This, one of the longest of Jerome's letters, was written to console Eustochium for the loss of her mother who had recently died. Jerome relates the story of Paula in detail; speaking first of her high birth, marriage, and social success at Rome, and then narrating her conversion and subsequent life as a Christian ascetic. Much space is devoted to an account of her journey to the East which included a visit to Egypt and to the monasteries of Nitria as well as a tour of the most sacred spots in the Holy Land. The remainder of the letter describes her daily routine and studies at Bethlehem, and recounts the many virtues for which she was distinguished. It then concludes with a touching description of her death and burial and gives the epitaph placed upon her grave. The date of the letter is 404 A.D.
1. If all the members of my body were to be converted into tongues, and if each of my limbs were to be gifted with a human voice, I could still do no justice to the virtues of the holy and venerable Paula. Noble in family, she was nobler still in holiness; rich formerly in this world's goods, she is now more distinguished by the poverty that she has embraced for Christ. Of the stock of the Gracchi and descended from the Scipios, the heir and representative of that Paulus whose name she bore, the true and legitimate daughter of that Martia Papyria who was mother to Africanus, she yet preferred Bethlehem to Rome, and left her palace glittering with gold to dwell in a mud cabin. We do not grieve that we have lost this perfect woman; rather we thank God that we have had her, nay that we have her still. For
all live unto God, Luke 20:38 and they who return unto the Lord are still to be reckoned members of his family. We have lost her, it is true, but the heavenly mansions have gained her; for as long as she was in the body she was absent from the Lord 2 Corinthians 5:6 and would constantly complain with tears:—
Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar; my soul has been this long time a pilgrim. It was no wonder that she sobbed out that even she was in darkness (for this is the meaning of the word Kedar) seeing that, according to the apostle,
the world lies in the evil one; 1 John 5:19 and that,
as its darkness is, so is its light; and that
the light shines in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:5 She would frequently exclaim:
I am a stranger with you and a sojourner as all my fathers were, and again, I desire
to depart and to be with Christ. Philippians 1:23 As often too as she was troubled with bodily weakness (brought on by incredible abstinence and by redoubled fastings), she would be heard to say:
I keep under my body and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway; 1 Corinthians 9:27 and
It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine; Romans 14:21 and
you will make all my
bed in my
Your hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. And when the pain which she bore with such wonderful patience darted through her, as if she saw the heavens opened Acts 7:56 she would say
Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest.
2. I call Jesus and his saints, yes and the particular angel who was the guardian and the companion of this admirable woman to bear witness that these are no words of adulation and flattery but sworn testimony every one of them borne to her character. They are, indeed, inadequate to the virtues of one whose praises are sung by the whole world, who is admired by bishops, regretted by bands of virgins, and wept for by crowds of monks and poor. Would you know all her virtues, reader, in short? She has left those dependent on her poor, but not so poor as she was herself. In dealing thus with her relatives and the men and women of her small household — her brothers and sisters rather than her servants — she has done nothing strange; for she has left her daughter Eustochium— a virgin consecrated to Christ for whose comfort this sketch is made — far from her noble family and rich only in faith and grace.
3. Let me then begin my narrative. Others may go back a long way even to Paula's cradle and, if I may say so, to her swaddling-clothes, and may speak of her mother Blæsilla and her father Rogatus. Of these the former was a descendant of the Scipios and the Gracchi; while the latter came of a line distinguished in Greece down to the present day. He was said, indeed, to have in his veins the blood of Agamemnon who destroyed Troy after a ten years siege. But I shall praise only what belongs to herself, what wells forth from the pure spring of her holy mind. When in the gospel the apostles ask their Lord and Saviour what He will give to those who have left all for His sake, He tells them that they shall receive an hundredfold now in this time and in the world to come eternal life. Mark 10:28-30 From which we see that it is not the possession of riches that is praiseworthy but the rejection of them for Christ's sake; that, instead of glorying in our privileges, we should make them of small account as compared with God's faith. Truly the Saviour has now in this present time made good His promise to His servants and handmaidens. For one who despised the glory of a single city is today famous throughout the world; and one who while she lived at Rome was known by no one outside it has by hiding herself at Bethlehem become the admiration of all lands Roman and barbarian. For what race of men is there which does not send pilgrims to the holy places? And who could there find a greater marvel than Paula? As among many jewels the most precious shines most brightly, and as the sun with its beams obscures and puts out the paler fires of the stars; so by her lowliness she surpassed all others in virtue and influence and, while she was least among all, was greater than all. The more she cast herself down, the more she was lifted up by Christ. She was hidden and yet she was not hidden. By shunning glory she earned glory; for glory follows virtue as its shadow; and deserting those who seek it, it seeks those who despise it. But I must not neglect to proceed with my narrative or dwell too long on a single point forgetful of the rules of writing.
A name from great Iulus handed down.
