Fathers of the Church

Letter IV: to Florentius

Description

Jerome asks Florentius to deliver the attached letter to Rufinus, whose holiness he greatly praises.

Provenance

Following his translation of the Bible, St. Jerome's letters are the most well-known and widely read of all his writings. Letter IV was sent to Florentius along with the preceding letter (Letter III), which Jerome requests him to deliver to Rufinus. This Florentius was a rich Italian who had retired to Jerusalem to pursue the monastic life. Jerome subsequently speaks of him as "a distinguished monk so pitiful to the needy that he was generally known as the father of the poor." (Chron. ad A.D. 381.)

by Jerome in 374 | translated by W. H. Fremantle, M.A., G. Lewis, M.A., W. G. Martley, M.A

1. How much your name and sanctity are on the lips of the most different peoples you may gather from the fact that I commence to love you before I know you. For as, according to the apostle, "Some men's sins are evident going before unto judgment," so contrariwise the report of your charity is so widespread that it is considered not so much praiseworthy to love you as criminal to refuse to do so. I pass over the countless instances in which you have supported Christ, fed, clothed, and visited Him. The aid you rendered to our brother Heliodorus in his need may well loose the utterance of the dumb. With what gratitude, with what commendation, does he speak of the kindness with which you smoothed a pilgrim's path. I am, it is true, the most sluggish of men, consumed by an unendurable sickness; yet keen affection and desire have winged my feet, and I have come forward to salute and embrace you. I wish you every good thing, and pray that the Lord may establish our nascent friendship.

2. Our brother, Rufinus, is said to have come from Egypt to Jerusalem with the devout lady, Melanium. He is inseparably bound to me in brotherly love; and I beg you to oblige me by delivering to him the annexed letter. You must not, however, judge of me by the virtues that you find in him. For in him you will see the clearest tokens of holiness, whilst I am but dust and vile dirt, and even now, while still living, nothing but ashes. It is enough for me if my weak eyes can bear the brightness of his excellence. He has but now washed himself and is clean, yea, is made white as snow; whilst I, stained with every sin, wait day and night with trembling to pay the uttermost farthing. But since "the Lord looseth the prisoners," and resteth upon him who is of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at His words, perchance he may say even to me who lie in the grave of sin: "Jerome, come forth."

The reverend presbyter, Evagrius, warmly salutes you. We both with united respect salute the brother, Martinianus. I desire much to see him, but I am impeded by the chain of sickness. Farewell in Christ.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VI, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.