Monasticism in the West: Martin, Cassian and Jerome
I. East and west
The statement that "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," is based on racial differences. Some of these are superficial, and find expression in the extraordinary contrasts between the Oriental and the Occidental ways of doing things. But others are temperamental. The East is the land of meditation, where men think for the joy of thinking, and do not require that their thoughts shall tend toward any concrete conclusion. The West is the land of action.
The meditative man desires to withdraw from the world. He seeks a place of quiet where he may escape the manifold distractions of common life; he subordinates the body to the spirit; he dreams of an ideal state for which this present life is a preparation or probation. He believes in a "world-renouncing ethic," whose formula is "We live to die."
The active man desires to use and control the world. His happiness is to immerse himself in affairs. He is forever busy with investigation, and with the problem of applying the results of investigation to the conditions of life. He takes the planet as it stands, and is glad that he is a citizen of it; he would make the most of all his opportunities. He believes in a "world-affirming ethic," whose formula is "We live to live."
It is easy to exaggerate the contrast between the mind of the East and the mind of the West. Human nature laughs at generalizations. Two great religions of the East have contradicted the doctrine that we live to die. Confucius said nothing about the gods, Moses said nothing about the life to come. These religions, in the heart of the East, concerned themselves with the present life. The teachings of Confucius were as practical as the teachings of Franklin. The historians, the poets and the prophets of Judaism agreed that the rewards and punishments of God are to be looked for in this world, and appear in health and in sickness, in prosperity and in adversity.
Indeed, the East and the West have twice met already. They met in Greek philosophy, where the Stoics regarded the world from the point of view which we consider characteristically Eastern, and their neighbors the Epicureans regarded life from the point of view which seems to us distinctively Western. They met also in the Christian religion, whose essential adjectives are the words "spiritual" and "social." Jesus taught a love of God which includes all that is Oriental in its renunciation of the world, and a love of man which in its affirmation of the world includes all that is Occidental.
The contrast, however, between the East and the West is real and abiding. It is true that the difference between the monastic ideal of Basil and the monastic ideal of Benedict is surprisingly slight. Basil is as practical as Benedict, and makes quite as much of the life of action: he sets his monks to till the ground and to apply themselves to reading and writing. The fact remains, however, that Eastern monasticism and Western monasticism took different roads, and have had a very different history: largely because the Eastern monks were Orientals and the Western monks were Occidentals. The racial differences appeared.
Eastern monasticism renounced the world: at first by way of protest, then by way of frank despair. At first the Eastern monks came back occasionally to express their opinion of the world. They swarmed out of the deserts into the streets of the cities in which the bishops were sitting in council, and denounced heretics and sinners. Sometimes they were in the right; more often, in the wrong. Their monastic seclusion had made them ignorant fanatics. But gradually they ceased to take even an occasional part in the affairs of the world. They turned their backs upon it in despair. They shut themselves up behind their high stone was and let the world go by. In the monotony of their regulated life there was no place for individual expression. Their annals no longer showed great names. They were connected with the church only by the fact that the bishops were selected from their brotherhood. But the bishops came from the monasteries unacquainted with the life of the lay world, and unfitted to take any influential part in it. Far from continuing the original protest, they were submissive servants of the state.
In Western monasticism, on the other hand, the monks developed the institution by the continual assertion of individuality. Their history is filled with the names of those who were leaders of their generation. And these leaders, for the most part, showed their leadership by their defiance of uniformity. The monks contended with the bishops, perpetuating the initial protest against the conventionality and secularity of the church. They contended among themselves, and thereby made their history a series of notable reforms, each of which made the monastic ideal higher and wider than before. And they controlled the world. They had such part in it that no history of Europe can be adequately written without including them.
The three outstanding names of the monastic movement in the West are St. Martin, St. John Cassian, and St. Jerome. Each promoted the new life in his own way: Martin by his example, Cassian by teaching the West the methods of the East, Jerome by a propaganda which amazed and startled the society of Rome.
