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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VI:
The Letters of St. Jerome.: Letter XI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Letter XI. To the Virgins of Æmona.

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 a.d.

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, 142 and God’s handmaidens no fellowship with a sinner, yet a harlot was allowed to wash the Lord’s feet with her tears, 143 and dogs are permitted to eat of their masters’ crumbs. 144 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.” 145 He wills the repentance of a sinner rather than his death, 146 and carries home the poor stray sheep on His own shoulders. 147 So, too, when the prodigal son returns, his father receives him with joy. 148 Nay more, the apostle says: “Judge nothing before the time.” 149 For “who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth.” 150 And “let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.” 151 “Bear ye one another’s burdens.” 152

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 wrong. 153 And a treasure is often stowed in earthen vessels. 154 Peter thrice denied his Lord, yet his bitter tears restored him to his place. “To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much.” 155 No word is said of the flock as a whole, yet the angels joy in heaven over the safety of one sick ewe. 156 And if any one demurs to this reasoning, the Lord Himself has said: “Friend, is thine eye evil because I am good?” 157


Footnotes

12:142

2 Cor. vi. 14.

12:143

Luke vii. 37 sqq.

12:144

Matt. xv. 27.

12:145

Matt. 9:12, 13.

12:146

Ezek. xxxiii. 11.

12:147

Luke xv. 5.

12:148

Luke xv. 20.

12:149

1 Cor. iv. 5.

12:150

Rom. xiv. 4.

12:151

1 Cor. x. 12.

12:152

Gal. vi. 2.

12:153

Cf. Prov. xiv. 12.

12:154

2 Cor. iv. 7.

12:155

Luke vii. 47.

12:156

Luke 15:7, 10.

12:157

Matt. xx. 15.


Next: Letter XII

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