I speak of these things not as of importance to those who have them, but as worthy of remark in those who despise them. Men of the world look up to persons who are rich in such privileges. We on the other hand praise those who for the Saviour's sake despise them; and strangely depreciating all who keep them, we eulogize those who are unwilling to do so. Thus nobly born, Paula through her fruitfulness and her chastity won approval from all, from her husband first, then from her relatives, and lastly from the whole city. She bore five children; Blæsilla, for whose death I consoled her while at Rome; Paulina, who has left the reverend and admirable Pammachius to inherit both her vows and property, to whom also I addressed a little book on her death; Eustochium, who is now in the holy places, a precious necklace of virginity and of the church; Rufina, whose untimely end overcame the affectionate heart of her mother; and Toxotius, after whom she had no more children. You can thus see that it was not her wish to fulfil a wife's duty, but that she only complied with her husband's longing to have male offspring.
5. When he died, her grief was so great that she nearly died herself: yet so completely did she then give herself to the service of the Lord, that it might have seemed that she had desired his death.
In what terms shall I speak of her distinguished, and noble, and formerly wealthy house; all the riches of which she spent upon the poor? How can I describe the great consideration she showed to all and her far reaching kindness even to those whom she had never seen? What poor man, as he lay dying, was not wrapped in blankets given by her? What bedridden person was not supported with money from her purse? She would seek out such with the greatest diligence throughout the city, and would think it a misfortune were any hungry or sick person to be supported by another's food. So lavish was her charity that she robbed her children; and, when her relatives remonstrated with her for doing so, she declared that she was leaving to them a better inheritance in the mercy of Christ.
6. Nor was she long able to endure the visits and crowded receptions, which her high position in the world and her exalted family entailed upon her. She received the homage paid to her sadly, and made all the speed she could to shun and to escape those who wished to pay her compliments. It so happened that at that time the bishops of the East and West had been summoned to Rome by letter from the emperors to deal with certain dissensions between the churches, and in this way she saw two most admirable men and Christian prelates, Paulinus bishop of Antioch and Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis or, as it is now called, Constantia, in Cyprus. Epiphanius, indeed, she received as her ; and, although Paulinus was staying in another person's house, in the warmth of her heart she treated him as if he too were lodged with her. Inflamed by their virtues she thought more and more each moment of forsaking her home. Disregarding her house, her children, her servants, her property, and in a word everything connected with the world, she was eager — alone and unaccompanied (if ever it could be said that she was so)— to go to the desert made famous by its Pauls and by its Antonies. And at last when the winter was over and the sea was open, and when the bishops were returning to their churches, she also sailed with them in her prayers and desires. Not to prolong the story, she went down to Portus accompanied by her brother, her kinsfolk and above all her own children eager by their demonstrations of affection to overcome their loving mother. At last the sails were set and the strokes of the rowers carried the vessel into the deep. On the shore the little Toxotius stretched forth his hands in entreaty, while Rufina, now grown up, with silent sobs besought her mother to wait till she should be married. But still Paula's eyes were dry as she turned them heavenwards; and she overcame her love for her children by her love for God. She knew herself no more as a mother, that she might approve herself a handmaid of Christ. Yet her heart was rent within her, and she wrestled with her grief, as though she were being forcibly separated from parts of herself. The greatness of the affection she had to overcome made all admire her victory the more. Among the cruel hardships which attend prisoners of war in the hands of their enemies, there is none severer than the separation of parents from their children. Though it is against the laws of nature, she endured this trial with unabated faith; nay more she sought it with a joyful heart: and overcoming her love for her children by her greater love for God, she concentrated herself quietly upon Eustochium alone, the partner alike of her vows and of her voyage. Meantime the vessel ploughed onwards and all her fellow-passengers looked back to the shore. But she turned away her eyes that she might not see what she could not behold without agony. No mother, it must be confessed, ever loved her children so dearly. Before setting out she gave them all that she had, disinheriting herself upon earth that she might find an inheritance in heaven.
7. The vessel touched at the island of Pontia ennobled long since as the place of exile of the illustrious lady Flavia Domitilla who under the Emperor Domitian was banished because she confessed herself a Christian; and Paula, when she saw the cells in which this lady passed the period of her long martyrdom, taking to herself the wings of faith, more than ever desired to see Jerusalem and the holy places. The strongest winds seemed weak and the greatest speed slow. After passing between Scylla and Charybdis she committed herself to the Adriatic sea and had a calm passage to Methone. Stopping here for a short time to recruit her wearied frame
She stretched her dripping limbs upon the shore:
Then sailed past Malea and Cythera's isle,
The scattered Cyclades, and all the lands
That narrow in the seas on every side.
