June 15, 2015

Saint Jerome as a Model for our Lives

St. Jerome (Hieronymos) (Feast Day - June 15)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Jerome was born in 345 in Stridon of Dalmatia, from pious parents who raised him "in the education and admonition of the Lord," and also took care of his secular education. He studied in Rome, where he was baptized. Unfortunately, after his baptism he went astray falling off the path of salvation, but because he had a strong spiritual foundation he was able to recover quickly and return to God's path with sincere repentance. He continued his studies in Gaul, Italy and Antioch and then retired to the desert of Syria, in order to live the hesychastic life. However, he could not find there what he was looking for, so he went to Constantinople where, by divine economy, he "chanced upon what he desired." His acquaintance with two great Fathers of the Church, namely Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint Gregory of Nyssa, decisively influenced his subsequent development and progress in the spiritual life.

Later he went to Bethlehem where "he lived in asceticism, wrote and theologized." In 420 he "abandoned" the present and temporary, to continue his life in heavenly dwellings with all the saints, where "there will be no more night, they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light" (Rev. 22:5). His sacred relic was later moved from Bethlehem to Rome.

Saint Jerome translated certain books of the Old Testament from the Hebrew language to Latin. This translation is known as the Vulgate. Saint John Cassian praises him for his writings and calls him a Professor of Orthodoxy. He says: "Indeed, Jerome the Orthodox Professor, whose writings shine as divinely lit lamps, and are bright as rays of the sun from East to West."

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite says that the sacred Augustine, when he was preparing his book On the City of God, inquired from Saint Jerome concerning the blessedness of the Kingdom of God, although meanwhile he had reposed. However, he presented himself in his dream and told him what he wanted to know, stressing the fact that everything is incomparably superior and more beautiful than what he thought when he lived on earth, because then "he saw in a mirror dimly," but now he saw it "face to face."

His life and conduct give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

Home schooling, more than other means of education, naturally plays a key role in shaping the character and personality of children, because within the family children learn, mainly empirically, a way of life, thinking and behavior.

Indeed, within the family environment a child first learns love, compassion, gentleness, patience, respect for others, etc., but it can also teach the opposite. Even the way - whether correct or false - by which they will experience the pleasant events of life, and above all the sad and unpleasant, such as various failures and losses of beloved persons. In other words, the family lays the foundation of a child's life, upon which the entire structure of their personality will be slowly built. If the foundation is strong, this means the child, if during the difficult period of adolescence, they go astray from the correct path and get tangled in the labyrinth of dead ends, they have all the prerequisites to regain orientation and return to the straight path of virtue and perfection, because childhood remains an indelible experience and acts as a spiritual compass. Otherwise things get confused, they become very difficult, and are led to nowhere. But even then there is hope, because the Church has a way to transform rough paths and dead ends into avenues. This means that with the energy of the uncreated Grace of God and human synergy life is given meaning, and those who are tired and in pain receive consolation and support, acquire hope and truly enjoy their lives.

The Church is a caring Mother and in her embrace fits all her children, the healthy and the sick, which she takes care to heal and lead to progress and salvation. Therefore, the connection of children with the ascetic and worship life of the Church, as well as with sanctified people, who are the healthy members of the Church, plays a decisive role in the formation of their personality, their spiritual progress, but also their evolution in society, because those who truly love God, those who authentically love other people, do not create social problems. They are healthy members of society, and by their way of life they help solve various social problems and crises.

Moving away from the Church and being ignorant of the Triune God, Who "is love", implies the lack of genuine love, which is not a simple emotion, but a sacrifical way of life, namely a cross. Without the uncreated Grace of the Holy Spirit no one can truly love, as Saint Silouan the Athonite says. Therefore, one who has not tasted the sweetness of divine love cannot know true love, and this is why, on the occasion of various existent causes, such as social inequality, exploitation of the economically weak, cruelty, injustice, etc., they can easily be led to antipathy and hatred for some people or for the whole society, to the point, indeed, where they become a social wound.

The saints, and all those who struggle for their own personal sanctification, are a spiritual oasis in the desert of lonely and sociopathic society, where there are individuals and individual interests, and not persons, namely love and freedom.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Όσιος Ιερώνυμος", June 2010. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.