The disciple and biographer of St. Martin, Sulpicius Severus, begins his book with a preface addressed to his friend Desiderius to whom he entrusts it. I had determined, he says, to keep this little treatise private. I am sending it to you because you have asked me for it so many times, but on the understanding that you will not show it to anybody else: remember, you promised me that. At the same time, I have my fears that in spite of my entreaty and your promise you will nevertheless publish it. If you do, please ask the readers to pay more attention to the facts which are here related than to the imperfect language in which they are set forth; remind them that the kingdom of God consists not of eloquence, but of faith, and that the gospel was preached not by orators, but by fishermen. Or, better still, when you publish the book, erase my name from the title-page, that the book may proclaim its subject-matter, while it tells nothing of the author.
Thus we are made acquainted with the pleasant and modest person whose account of St. Martin is the only considerable source of information concerning him.
Martin was the son of pagan parents, in Pannonia, where his father was a military tribune. In his early childhood he was attracted toward the Christian Church,—so much so that when he was but twelve years of age, he made up his mind to be a hermit. This intention his father hindered, and three years later, upon the occasion of an edict which required that the sons of veterans should be enrolled for military service, he sent him, much against young Martin's will, into the army. There Martin tried to follow his vocation by changing places with his servant, whose boots he insisted upon cleaning. It was evident to all his associates that the warfare in which this soldier was concerned was directed not against the Goths, but against the devil. To this statement Sulpicius adds that all his companions marvellously loved him.
Then one day in the midst of a fierce winter, when there was much suffering among the poor, Martin met at the gate of Amiens a shivering beggar. Thereupon he took off his military cloak, cut it into two pieces with his sword, and put one half upon the beggar's back. That night in a dream Christ appeared to Martin wearing the half of the severed cloak and saying to a multitude of angels, "Martin, who is still but a catechumen, clothed me with this robe." In consequence of this dream Martin was baptized, being then about twenty years of age.
Presently, when the commander of the army reviewed the troops on the eve of a battle with the barbarians, Martin took the opportunity to ask that he might be relieved of his military duties in order to devote himself to the religious life. "I am the soldier of Christ," he said, "it is not lawful for me to fight." When the commander, naturally enough, accused him of cowardice, he offered to go into the battle on the morrow, wholly unarmed and without the protection of shield or helmet, at the head of the army, if after that he might be dismissed. That night the barbarians decided that the odds were too much against them, and the next day they surrendered. And Martin was set free.
Entering thus upon a life devoted to religion, Martin found that his new career offered him quite as many opportunities for adventure as the old. Once, in the Alps, he was attacked by robbers, and was in peril of his life. One of the robbers had his axe uplifted to strike Martin, when another stopped him. This kindly brigand Martin converted. "Who are you?" said the brigand. "I am a Christian," said Martin.—"Are you not afraid?"—"I have never been more sure of my safety in my life. But I am afraid for you: you are in danger of everlasting damnation." Sulpicius had the story from a hermit, whom he found to be the converted robber himself.
Once as he prayed, the place where Martin was kneeling was filled with a glory of purple light, and there appeared one crowned with gold and clad in a royal robe. And the vision said, "Martin, I am the Lord Christ, at last descended out of heaven to earth, and manifested first of all to you." And Martin, instructed by long experience, at first kept silence, till the vision said again, "Martin, do you not believe?" To which the saint replied, "The Lord Jesus never promised to return in purple, with a crown upon his head. Where are the prints of the nails?" At the sound of these words the defeated devil vanished.
Martin suffered much from many enemies, natural and supernatural.
He was reviled by those who felt that his holy life was a criticism upon themselves. Sulpicius says, "Some of his calumniators, although very few, some of his maligners, I say, were reported to be bishops!" The biographer is reluctant to recall the names of any of these injurious ecclesiastics.
