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Letter LXXI. To Lucinius.

Lucinius was a wealthy Spaniard of Bætica who in conformity with the ascetic ideas of his time had made a vow of continence with his wife Theodora. Being much interested in the study of scripture he prop. 152 posed to visit Bethlehem, and in a.d. 397 sent several scribes thither to transcribe for him Jerome’s principal writings. To these on their return home Jerome now entrusts the following letter. In it he encourages Lucinius to fulfil his purpose of coming to Bethlehem, describes the books which he is sending to him, and answers two questions relating to ecclesiastical usage. He also sends him some trifling presents.

Shortly after receiving the letter (written in 398 a.d.) Lucinius died and Jerome wrote to Theodora to console her for her loss (Letter LXXV).

1. Your letter which has suddenly arrived was not expected by me, and coming in an unlooked for way it has helped to rouse me from my torpor by the glad tidings which it conveys. I hasten to embrace with the arms of love one whom my eyes have never seen, and silently say to myself:—‘“oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I flee away and be at rest.”’ 2202 Then would I find him “whom my soul loveth.” 2203 In you the Lord’s words are now truly fulfilled: “many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham.” 2204 In those days the faith of my Lucinius was foreshadowed in Cornelius, “centurion of the band called the Italian band.” 2205 And when the apostle Paul writes to the Romans: “whensoever I take my journey into Spain I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you;” 2206 he shews by the tale of his previous successes what he looked to gain from that province. 2207 Laying in a short time the foundation of the gospel “from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum,” 2208 he enters Rome in bonds, that he may free those who are in the bonds of error and superstition. Two years he dwells in his own hired house 2209 that he may give to us the house eternal which is spoken of in both the testaments. 2210 The apostle, the fisher of men, 2211 has cast forth his net, and, among countless kinds of fish, has landed you like a magnificent gilt-bream. You have left behind you the bitter waves, the salt tides, the mountain-fissures; you have despised Leviathan who reigns in the waters. 2212 Your aim is to seek the wilderness with Jesus and to sing the prophet’s song: “my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary,” 2213 or, as he sings in another place, “lo, then would I wander far off and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” 2214 Since you have left Sodom and are hastening to the mountains, I beseech you with a father’s affection not to look behind you. Your hands have grasped the handle of the plough, 2215 the hem of the Saviour’s garment, 2216 and His locks wet with the dew of night; 2217 do not let them go. Do not come down from the housetop of virtue to seek for the clothes which you wore of old, nor return home from the field. 2218 Do not like Lot set your heart on the plain or upon the pleasant gardens; 2219 for these are watered not, as the holy land, from heaven but by Jordan’s muddy stream made salt by contact with the Dead Sea.

2. Many begin but few persevere to the end. “They which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the crown.” 2220 But of us on the other hand it is said: “So run that ye may obtain.” 2221 Our master of the games is not grudging; he does not give the palm to one and disgrace another. His wish is that all his athletes may alike win garlands. My soul rejoices, yet the very greatness of my joy makes me feel sad. Like Ruth 2222 when I try to speak I burst into tears. Zacchæus, the convert of an hour, is accounted worthy to receive the Saviour as his guest. 2223 Martha and Mary make ready a feast and then welcome the Lord to it. 2224 A harlot washes His feet with her tears and against His burial anoints His body with the ointment of good works. 2225 Simon the leper invites the Master with His disciples and is not refused. 2226 To Abraham it is said: “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” 2227 He leaves Chaldæa, he leaves Mesopotamia; he seeks what he knows not, not to lose Him whom he has found. He does not deem it possible to keep both his country and his Lord; even at that early day he is already fulfilling the prophet David’s words: “I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” 2228 He is called “a Hebrew,” in Greek περάτής, a passer-over, for not content with present excellence but forgetting those things which are behind he reaches forth to that which is before. 2229 He makes his own the words of the psalmist: “they shall go from strength to strength.” 2230 Thus his name has a mystic meaning and he has opened for you a way to seek not your own things but those of another. You too must leave your home as he did, and must take for your parents, brothers, and relations only those p. 153 who are linked to you in Christ. “Whosoever,” He says, “shall do the will of my father…the same is my brother and sister and mother.” 2231

3. You have with you one who was once your partner in the flesh but is now your partner in the spirit; once your wife but now your sister; once a woman but now a man; once an inferior but now an equal. 2232 Under the same yoke as you she hastens toward the same heavenly kingdom.

