23-Who Do You Say He Is?

This episode is titled “Who Do You Say He Is?

We begin by reading from the Chalcedonian Creed of AD 451, the portion devoted to the orthodox view of Christ.

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
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This Episode is Simply titled “Leo

In a sermon preached on the Sunday before Resurrection Sunday, Bishop0 Leo of Rome said,

Among all the works of God’s mercy, dearly-beloved, which from the beginning have been bestowed upon men’s salvation, none is more wondrous, and none more sublime, than that Christ was crucified for the world. For to this mystery all the mysteries of the ages preceding led up, and every variation which the will of God ordained in sacrifices, in prophetic signs, and in the observances of the Law, foretold that this was fixed, and promised its fulfilment: so that now types and figures are at an end, and we find our profit in believing that accomplished which before we found our profit in looking forward to.[1]
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21-The New Center

This episode it titled – “The New Center.”

We begin with a quote from the 2nd C. church father Irenaeus à

[There is a ] tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority; that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by [faithful men] who exist everywhere.[1]
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20-Golden Tongue

The title of this episode it “Golden Tongue

As usual, we begin w/a quote from the subject of our inquiry today; the 4th C. Church Father John of Antioch, known as Chrysostom, meaning “golden-mouthed.”

Preaching improves me. When I begin to speak, weariness disappears; when I begin to teach, fatigue too disappears.

At another time he chastised his congregation –

It is foolishness and a public madness to fill your closet with clothing and allow men who are created in God’s image and likeness to stand naked and trembling with the cold so that they can hardly hold themselves upright.
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This episode is titled, “Jerome.

We begin with a few pithy quotes from the 4th C Church Father Jerome.

“Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and the dying as on a battlefield.
Be ever engaged, so that whenever the devil calls he may find you occupied.

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.

“Make knowledge of the Scripture your love.… Live with them, meditate on them, make them the sole object of your knowledge and inquiries.”

We’ll spend this entire episode of CS looking at the life of Jerome, one of the most fascinating stories of this time in Church History, as I hope you’ll see.

By his mid-30’s, Jerome was probably the greatest Christian scholar of his time. He’s one of the greatest figures in the history of Bible translation, spending 3 decades producing a Latin version that would be the standard for a thousand years. But Jerome was no bookish egghead. He longed for the hermetic life we considered in the previous episode & often exhibited a really sour disposition that showered his opponents with biting sarcasm and brutal invective.

His real name was Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius and was born in 345 to wealthy Christian parents either in Dalmatia or in Aquileia in NE Italy. There’s some confusion over which of these cities was his actual birthplace.

At about the age of 15, Jerome went to Rome with a friend to study the rhetorical art & philosophy. He engaged in many of the immoral escapades of his fellow students with abandon, but then would follow up these debaucheries with periods of intense self-loathing. To appease his conscience, he visited the graves & tombs of the martyrs and saints in Romans extensive catacombs. Jerome later said the darkness & terror he found there seemed a fitting appropriate for the hell he knew his soul was headed toward.

This tenderness of conscience is interesting in light of his initial skepticism of Christianity. That skepticism began to melt as he realized he was being convicted by the Holy Spirit. His mind could not hold out against his heart and he was eventually converted. He was baptized at the age of 19 in Rome.

He then moved to Trier in Gaul where he took up theological studies & began making copies of commentaries & doctrinal works for wealthy patrons.

Jerome then returned home to Aquileia, where he settled in to the church community and made many Christian friends.

Several of these accompanied him when he set out in 373 on a journey thru Thrace and Asia Minor to northern Syria. At Antioch, 2 of his companions died and he was seriously ill. During this illnesses, he had a vision that led him to lay aside his studies in the classics and devote himself to God. He plunged into a deep study of the Bible, under the guidance of a church leader name Apollinaris, who was teaching in Antioch. This Apollinaris hadn’t yet been rooted out as a heretic. He was one of several church leaders at this time who were trying to work out how to understand the nature of Jesus; was He God, Man or both? And if both, how are we to understand these two natures operating within Jesus?  Apollinaris said Jesus had a human body & soul, but that his mind was divine. This view, creatively called Apollinarianism, was declared heretical at the Council of Constantinople in 381, though the church had pretty well dispensed with it as a viable view of Christ back in 362 at a Synod in Alexandria, presided over by our friend Athanasius.