"I shall deem it sufficient," he says, "that, if any of them reads this account and perceives that he is himself pointed at, he may have the grace to blush. But if, on the other hand, he shows anger, he will, by that very fact, own that he is among those spoken of, though all the time perhaps I may have been thinking of some other person."
This enmity of officials was the natural result of Martin's increasing influence. He was beginning to disturb the conscience of the contented church. He was exhibiting in his life of renunciation an ideal which contrasted sharply with the lax and secular religion of the time. It was an ideal which devout souls recognized and which they desired to follow. Sulpicius says that when he visited Martin, the saint continually insisted that the allurements of the world and all secular burdens are to be abandoned that one may be free and unencumbered in serving the Lord Jesus. Sulpicius abandoned them. Paulinus of Nola, a great nobleman, forsook his splendid house and his fair estate on the Garonne, and the pleasant society in which he lived, to follow Martin into the solitude of the woods. It made a profound sensation in the Roman world. Many others undertook the ascetic life.
Martin was thus the Antony of the West, the pioneer of an unorganized monasticism, attracting men by the fascination of his holy life, but leaving them for the most part to use such spiritual methods as they pleased. His settlement near Poictiers, in 360, almost coincident with the monastic life of Basil and Gregory, was probably the first monastery in Europe. The Life of Martin which Sulpicius wrote became a kind of monastic gospel, like the Life of Antony written by Athanasius. It was read everywhere. It was the most popular book of the fourth century.
Martin was like Antony in his belief that he was visited by devils; whom, however, he encountered without fear. He had even a kindly feeling for the chief of the devils, to whom he once ventured to promise salvation, if he would but repent him of his sins.
The people of Tours called Martin from his prayers and meditations to be their bishop. They had to deceive him to get him from his monastery. One of them pretended that his wife was desperately ill, and begged him to come and visit her. Then they all crowded about him, and he was made bishop in spite of himself. He went on foot about his vast diocese, preaching from town to town, contending with paganism, destroying idols, converting the heathen, and everywhere winning the love and reverence of men. He was the evangelist of France; the apostle to the Gauls.
He never ceased to be a monk. Two miles out of Tours, beside the river Loire, he found a retreat so secret and retired that he was able to hide himself in it. It was like the glen of Annesi as described by Basil. "On one side it was surrounded by a precipitous rock of a lofty mountain, while the Loire had shut in the rest of the plain by a bay extending back for a little distance; and the place could be approached only by a single passage, and that a very narrow one." But even in this concealment he was discovered. Young men, like-minded with him, found him out, and settled near him in caves of the overhanging mountain, till there were eighty of them, meeting daily for prayer and having their meals in common, clothed in garments of camel's hair.
Once Martin appeared at the court of the emperor Maximus, to intercede for the Priscillianists. These were gentle, enthusiastic and mistaken persons who had fallen into a heresy concerning which we are informed only by references in the writings of their enemies. The descriptions sound like a sort of gnosticism. The Priscillianists were educated and even literary persons, and some of them were rich. They were attacked by two neighboring bishops, regarding whose bad character even the orthodox accounts agree. These bishops gathered a council of their brethren and condemned the heretics. They appealed to the emperor, and the emperor was about to confirm the condemnation when Martin appeared. He had no inclination toward the errors of the Priscillianists, but he knew that their lives were innocent and holy. In response to his intercession the emperor promised to set them free. Hardly was the saint's back turned, however, when the angry bishops persuaded the emperor and he had Priscillian beheaded, with six of his companions. The event is memorable as the first formal handing over of a condemned heretic to a secular court for punishment. It was the beginning of a long series of shameful tragedies.
Martin indignantly protested, and at first refused to hold communion with the offending bishops. In order, however, to save the lives of some of the lesser members of the sect, he felt it necessary to yield. He attended a synod of bishops, and he dined at the table of the emperor. It is said that when the wine was passed to him, and he was expected to pass it to the emperor, he gave it to his chaplain, thus declaring that the humblest priest is above the proudest prince. So, at least, the incident was interpreted in a day when the church was contending with the state for the mastery of the world. As for the bishops, St. Martin declared that if God would forgive him for sitting with them in that synod, he would never attend another. He was of the mind of St. Gregory of Nazianzus regarding ecclesiastical conventions.
