Virgins of Æmona
was a Roman colony not far from Stridon, Jerome's birthplace. The
virgins to whom the note is addressed had omitted to answer his letters, and he
now writes to upbraid them for their remissness. The date of the letter is 374
(Note: This English
synopsis is not a translation of the Latin version.)
Conqueritur, quod Virgines Aemonae in Italiae finibus degentes, saepe ab
eo litteris provocatae, nunquam rescripserint, ostenditque non esse suis
This scanty sheet of paper shows in what a
wilderness I live, and because of it I have to say much in few words. For,
desirous though I am to speak to you more fully, this miserable scrap compels me
to leave much unsaid. Still ingenuity makes up for lack of means, and by writing
small I can say a great deal. Observe, I beseech you, how I love you, even in
the midst of my difficulties, since even the want of materials does not stop me
from writing to you.
Pardon, I beseech you, an aggrieved man: if
I speak in tears and in anger it is because I have been injured. For in return
for my regular letters you have not sent me a single syllable. Light, I know,
has no communion with darkness,
[2 Corinthians 6:14]
and God's handmaidens no fellowship with a sinner, yet a harlot was allowed to
wash the Lord's feet with her tears, and dogs are permitted to eat of their
It was the Saviour's mission to call sinners and not the righteous; for, as He
said Himself, they that be whole need not a physician."
He wills the repentance of a sinner rather than his death,
and carries home the poor stray sheep on His own shoulders. [Luke 15:5]
So, too, when the prodigal son returns, his father receives him with joy.
Nay more, the apostle says: "Judge nothing before the time."
[1 Corinthians 4:5]
For "who are you that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he stands
And "let him that stands take heed lest he fall."
[1 Corinthians 10:12]
"Bear ye one another's burdens." [Galatians 6:2]
Chartae exiguitas indicium solitudinis est; et idcirco longum sermonem brevi
spatio coarctavi; quia et vobiscum volebam prolixius loqui, et angustia
schedulae cogebat tacere. Nunc igitur ingenio est victa pauperies. Minutae
quidem litterae, sed confabulatio longa est. Et tamen in hoc necessitatis
articulo animadvertite caritatem, cum me nec penuria scriptionis valuerit
prohibere, ne scriberem. Vos autem, ignoscite, obsecro, dolenti; dico enim
laesus, dico lacrymans et irascens: ne unum quidem apicem, toties vobis
tribuenti officium, praestitistis. Scio quia nulla communio luci et tenebris
est: nulla cum ancillis Dei, peccatori societas. Attamen et meretrix Domino
pedes lacrymis lavit (Luc. 7), et de dominorum micis canes edunt (Matth. 15).
Et ipse Salvator non venit justos vocare, sed peccatores. Non enim egent
sani medico (Ibid. 5. 31). Et magis vult poenitentiam
peccatoris, quam mortem. Et errantem oviculam suis humeris refert. Et prodigum
filium revertentem, excipit laetus pater (Luc. 15). Quin potius
Apostolus ait: Nolite judicare ante tempus (1. Cor. 4. 5).
Tu enim quis es, qui alienum servum judices? Suo Domino stat, aut cadit (Rom.
14. 4). Et, qui stat, videat ne cadat. Et, invicem onera vestra
portate (Galat. 6. 2).
Dear sisters, man's envy judges in one way,
Christ in another; and the whisper of a corner is not the same as the sentence
of His tribunal. Many ways seem right to men which are afterwards found to be
And a treasure is often stowed in earthen vessels.
[2 Corinthians 4:7]
Peter thrice denied his Lord, yet his bitter tears restored him to his place.
"To whom much is forgiven, the same loves much."
No word is said of the flock as a whole, yet the angels joy in heaven over the
safety of one sick ewe. [Luke 15:7, 10]
And if any one demurs to this reasoning, the Lord Himself has said: "Friend, is
your eye evil because I am good?" [Matthew 20:15]
Aliter, sorores carissimae, hominum
livor, aliter Christus judicat. Non eadem sententia est tribunalis ejus, et
anguli susurronum. Multae hominibus viae videntur justae (Prov. 14. 12),
quae postea reperiuntur pravae. Et in testaceis vasculis thesaurus saepe
reconditur. Petrum ter negantem (Matth. 26), amarae in suum locum
restituere lacrymae. Cui plus dimittitur, plus amat (Luc. 7. 47).
De toto grege siletur, et ob unius morbidae pecudis salutem Angeli laetantur in
coelo. Quod si cui videtur indignum, audiat a Domino: Amice, si ego bonus
sum, quare oculus tuus nequam est (Matth. 20. 15)?
time, the location of Æmona
overlapped with the Southwest
part of the old nucleus of the modern city of Ljubljana, and where numerous
remains can still be found today.
- New Advent (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913), Fathers of the Church, Letters of St. Jerome - http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001.htm
Patrologiae, Hiedronimus -