30 September 2015

St Jerome, Doctor of the Church


When I ask God for an Orthodox Western Rite parish to be founded in San Francisco, I do so under the intercession of the Four Latin Doctors of the Church, the Great Teachers of the West: Sts Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, and Jerome.  Today is the feast of the latter-most and I post here his Vita, as recorded in the Breviary Office for this day.

Antiphon: O Doctor right excellent, O light of Holy Church, O blessed Jerome, lover of the divine law, entreat for us the Son of God.

V. The Lord loved him, and adorned him.
R. He clothed him with a robe of glory.

Collect
O God, who for the exposition of thy holy Scriptures didst bestow upon thy Church the wondrous teachings of blessed Jerome thy Confessor and Doctor : grant, we beseech thee ; that by the intercession of his merits, we may of thee be enabled to perform those things which he taught in word and deed. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Jerome was the son of one Eusebius, and was born at Sdrigni in Dalmatia, in the reign of the Emperor Constantius.  He was baptized at Rome when a young boy, and studied there, under the instruction of Donatus and other very learned personages.  He travelled in Gaul for the sake of improving his mind, and there sought the friendship of divers godly men learned in the Scriptures, and made with his own hand many copies of the holy books.  He afterwards betook himself to Greece, where he attained eminence as a philosopher and orator, in the following of the most famous theologians.  At Constantinople, in especial, he sat at the feet of Gregory of Nazianzus, from whom he professeth himself to have learnt his theology.  Then, for godliness' sake, he went to see the home of the Lord Christ, and so throughout all Palestine.  He witnesseth that this pilgrimage, where he got the help of the most learned of the Jews for the understanding of the Holy Scriptures, did him much good.

He withdrew himself into the wild deserts of Syria, where he passed four years in studying the Holy Scriptures and in considering the blessedness of heaven, afflicting his body by alway denying himself, by bitter tears, and by chastisement of the flesh.  He was ordained Priest by Paulinus, Patriarch of Antioch.  He went to Rome on account of the quarrelling of certain Bishops with Paulinus and Epiphanius, and there helped Pope Damasus in the writing of his letters upon Church affairs.  But the longing for his old solitude came upon him, and he went back to Palestine, where, in the monastery at Bethlehem, built beside the cradle of the Lord Christ by the Lady Paula of Rome, he set himself to enter on earth upon the life of heaven, serving God in reading and writing without ceasing, regardless of the sufferings of a body tormented by divers diseases and pains.

Hard questions upon the interpretation of the Holy Scripture were sent to him from all parts of the earth, as to an oracle.  He was oftentimes consulted by Pope Damasus and by the holy Augustine upon the meaning of the most obscure passages of the Scripture, because of his extraordinary learning, and that he knew not the Latin and Greek tongues only, but also the Hebrew and Chaldee, and, as the same Augustine testifieth, had read nearly all writers.  He attacked heretics with keen publications, and ever undertook the defence of the godly and Catholic.  He translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, and, at the command of Damasus, reformed, according to the original Greek, the existing version of the New.  Upon great part of the Scriptures he wrote commentaries.  He translated likewise into Latin the works of many learned men, and himself contributed to the Christian life many monuments of his own wit.  He lived to an extreme old age, and passed away to heaven, famous for learning and holiness, in the reign of the Emperor Honorius.  His body was buried at Bethlehem, but hath since been brought to Rome, where it lieth in the Church of St. Mary-at-the-Manger.