"No one ever saw him enraged or excited," says Sulpicius, or lamenting or laughing; he was always one and the same, displaying a kind of heavenly happiness in his countenance. Never was there a feeling in his heart except piety, peace and tender mercy." The cape which he wore—capella—became one of the most precious possessions of the kings of France, and the sanctuary which was built to contain it was called Capella, hence our word chapel. The position of his memorial day in the church calendar gives to the most beautiful weeks of autumn the name of St. Martin's Summer.
When Martin died, in the year 400, John Cassian was completing the second of two long visits to the monasteries of Egypt. Cassian was a man of the West, probably of Gaul. His well-to-do parents had given him an excellent education, which had so filled his memory with the words of the classic authors that they frequently came in between him and the sacred page. He could not read the accounts of the battles and heroes of the books of Kings and Chronicles without remembering Homer, and with the verses of the Psalms he heard the choruses of Æschylus.
He was still young, however, when the passion for the ascetic life possessed him. There being then no monasteries in his native land, he made his way to the East, a pioneer of those who, long after, out of the same country, journeyed as pilgrims or crusaders to the Christian shrines of Palestine. He settled among monks in Bethlehem. But Cassian had a hungry mind. He was not content to say his prayers and save his soul. He would be not a monk only, but a student of monasticism. He made himself familiar, accordingly, with the monastic methods first of Bethlehem, and then of Syria, and asked permission to visit the famous communities of Egypt. Leave for such a journey was given on the condition of a speedy return, and Cassian and his friend Germanus started on their voyage of discovery.
They landed on the Delta of the Nile, and proceeded immediately to visit the holy hermits who had their dwelling in the salt marshes. They interviewed old Chæremon, now past his hundredth year, who had prayed so continuously that he could no longer stand up straight, but went upon his hands and knees. He preached to the young visitors on Perfection and on the Protection of God; and on these sermons, as on all the other discourses which they heard, they took notes. The Abbot Pinufius preached on the Marks of Satisfaction. The Abbot John told them how having been a hermit he had left that solitary life and entered a community in order to practise the virtues of subjection and obedience. The Abbot Abraham instructed them on Mortification. The pilgrims were now so heartily enjoying themselves, and were finding their visit so profitable, that they reflected with much regret upon the pledge which they had given to return to Bethlehem after a few weeks. They consulted the Abbot Joseph, who explained to them the Obligation of Promises. The explanation was so satisfactory that they continued on their travels and did not return to Bethlehem till after seven years.
Even then, they remained but a short time among the brethren, being again permitted by them to go to Egypt, where they continued their monastic explorations. They now visited the Nitrian Valley, in the Libyan desert, northwest of Cairo, a place filled with monasteries. Dr. Butler, who visited the district in 1883, found four of these groups of buildings still standing and inhabited. They were all constructed on the same plan, and the general appearance of them to-day probably differs little from what Cassian found. Each is described as "a veritable fortress, standing about one hundred and fifty yards square, with blind, lofty walls rising sheer out of the sand. Each monastery has also, either detached or not, a large keep, or tower, standing four-square, and approached only by a drawbridge. The tower contains the library, storerooms for the vestments and sacred vessels, cellars for oil and corn, and many strange holes and hiding-places for the monks in the last resort, if their citadel should be taken by the enemy. Within the monastery are enclosed one principal and one or two smaller court-yards, around which stand the cells of the monks, domestic buildings, such as the mill-room, the oven, the refectory, and the like, and the churches."