Then leaving Rhodes and Lycia behind her, she at last came in sight of Cyprus, where falling at the feet of the holy and venerable Epiphanius, she was by him detained ten days; though this was not, as he supposed, to restore her strength but, as the facts prove, that she might do God's work. For she visited all the monasteries in the island, and left, so far as her means allowed, substantial relief for the brothers in them whom love of the holy man had brought there from all parts of the world. Then crossing the narrow sea she landed at Seleucia, and going up thence to Antioch allowed herself to be detained for a little time by the affection of the reverend confessor Paulinus. Then, such was the ardour of her faith that she, a noble lady who had always previously been carried by eunuchs, went her way — and that in midwinter — riding upon an ass.
8. I say nothing of her journey through Cœle-Syria and Phœnicia (for it is not my purpose to give you a complete itinerary of her wanderings); I shall only name such places as are mentioned in the sacred books. After leaving the Roman colony of Berytus and the ancient city of Zidon she entered Elijah's town on the shore at Zarephath and therein adored her Lord and Saviour. Next passing over the sands of Tyre on which Paul had once knelt Acts 21:5 she came to Acco or, as it is now called, Ptolemais, rode over the plains of Megiddo which had once witnessed the slaying of Josiah, 2 Kings 23:29 and entered the land of the Philistines. Here she could not fail to admire the ruins of Dor, once a most powerful city; and Strato's Tower, which though at one time insignificant was rebuilt by Herod king of Judæa and named Cæsarea in honour of Cæsar Augustus. Here she saw the house of Cornelius now turned into a Christian church; and the humble abode of Philip; and the chambers of his daughters the four virgins
which did prophesy. Acts 21:8-9 She arrived next at Antipatris, a small town half in ruins, named by Herod after his father Antipater, and at Lydda, now become Diospolis, a place made famous by the raising again of Dorcas Acts 9:36-41 and the restoration to health of Æneas. Acts 9:32-34 Not far from this are Arimathæa, the village of Joseph who buried the Lord, John 19:38 and Nob, once a city of priests but now the tomb in which their slain bodies rest. Joppa too is hard by, the port of Jonah's flight; Jonah 1:3 which also — if I may introduce a poetic fable — saw Andromeda bound to the rock. Again resuming her journey, she came to Nicopolis, once called Emmaus, where the Lord became known in the breaking of bread; an action by which He dedicated the house of Cleopas as a church. Starting thence she made her way up lower and higher Beth-horon, cities founded by Solomon 2 Chronicles 8:5 but subsequently destroyed by several devastating wars; seeing on her right Ajalon and Gibeon where Joshua the Son of Nun when fighting against the five kings gave commandments to the sun and moon, Joshua 10:12-14 where also he condemned the Gibeonites (who by a crafty stratagem had obtained a treaty) to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. Joshua ix At Gibeah also, now a complete ruin, she stopped for a little while remembering its sin, and the cutting of the concubine into pieces, and how in spite of all this three hundred men of the tribe of Benjamin were saved that in after days Paul might be called a Benjamite.
9. To make a long story short, leaving on her left the mausoleum of Helena queen of Adiabene who in time of famine had sent grain to the Jewish people, Paula entered Jerusalem, Jebus, or Salem, that city of three names which after it had sunk to ashes and decay was by Ælius Hadrianus restored once more as Ælia. And although the proconsul of Palestine, who was an intimate friend of her house, sent forward his apparitors and gave orders to have his official residence placed at her disposal, she chose a humble cell in preference to it. Moreover, in visiting the holy places so great was the passion and the enthusiasm she exhibited for each, that she could never have torn herself away from one had she not been eager to visit the rest. Before the Cross she threw herself down in adoration as though she beheld the Lord hanging upon it: and when she entered the tomb which was the scene of the Resurrection she kissed the stone which the angel had rolled away from the door of the sepulchre. Matthew 28:2 Indeed so ardent was her faith that she even licked with her mouth the very spot on which the Lord's body had lain, like one thirsty for the river which he has longed for. What tears she shed there, what groans she uttered, and what grief she poured forth, all Jerusalem knows; the Lord also to whom she prayed knows. Going out thence she made the ascent of Zion; a name which signifies either
watchtower. This formed the city which David formerly stormed and afterwards rebuilt. 2 Samuel 5:7, 9 Of its storming it is written,
Woe to Ariel, to Ariel — that is, God's lion, (and indeed in those days it was extremely strong)—
the city which David stormed: and of its rebuilding it is said,
His foundation is in the holy mountains: the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. He does not mean the gates which we see today in dust and ashes; the gates he means are those against which hell prevails not Matthew 16:18 and through which the multitude of those who believe in Christ enter in. Revelation 22:14 There was shown to her upholding the portico of a church the bloodstained column to which our Lord is said to have been bound when He suffered His scourging. There was shown to her also the spot where the Holy Spirit came down upon the souls of the one hundred and twenty believers, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Joel. Acts 2:16-21
10. Then, after distributing money to the poor and her fellow-servants so far as her means allowed, she proceeded to Bethlehem stopping only on the right side of the road to visit Rachel's tomb. (Here it was that she gave birth to her son destined to be not what his dying mother called him, Benoni, that is the