A too careful management of one’s income, a too near calculation of one’s expenses—these are habits not easily laid aside. Yet to escape the Egyptian woman Joseph had to leave his garment with her. 2233 And the young man who followed Jesus having a linen cloth cast about him, when he was assailed by the servants had to throw away his earthly covering and to flee naked. 2234 Elijah also when he was carried up in a chariot of fire to heaven left his mantle of sheepskin on earth. 2235 Elisha used for sacrifice the oxen and the yokes which hitherto he had employed in his work. 2236 We read in Ecclesiasticus: “he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith.” 2237 As long as we are occupied with the things of the world, as long as our soul is fettered with possessions and revenues, we cannot think freely of God. “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” 2238 “Ye cannot,” the Lord says, “serve God and Mammon.” 2239 Now the laying aside of money is for those who are beginners in the way, not for those who are made perfect. Heathens like Antisthenes 2240 and Crates 2241 the Theban have done as much before now. But to offer one’s self to God, this is the mark of Christians and apostles. These like the widow out of their penury cast their two mites into the treasury, and giving all that they have to the Lord are counted worthy to hear his words: “ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” 2242

4. You can see for yourself why I mention these things; without expressly saying it I am inviting you to take up your abode at the holy places. Your abundance has supported the want of many that some day their riches may abound to supply your want; 2243 you have made to yourself “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” 2244 Such conduct deserves praise and merits to be compared with the virtue of apostolic times. Then, as you know, believers sold their possessions and brought the prices of them and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: 2245 a symbolic act designed to shew that men must trample on covetousness. But the Lord yearns for believers’ souls more than for their riches. We read in the Proverbs: “the ransom of a man’s soul are his own riches.” 2246 We may, indeed, take a man’s own riches to be those which do not come from some one else, or from plunder; according to the precept: “honour God with thy just labours.” 2247 But the sense is better if we understand a man’s “own riches” to be those hidden treasures which no thief can steal and no robber wrest from him. 2248

5. As for my poor works which from no merits of theirs but simply from your own kindness you say that you desire to have; I have given them to your servants to transcribe, I have seen the paper-copies made by them, and I have repeatedly ordered them to correct them by a diligent comparison with the originals. For so many are the pilgrims passing to and fro that I have been unable to read so many volumes. They have found me also troubled by a long illness from which this Lent I am slowly recovering as they are leaving me. If then you find errors or omissions which interfere with the sense, these you must impute not to me but to your own servants; they are due to the ignorance or carelessness of the copyists, who write down not what they find but what they take to be the meaning, and do but expose their own mistakes when they try to correct those of others. It is a false rumour which has reached you to the effect that I have translated the books of Josephus 2249 and the volumes of the holy men Papias 2250 and Polycarp. 2251 I have neither the leisure nor the ability to preserve the charm of these masterpieces in another tongue. Of Origen 2252 and Didymus 2253 I have translated a few things, to set before my countrymen some specimens of Greek teaching. The canon of the Hebrew verity 2254 —except the octoteuch 2255 which I have at present in hand—I have placed at the disposal of your slaves and copyists. Doubtless you already possess the version from the septuagint 2256 p. 154 which many years ago I diligently revised for the use of students. The new testament I have restored to the authoritative form of the Greek original. 2257 For as the true text of the old testament can only be tested by a reference to the Hebrew, so the true text of the new requires for its decision an appeal to the Greek.

6. You ask me whether you ought to fast on the Sabbath 2258 and to receive the eucharist daily according to the custom—as currently reported—of the churches of Rome and Spain. 2259 Both these points have been treated by the eloquent Hippolytus, 2260 and several writers have collected passages from different authors bearing upon them. The best advice that I can give you is this. Church-traditions—especially when they do not run counter to the faith—are to be observed in the form in which previous generations have handed them down; and the use of one church is not to be annulled because it is contrary to that of another. 2261 As regards fasting, I wish that we could practise it without intermission as—according to the Acts of the Apostles 2262 —Paul did and the believers with him even in the season of Pentecost and on the Lord’s Day. They are not to be accused of manichæism, for carnal food ought not to be preferred before spiritual. As regards the holy eucharist you may receive it at all times 2263 without qualm of conscience or disapproval from me. You may listen to the psalmist’s words:—“O taste and see that the Lord is good;” 2264 you may sing as he does:—“my heart poureth forth a good word.” 2265 But do not mistake my meaning. You are not to fast on feast-days, neither are you to abstain on the week days in Pentecost. 2266 In such matters each province may follow its own inclinations, and the traditions which have been handed down should be regarded as apostolic laws.