In such monasteries, and in the retreats of hermits, Cassian and his friend were privileged to listen to the discourses of holy men, which they recorded as they had done among the monks of the Delta. The Abbot Serenus, who spoke of Inconstancy of Mind and of Spiritual Wickedness, taught them that the way to holiness is beset by continual temptation; and the teaching was confirmed by Serapion, who instructed them in the "Eight Principal Faults" of the monastic life: gluttony, fornication, covetousness, anger, dejection, vain-glory and pride,—being in large part the sins to escape which the monks had fled into the desert,—together with a new sin which they found waiting for them there, the sin called "accidie," meaning literally "without care," "without interest," the sin of religious indifference. It overtook them in the midst of their prayers and fastings, this desperate question as to the value of it all. They wearied of their holy living; for the moment, they hated it. They described this fault, in the phrase of a psalm, as "the sickness that destroyeth in the noonday." The sun of the African desert beat upon their heads, and their hearts failed within them. All their painful life of renunciation and devotion seemed a wicked folly.
After these profitable travels Cassian went to Constantinople, where he found Chrysostom undergoing persecution. He took the side of the saint, by whom he was presently ordained; and it was he who carried to Rome the letter of the faithful, describing the scandalous manner in which Chrysostom had been deposed and exiled. From Rome he went to the neighborhood of Marseilles, and there in the midst of a dense, primeval forest he established two monasteries, one for men and one for women. These he organized according to the patterns which he had studied in the East.
At Marseilles, he wrote the two books which gave him a place in the history of monasticism in the West corresponding to the place of St. Basil in the history of monasticism in the East. He found monastic enthusiasm and a passion for the ascetic life; and he found men, inspired by the examples of Martin, of Hilary of Poictiers and of Paulinus of Nola, living solitary or in communities engaged in prayer. But all this was informal, unconnected and without regulation.
Cassian's "institutes," describing the life which the monks lived in Egypt, brought the experience of the East to the service of the West. He gave a detailed account of the dress of the monks, their sheepskins and goatskins, their hoods and girdles, even their shoes. He explained how they arranged and kept their hours of prayer. He called attention to the reverence and serenity of their devotions. "When the psalm is ended," he said, "they do not hurry at once to kneel down, as some of us do in this country, who, before the psalm is fairly ended, make haste to prostrate themselves for prayer, in their hurry to finish the service as quickly as possible." He glorified the obedience of the Abbot John, who at the command of a superior stuck a dry stick into the ground, and for the space of a whole year watered it twice a day with water which he drew from the river two miles distant; and the obedience of the Abbot Patermucius, who having brought with him into the desert his little boy of eight, carried him in his arms to the river, as Abraham had conducted Isaac to the mountain, and, being so ordered, threw him in; whom the brethren, we are glad to learn, pulled safely out.
These "Institutes" St. Benedict afterwards made the basis of his famous Rule, declaring his purpose not to improve on Cassian, but to adapt his plans to the actual level of ordinary human nature. Thus they underlie to-day the order of the monastic life wherever it is practised in the West. Cassian's "Conferences," also called "Collations," being the notes which he took of the sermons of the holy brethren, Benedict arranged to have read daily in his monasteries, page by page. In the late afternoon, after the day's work was done, Benedict's monks sat in the cloister while one read aloud the discourses which Cassian had collected, and the supper of fruit which followed was called the collation, from the reading.
The pilgrimage of Cassian was not a unique experience. Others were taking similar journeys of holy adventure. The biographer of St. Martin gives an account of a French monk, Postumianus, who sailed to Carthage to worship at the tomb of Cyprian, and then, being driven by a contrary wind upon a barren coast of Africa, found a hermit in a desert, who, he says, served him a truly luxurious breakfast, "consisting of the half of a barley cake." Thence he went to Alexandria where he found monks and bishops debating disgracefully over the writings of Origen. No sight, however, interested him more than the spectacle of a monk of Bethlehem, who, says the traveller, "is always occupied in reading, always at his books with his whole heart; he takes no rest day or night: he is perpetually either reading or writing something." This monk was St. Jerome.