While in Antioch & as a fallout of his illness & the loss of his friends, Jerome was seized with a desire for the hermetic life of asceticism. He went for a time to the wilderness southwest of Antioch, already well-populated with hermits. Jerome spent his isolation in more study and writing. He began learning Hebrew under the tutelage of a converted Jew; and kept in correspondence with the Jewish Christians of Antioch. He obtained a copy of the Gospels in Hebrew, fragments of which are preserved in his notes. Jerome translated parts of this into Greek.

Returning to Antioch in 379, he was ordained by Paulinus, whom you’ll remember was the bishop of the Nicaean congregation there. This is the Bishop & church supported by Rome when the Arian church in Antioch was taken over a new also-Nicaean Bishop named Meletius. Instead of the 2 churches merging because the cause of their division was now removed, they became the political frontlines in the battle for supremacy between Rome & Constantinople.

Recognizing Jerome’s skill as a scholar, Bishop Paulinus rushed to ordain Jerome as priest, but the monk would only accept it on the condition he’d never have to carry out priestly functions. Instead, Jerome plunged himself into his studies, especially in the Bible. He attended lectures, examined Gospel parchments, and met other famous teachers and theologians.

He went to Constantinople to pursue a study of the Scriptures under Gregory of Nazianzus. He spent 2 years there, then was asked by Paulinus back in Antioch to accompany him to Rome so the whole issue over who the rightful bishop in Antioch was. Paulinus knew Jerome would make a mighty addition to his side. Indeed he did, and Pope Damasus I was so impressed with Jerome, he persuaded him to stay in Rome. For the next 3 years, Jerome became something of a celebrity among leading Roman Christians. He took a prominent place in most of the pope’s councils. At one point his influence over the pope was so great he had the audacity to say, “Damasus is my mouth.”

He began a revision of the Latin Bible based on the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. He also updated the Book of Psalms that had been based on the Septuagint.

In Rome he was surrounded by a circle of well-born and well-educated women, including some from the noblest patrician families. They were moved by Jerome’s asceticism & began to emulate his example of worldly forbearance. This did NOT endear him to the rather secular clergy in Rome who enjoyed the attention of such lovely, rich and available women. But Jerome’s messing with their fun didn’t end there. He offended their pleasure-loving ways with his sharp tongue and blunt criticism. As one historian puts it, “He detested most of the Romans and did not apologize for detesting them.” He mocked the clerics’ lack of charity, their ignorance & overweening vanity. The men of the time were inordinately fond of beards, so Jerome mused, “If there is any holiness in a beard, nobody is holier than a goat!”

Soon after the death of his patron Damasus in December of 384, Jerome was forced to leave Rome after an inquiry was brought up by the clergy into allegations he’d had an improper relationship with a wealthy widow named Paula.

This wasn’t the only charge against him. More serious was the death of one of the young women who’d sought to follow his ascetic lifestyle, due to poor health caused by the rigors he demanded she follow. Everyone could see how her health declined for the 4 months she followed Jerome’s lead. Most Romans were outraged at him for causing the premature death of such a lively & lovely young woman, and at his insistence her mother ought not mourn her daughter’s death. When he criticized her grief as excessive, the Romans said he was heartless.

So in August 385, he left Rome for good and returned to Antioch, accompanied by his brother and several friends, followed a little later by the widow Paula & her daughter. The pilgrims, joined by Bishop Paulinus of Antioch, visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Galilee, then went to Egypt, home to the great heroes of the ascetic life.

Late in the Summer of 388 he returned to Israel. A wealthy student of Jerome’s founded a monastery in Bethlehem for him to administer. This monastery included 3 cloisters for women and a hostel for pilgrims.

It was here that he spent the last 34 years of his life.  He finished his greatest contribution, begun in 382 at Pope Damasus’s instruction: A translation of the Bible into Latin.