7. You send me two small cloaks and a sheepskin mantle from your wardrobe and ask me to wear them myself or to give them to the poor. In return I send to you and your sister 2267 in the Lord four small haircloths suitable to your religious profession and to your daily needs, for they are the mark of poverty and the outward witness of a continual penitence. To these I have added a manuscript containing Isaiah’s ten most obscure visions which I have lately elucidated with a critical commentary. When you look upon these trifles call to mind the friend in whom you delight and hasten the voyage which you have for a time deferred. And because “the way of man is not in himself” but it is the Lord that “directeth his steps;” 2268 if any hindrance should interfere—I hope none may—to prevent you from coming, I pray that distance may not sever those united in affection and that I may find my Lucinius present in absence through an interchange of letters.



Ps. lv. 6. PBV.


Song of Sol. 3.1.


Matt. viii. 11.


Acts x. 1.


Rom. xv. 24.




Rom. xv. 19.


Acts xxviii. 30.


Utriusque instrumenti æternam domum. The ‘twofold record’ is that of the old and new testaments both of which speak of the church under the figure of a house. For the term “instrument” see note on Letter.


Matt. iv. 19.


Cf. Ps. civ. 26.


Ps. 63:1, 2.


Ps. 55:7, 8.


Luke ix. 62.


Matt. ix. 20.


Song of Sol. 5.2.


Matt. 24:17, 18.


Gen. xiii. 10.


Jerome quoting from memory substitutes ‘crown’ for ‘prize.’


1 Cor. ix. 24.


Ruth i. 14.


Luke xix. 5.


Joh. xii. 2.


Mark xiv. 8.


Matt. xxvi. 6.


Gen. xii. 1.


Ps. xxxix. 12.


Phil. iii. 13.


Ps. lxxxiv. 7.


Matt. xii. 50.


His wife Theodora.


Gen. xxxix. 12.


Mark 14:51, 52.


2 Kings 2:11, 13.


1 Kings xix. 21.


Ecclesiasticus 13.1.


2 Cor. 6:14, 15.


Matt. vi. 24.


A disciple of Socrates, subsequently the founder of the Cynic School. Fl. 366 b.c.


See note on Letter LXVI. § 8.


Matt. xix. 28.


2 Cor. viii. 14.


Luke xvi. 9.


Acts 4:34, 35.


Prov. xiii. 8, LXX.


Prov. iii. 9, LXX.


Cf. Matt. vi. 20.


See note on Letter XXII. § 35.


A writer of the sub-apostolic age who had been a disciple of the apostle John. He was bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia.


Another sub-apostolic writer who was also a disciple of John. He became bishop of Smyrna and underwent martyrdom at the age of 86.


See note on Letter XXXIII.


The blind theologian of Alexandria by whose teaching Jerome had himself profited. See Letter XXXIV. § 3.


The old testament as translated direct from the Hebrew.


The first eight books.


This work Jerome accomplished between the years 383 and 390 a.d. Only the Psalter and Job are extant.


This task he undertook at the request of pope Damasus in 383 a.d. See Letter XXVII.


i.e. on Saturday.


At this time the communion was celebrated daily at Constantinople, in Africa, and in Spain. At Rome it was celebrated on every day of the week except Saturday (the Sabbath). See Socrates, H. E. v. 22.


A leading Roman churchman, bishop of Portus, in the early part of the third century, the rival and enemy of pope Callistus and author of many theological treatises, one of which—the Refutation of all Heresies—has recently become famous.


Compare the similar advice given by Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury (Bede, H. E. 1. 27).


Nothing in the book of Acts bears out this statement. Fasting at the times mentioned was forbidden in Jerome’s day.


Daily if you will and on fast days as well as on feast days.


Ps. xxxiv. 8.


Ps. xlv. 1, Vulg.


i.e. the period of fifty days between Easterday and Whitsunday. See Letter XLI. §3.


i.e. his wife Theodora.


Jer. x. 23.

Next: Letter LXXII