Jerome was born in Pannonia, the native land of Martin. The place of his birth was soon after destroyed by the advancing barbarians, and his parents were killed. He was educated in Rome, where his Latin teacher was old Ælius Donatus, whose grammar ("Ars Grammatica ") was taught in the schools for a thousand years. This was the schoolmaster whom Dante found conversing with Chrysostom in Paradise. As Cassian remembered his Homer and Æschylus, so Jerome remembered his Cicero and Plautus. One time, long after, he was carried in a dream before the Judgment Seat above. The judge said, "Who are you?" Jerome replied, "I am a Christian." "No," said the judge, "you are a Ciceronian." And the angels were commanded to beat him. He says that when he waked his shoulders were black and blue.
Jerome entered, like Tertullian and Augustine at Carthage, into the immoralities of Rome, and was never free, in all his life, from the temptations of the flesh. But he was converted. He went at once into asceticism. At Aquileia a group of friends gathered about him, and they lived together under discipline, saying their prayers, and discussing religion. The affection which these men had for Jerome ought to be remembered over against his later quarrels and controversies. It was said of him, indeed, that he never hesitated to sacrifice a friend for an opinion; but he had at the same time a genius for friendship. He was mightily attractive to these companions, as afterwards to many good women in Rome. They admired and loved him. Presently the group set out together on a pilgrimage to the East. After wanderings which brought them to Antioch, Jerome fell sick, and so continued for a year. Two of his friends died.
Recovering, and being now alone, he went into a neighboring desert, a refuge of monks and hermits, where he stayed for five years. Here his austerities did but increase the sensual temptations which he was seeking to escape. "I used to sit alone," says Jerome. "I had no companions but scorpions and wild beasts. Sackcloth disfigured my limbs, and my skin from long neglect had grown as black as an Ethiopian's. Tears and groans were every day my portion; and if drowsiness chanced to overcome my struggles against it, my bare bones, which hardly held together, clashed against the ground. Yet how often in that vast solitude, in that savage dwelling-place, parched by a burning sun, how often did I fancy myself among the pleasures of Rome!"
Nevertheless, he continued his studies. He gathered books about him. He called to him a company of pupils who served him as amanuenses. He began to learn Hebrew, a knowledge in which he differed from almost all of his Christian contemporaries. He wrote a life of Paul the Hermit, which presently took its place in the literature of the day with the Life of Antony by Athanasius, and the Life of Martin by Sulpicius. In their old age, he says, when Paul was a hundred and thirteen and Antony was ninety, the younger hermit visited the elder; and that day a raven, which for many years had brought Paul every morning half a loaf of bread, flew gently down and laid a whole loaf before them. The two saints talked together. "Tell me," said Paul, "how fares the human race? Are new homes springing up in the ancient cities? What government directs the world?" Antony knew hardly more about it than Paul himself. When Paul died, leaving as his sole possession the tunic which he had woven out of palm-leaves, two lions dug his grave. The lion which appears with Jerome in the familiar pictures is a symbol of this desert life. It came to him one day holding up a wounded paw, out of which the saint extracted a thorn.
"I beseech you, reader,"—so the Life of Paul ends,—"I beseech you, whoever you may be, to remember Jerome the sinner. He, if God would give him his choice, would much sooner take Paul's tunic with his merits, than the purple of kings with their punishments."
The troubles of the contending church followed the scholar even into the wilderness. The strife for succession to the bishopric of Antioch, which engaged the attention of the Council of Constantinople under the presidency of Gregory of Nazianzus, divided the monks, and Jerome found his peace perturbed by their debates. He went to Constantinople where he studied for a time with Gregory, and translated some of the homilies of Origen. Thence he removed to Rome, where he entered into the service of Pope Damasus. The Pope proposed questions, mostly on the interpretation of Scripture, to which Jerome wrote learned and elaborate answers. Here he continued his study of Origen, whom he followed in the collation of versions of the Septuagint, endeavoring to establish an accurate text. Here he made the translation of the Psalms into Latin which was used in the services of the Western Church for eleven centuries.
