but this, I find, is always the case with me when I have to say anything in praise of our dear Bonosus.

5. Quas nunc diabolum nectere credis tricas? quas parare arbitraris insidias? Forsan antiquae fraudis memor, famem suadere tentabit. Sed jam illi responsum est: Non in solo pane vivit homo (Matth. 4), Opes forsitan gloriamque proponet. Sed dicetur illi: Qui cupiunt divites fieri, incidunt in muscipulam, et tentationes (1. Tim. 6). Et Mihi gloriatio omnis in Christo est (Gal. 6). Fessa membra jejuniis, morbo gravante concutiet; sed Apostoli repercutietur eloquio: Quando enim infirmor, tunc fortior sum (2. Cor. 12). Et virtus in infirmitate perficitur (Ibidem). Minabitur mortem; sed audiet: Cupio dissolvi, et esse cum Christo (Philipp. 1). Ignita jacula vibrabit, sed excipientur [al. excutientur] scuto fidei. Et ne multa replicem (Ephes. 6): impugnabit Satanas, sed tutabitur Christus. Gratia tibi, Domine Jesu, quod in die tua habeo, qui pro me te possit rogare. Scis ipse (tibi enim patent pectora singulorum, qui cordis arcana rimaris, qui tantae bestiae alvo inclusum Prophetam in profundo vides) ut ego, et ille pariter a tenera infantia ad florentem usque adoleverimus aetatem, ut iidem nos nutricum sinus, iidem amplexus foverint bajulorum: et cum post Romana studia ad Rheni semibarbaras ripas, eodem cibo, pari frueremur hospitio, ut ego primus coeperim velle te colere. Momento quaeso hunc bellatorem tuum mecum quondam fuisse tyronem. Habeo promissum majestatis tuae, Qui docuerit, et non fecerit, minimus vocabitur in regno coelorum (Matth. 5). Fruatur ille virtutis corona, et ob quotidiana martyria stolatus agnum sequatur (Apoc. 14): Multae enim sunt mansiones apud Patrem (Joan. 14). Et Stella ab stella differt in claritate (1. Cor. 15). Mihi concede, ut inter Sanctorum calcanea caput possim levare: ut cum ego voluerim, ille perfecerit, mihi ignoscas, quia implere non potui, illi tribuas praemium quod meretur. Plura fortasse quam Epistolae brevitas patiebatur, longo sermone protraxerim, quod mihi semper accidere consuevit, quando aliquid de Bonosi nostri laude dicendum est.
6. However, to return to the point from which I set out, I beseech you do not let me pass wholly out of sight and out of mind. A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept. Let those who will, allow gold to dazzle them and be borne along in splendor, their very baggage glittering with gold and silver. Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price. The friendship which can cease has never been real. Farewell in Christ. 6. Sed ut ad illud redeam, unde discesseram, obsecro te, ne amicum, qui diu quaeritur, vix invenitur, difficile servatur, pariter cum oculis mens amittat. Fulgeat cuilibet auro; et pompaticis ferculis corusca ex sarcinis metalla radient. Caritas non potest comparari. Dilectio pretium non habet. Amicitia quae desinere potest, vera nunquam fuit. Vale in Christo.
Source:
  • Newadvent.org, Church Fathers, Letter 3 (Jerome) -  http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001003.htm
Source:
  • Paracalypsis, Patrologiae. Hiedronimus -  http://patrologia.narod.ru/patrolog/hieronym/

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