The problem wasn’t that there wasn’t a Latin Bible; the problem was that there were so many! They varied widely in accuracy. Damasus had said, “If we’re to pin our faith to the Latin texts, it’s for our opponents to tell us which, for there are almost as many forms as there are copies. If, on the other hand, we are to glean the truth from a comparison of many, why not go back to the original Greek and correct the mistakes introduced by inaccurate translators, and the blundering alterations of confident but ignorant critics, and, further, all that has been inserted or changed by copyists more asleep than awake?”

At first, Jerome worked from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. But then he established a precedent for later translators: the Old Testament would have to be translated from the original Hebrew. In his quest for accuracy, he learned Hebrew & consulted Jewish rabbis and scholars.

One of the biggest differences he saw between the Septuagint and the original Hebrew was that the Jews did not include the books now known as the Apocrypha in their canon of Holy Scripture. Though he felt obligated to include them, Jerome made it clear he while they might be considered “church-books” they were not inspired canonical books.

After 23 years, Jerome completed his translation, which Christians used for more than 1,000 years, and in 1546 the Council of Trent declared it the only authentic Latin text of the Scriptures.

What marked this Bible as unique was Jerome’s use of the everyday, street Latin of the times, rather than the more archaic classical Latin of the scholars. Academics & clergy decried it as vulgar, but it became hugely popular. The Latin Vulgate, as it was called, became the main Bible of the Roman church for the next more than thousand years.

Jerome’s work was so widely revered that until the Reformation, scholars worked from the Vulgate. It would be a thousand years till translators worked directly from the Greek NT. The Vulgate ensured that Latin, rather than Greek, would be the Western church’s language, resulting centuries later in a liturgy & Bible lay people couldn’t understand—precisely the opposite of Jerome’s original intention. It’s also why many scientific names & terms are drawn from Latin, rather than Greek which was the language of the scholars until the appearance of the Vulgate.

The Latin Bible wasn’t the only thing Jerome worked on while in Bethlehem. He also produced several commentaries, a catalogue of Christian authors, and a response to the challenge if the Pelagians, an aberrant teaching we’ll take a look at in a future episode. To this period also belonged most of Jerome’s polemics, his denunciations of works and people Jerome deemed dangerous. He produced a tract on the threat of some of Origen’s errors. He denounced Bishop John of Jerusalem and others, including some one-time friends.

Some of Jerome’s writings contained provocative views on moral issues. When I saw provocative, I’m being generous; they were aberrant at best and at points verged on heretical. All this came of his extreme asceticism. While the monasticism he embraced allowed him to produce a huge volume of work, his feverish advocacy of strict discipline was nothing less than legalistic extremism. He insisted on abstinence from a normal diet, employment, & even marital sex. His positions were so extreme in this regard, even other ascetics called him radical.

As far as we know, none of Jerome’s works were lost to the centuries. There are a few medieval manuscripts that mark his work in translating the Bible. Various 16th C collections are the earliest extant copies of his writings. Through the years, Jerome has been a favorite subject for artists, especially Italian Renaissance painters.

He died at Bethlehem at the end of September of 420.


This week’s episode is titled “Hermits.”

We begin with several lines from the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia.

“The first degree of humility is prompt obedience.
Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times. At others, in devout reading.
The sleepy like to make excuses.
The abbot ought ever to bear in mind what he is and what he is called; he ought to know that to whom more is entrusted, from him more is exacted.
He should know that whoever undertakes the government of souls must prepare himself to account for them.”
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17-What a Difference a Century Makes

This episode, #17 of Communion Sanctorum is titled “What a Difference a Century Makes.

We begin with a quote from the 4th C Church Father Gregory of Nazianzus.

“This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the one Godhead and power, found in the three in unit, and comprising the three separately; not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities nor inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of three infinite ones, each God when considered in himself; as the Father, so the Son; as the Son, so the Holy Spirit; the three one God when contemplated together; each God because consubstantial; one God because of the monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of anyone of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.”
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