Jerome found the Roman world as he remembered it from the days of his youth. It was worse rather than better, being given over to luxury and pride and pleasure. The rich were idle, cruel and sensual. Women vied with each other in the costly splendor of their dress. Their lips were red with rouge, their faces white with gypsum, their eye-brows black with antimony. But among them were good women. The Lady Marcella, who lived in a great house on the Aventine Hill, remembered how Athanasius visited Rome, bringing with him two monks from the valley of the Nile. They had mightily impressed her in her childhood. In her house Jerome had a Bible class of wives and daughters of the Roman aristocracy. Under his instruction they studied even Hebrew. They made him their spiritual director, the keeper of their conscience. He initiated them into the discipline of the ascetic life. The Lady Paula came, a great person in the social world, and brought her daughters Blesilla and Eustochium. Jerome's influence was felt throughout the society of Rome.
The new asceticism made immediate enemies. It was opposed instinctively by all who loved the pleasures of the world. It was opposed also by those who found in its extremes a defiance of the revelation of the will of God in human nature.
Helvidius attacked its insistence on the supreme sacredness of the unmarried life. He denied the doctrine, cardinal to all ascetics, of the perpetual virginity of the mother of our Lord. The brothers and sisters, he said, of whom mention is made in the Gospels, were her children. Jerome vehemently denied this. He maintained that holiness and the normal wedded state are antagonistic. Marriage means crying children, and clamoring servants, and cooks and seamstresses, and anxiety about expense. The master comes home to dinner: the wife flutters like a swallow all about the house to see that everything is in order, and the meal ready to' be served. "Tell me, I pray, where in all this is any thought of God?"
Jovinian had made trial of the ascetic life and had abandoned it. He had lived on bread and water, saying his prayers; but he had changed his mind. He had come to perceive that the laws of nature are the laws of God, and that the normal human life is acceptable with Him. In this spirit he had written books in which he declared that "virginity, widowhood and marriage are themselves indifferent, being each alike pleasing to God," and that "fasting and the thankful enjoyment of food are of equal moral validity." To these propositions, which to us are common-places of religion, Jerome opposed himself with the fierceness of a garrison whose strong tower is beset by the enemy. He went so far as to denounce marriage as a state of sin, and so scandalized sober persons by his destructive enthusiasm that Augustine had to write a treatise on the Good of Marriage to counteract his teaching. Jerome himself withdrew the more extreme statements of his position, and in a letter to a friend excused himself by the significant statement that "it is one thing to argue, and another thing to teach." Anything, he held, is fair in the battle of debate.
Vigilantius, like Jovinian, saw the increasing perils of asceticism. He felt that the life of religion was being corrupted by superstitious devotions, especially the new honors which were being paid to the relics of the saints. He had the courage to oppose the whole current of the Christian life as Jerome directed it, declaring that paganism and polytheism were being invited back into the church. Jerome in reply called him Dormitantius, and said that he was talking in his sleep, and snoring instead of arguing. He wished that he could deal with him as the blessed Paul dealt with Ananias and Sapphira.
Jerome arraigned the whole world, lay and clerical. In an amazing letter to Eustochium he advised her as to her companions. She must avoid the society of married women, especially those of rank and wealth, who wear robes inwrought with threads of gold. She must have no intercourse with widows, who go abroad in capacious litters, with red cloaks, looking for new husbands. "Let your companions be women pale and thin with fasting." She must shun all men, especially clergymen, and more particularly such clergymen as "use perfume's freely, and see that there are no creases in their shoes. Their curling hair shows traces of the tongs; their fingers glisten with rings; they walk on tiptoe across a damp road, not to splash their feet."
