Letter V. To Florentius.
Written a few months after the preceding (about the end of 374 a.d.) from the Syrian Desert. After dilating on his friendship for Florentius, and making a passing allusion to Rufinus, Jerome mentions certain books, copies of which he desires to be sent to him. He also speaks of a runaway slave about whom Florentius had written to him.
1. Your letter, dear friend, finds me dwelling in that quarter of the desert which is nearest to Syria and the Saracens. And the reading of it rekindles in my mind so keen a desire to set out for Jerusalem that I am almost ready to violate my monastic vow in order to gratify my affection. Wishing to do the best I can, as I cannot come in person I send you a letter instead; and thus, though absent in the body, I come to you in love and in spirit. 75 For my earnest prayer is that our infant friendship, firmly cemented as it is in Christ, may never be rent asunder by time or distance. We ought rather to strengthen the bond by an interchange of letters. Let these pass between us, meet each other on the way, and converse with us. Affection will not lose much if it keeps up an intercourse of this kind.
2. You write that our brother, Rufinus, has not yet come to you. Even if he does come it will do little to satisfy my longing, for I shall not now be able to see him. He is too far away to come hither, and the conditions of the lonely life that I have adopted forbid me to go to him. For I am no longer free to follow my own wishes. I entreat you, therefore, to ask him to allow you to have the commentaries of the reverend Rhetitius, 76 bishop of Augustodunum, 77 copied, in which he has so eloquently explained the Song of Songs. A countryman of the aforesaid brother Rufinus, the old man Paul, 78 writes that Rufinus has his copy of Tertullian, and urgently requests that this may be returned. Next I have to ask you to get written on paper by a copyist certain books which the subjoined list 79 will show you that I do not possess. I beg also that you will send me the explanation of the Psalms of David, and the copious work on Synods of the reverend Hilary, 80 which I copied for him 81 at Trêves with my own hand. Such books, you know, must be the food of the Christian soul if it is to meditate in the law of the Lord day and night. 82
Others you welcome beneath your roof, you cherish and comfort, you help out of your own purse; but so far as I am concerned, you have given me everything when once you have granted my request. And since, through the Lords bounty, I am rich in volumes of the sacred library, 83 you may command me in turn. I will send you what you please; and do not suppose that an order from you will give me trouble. I have pupils devoted to the art of copying. Nor do I merely promise a favor because I am asking one. Our brother, Heliodorus, 84 tells me that there are many parts of the Scriptures which you seek and cannot find. But even if you have them all, affection is sure to assert its rights and to seek for itself more than it already has.
3. As regards the present master of your slave—of whom you have done me the honor to write—I have no doubt but that he is his kidnapper. While I was still at Antioch the presbyter, Evagrius, often reproved him in my presence. To whom he made this answer: “I have nothing to fear.” He declares that his master has dismissed him. If you both want him, he is here; send p. 8 him whither you will. I think I am not wrong in refusing to allow a runaway to stray farther. Here in the wilderness I cannot myself execute your orders; and therefore I have asked my dear friend Evagrius to push the affair vigorously, both for your sake and for mine. I desire your welfare in Christ.
Cf. Col. ii. 5.7:76
A man of some note, as he was one of the commissioners appointed by Constantine in 313 a.d. to settle the points of issue between the Catholics and the Donatists. Jerome criticises his commentary on the Song of Songs in Letter XXXVII.7:77
See the introd. to Letter X.7:79
This list has perished.7:80
I.e. Hilary of Poitiers.7:81
Ps. i. 2.7:83
I.e. the Scriptures.7:84
See the introd. to Letter XIV.