The letter is of much interest to the student of Roman manners in the fourth century, but it is easy to see how the publication of it increased the hostility which was rising against the plain-speaking monk who wrote it. The young men of Rome already hated the man who told the young women not to marry. The clergy hated him whose austere life was a criticism upon their comfortable ways. When presently Blesilla died, and the rumor went abroad that she had been killed by the monastic discipline to which she had subjected herself, there was a riot at her funeral, and people cried, "The monks to the Tiber!" Then Pope Damasus came to the end of his days, and in his death Jerome lost his strong protector. He had to leave the city. He betook himself to Bethlehem, whither Paula and Eustochium followed him.
On the eve of his departure Jerome wrote a letter to the Lady Asella, defending himself against the slanders of the city. They call me, he said, an infamous person, crafty and slippery and a liar. At first they said that I was holy and humble and eloquent, and that I ought to be a bishop. Now the place is filled with gossip about me and the holy Paula, "one who mourns and fasts, who is squalid with neglect, and almost blind with weeping, whose delights are self-denials, and whose life a fast." "I thank my God that I am worthy of the hatred of the world."
Friends and disciples accompanied the pilgrims, and in Bethlehem they built monasteries, with Paula's money. She presided over one, ruling a community of holy women; he presided over the other. And they maintained together a guest-house for travellers, so that if Joseph and Mary came that way again there should be hospitality for them at the inn.
Jerome was now forty-one years old, and had thirty-four years yet to live. He devoted himself to his interrupted studies. He opened a school for the Bethlehem children, teaching them Greek and Latin. He took up again the study of Hebrew. Every day Paula and Eustochium came over to the pleasant cave which he called the "paradise of studies" and together they read the Bible and discoursed upon it. There it was that Postumianus found him, "always at his books with his whole heart." There he kept the discipline of the monastic life, wearing the brown habit of a hermit, and sweetening all his studies with his prayers.
He never succeeded in sweetening his temper. His wrath still broke out as of old against his critics and his enemies, and against all heretics. He set an example which poisoned the whole stream of controversy down to very recent times. Nothing was too bad for him to say about those with whom he disagreed. But he appreciated the peace of Bethlehem. "Here bread, and herbs grown with our own hands, and milk, rural delicacies, afford us humble but wholesome food. Living thus, sleep does not overtake us in prayer, satiety does not interfere. with study. In summer, the trees afford us shade. In autumn, the air is cool, and the fallen leaves give us a quiet resting-place. In spring the field is clothed with flowers, and we sing our songs the sweeter among the singing of the birds. When the winter is cold, and the snow comes, we have no lack of wood, and I watch or sleep warm enough. Let Rome keep its crowds, let its arena be cruel, its circus go wild, its theatre indulge in luxury, and—not to forget our friends—let the senate of ladies exchange their daily visits. Our happiness is to cleave to the Lord, and to put our trust in the Lord God." It is a pleasant picture, in happy contrast with the barren deserts in which Paul and Antony lived their painful lives.
The chief fruit of these years of quiet and congenial study was the Latin translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate.
The Psalter, which Jerome had published in Rome, was translated from the Septuagint, and kept its place in the service of the church in spite of the Psalter which he now translated from the Hebrew; as the Psalms of Coverdale remain to-day in the Book of Common Prayer, in spite of the new translations of 1611 and 1885. But the rest of Jerome's Bible superseded all existing versions. Throughout the Middle Ages all European Christendom read the Scriptures in the words which he had written. For a great part of the Western Church, his translation is the Bible to this day. The men who made the English Bible which we use had Jerome's sentences by heart, and the cadences of them still sound in the sacred pages which we read and in the prayers which we pray.
Toxotius, the son of Paula, and representative of her great Roman house, married the daughter of Albinus who in his day was Pontifex Maximus in the persisting paganism in which he lived and died. But their little daughter Paula was baptized a Christian. Jerome in his last years, advised that the letters of the alphabet be written on separate pieces of ivory for the child to play with, that she might thus begin her education. A pleasant legend, celebrated in Domenichino's famous picture, said that the last sacrament was administered to Jerome by the hand of St. Augustine.