Son of my pangs but as his father in the spirit prophetically named him Benjamin, that is
the Son of the right hand). Genesis 35:18-19 After this she came to Bethlehem and entered into the cave where the Saviour was born. Here, when she looked upon the inn made sacred by the virgin and the stall where the ox knew his owner and the ass his master's crib, Isaiah 1:3 and where the words of the same prophet had been fulfilled
Blessed is he that sows beside the waters where the ox and the ass trample the seed under their feet: when she looked upon these things I say, she protested in my hearing that she could behold with the eyes of faith the infant Lord wrapped in swaddling clothes and crying in the manger, the wise men worshipping Him, the star shining overhead, the virgin mother, the attentive foster-father, the shepherds coming by night to see
the word that had come to pass and thus even then to consecrate those opening phrases of the evangelist John
In the beginning was the word and
the word was made flesh. She declared that she could see the slaughtered innocents, the raging Herod, Joseph and Mary fleeing into Egypt; and with a mixture of tears and joy she cried: 'Hail Bethlehem, house of bread, wherein was born that Bread that came down from heaven. John 6:51 Hail Ephratah, land of fruitfulness and of fertility, whose fruit is the Lord Himself. Concerning you has Micah prophesied of old,
Thou Bethlehem Ephratah art not the least among the thousands of Judah, for out of you shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will you give them up, until the time that she which travails has brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. For in you was born the prince begotten before Lucifer. Whose birth from the Father is before all time: and the cradle of David's race continued in you, until the virgin brought forth her son and the remnant of the people that believed in Christ returned unto the children of Israel and preached freely to them in words like these:
It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. Acts 13:46 For the Lord has said:
I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 15:24 At that time also the words of Jacob were fulfilled concerning Him,
A prince shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until He come for whom it is laid up, and He shall be for the expectation of the nations. Well did David swear, well did he make a vow saying:
Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house nor go up into my bed: I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids, or rest to the temples of my head, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the...God of Jacob. And immediately he explained the object of his desire, seeing with prophetic eyes that He would come whom we now believe to have come.
Lo we heard of Him at Ephratah: we found Him in the fields of the wood. The Hebrew word Zo as have learned from your lessons means not her, that is Mary the Lord's mother, but him that is the Lord Himself. Therefore he says boldly:
We will go into His tabernacle: we will worship at His footstool. I too, miserable sinner though I am, have been accounted worthy to kiss the manger in which the Lord cried as a babe, and to pray in the cave in which the travailing virgin gave birth to the infant Lord.
This is my rest for it is my Lord's native place;
here will I dwell for this spot has my Saviour chosen.
I have prepared a lamp for my Christ.
My soul shall live unto Him and my seed shall serve Him.
After this Paula went a short distance down the hill to the tower of Edar, that is 'of the flock,' near which Jacob fed his flocks, and where the shepherds keeping watch by night were privileged to hear the words:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. Luke 2:14 While they were keeping their sheep they found the Lamb of God; whose fleece bright and clean was made wet with the dew of heaven when it was dry upon all the earth beside, and whose blood when sprinkled on the doorposts drove off the destroyer of Egypt Exodus 12:21-23 and took away the sins of the world. John 1:29
11. Then immediately quickening her pace she began to move along the old road which leads to Gaza, that is to the 'power' or 'wealth' of God, silently meditating on that type of the Gentiles, the Ethiopian eunuch, who in spite of the prophet changed his skin Jeremiah 13:23 and while he read the old testament found the fountain of the gospel. Acts 8:27-39 Next turning to the right she passed from Bethzur to Eshcol which means
a cluster of grapes. It was hence that the spies brought back that marvellous cluster which was the proof of the fertility of the land Numbers 13:23-24 and a type of Him who says of Himself:
I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me. Isaiah 63:3 Shortly afterwards she entered the home of Sarah and beheld the birthplace of Isaac and the traces of Abraham's oak under which he saw Christ's day and was glad. And rising up from thence she went up to Hebron, that is Kirjath-Arba, or the City of the Four Men. These are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the great Adam whom the Hebrews suppose (from the book of Joshua the Son of Nun) to be buried there. But many are of opinion that Caleb is the fourth and a monument at one side is pointed out as his. After seeing these places she did not care to go on to Kirjath-sepher, that is
the village of letters; because despising the letter that kills she had found the spirit that gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 She admired more the upper springs and the nether springs which Othniel the son of Kenaz the son of Jephunneh received in place of a south land and a waterless possession, and by the conducting of which he watered the dry fields of the old covenant. For thus did he typify the redemption which the sinner finds for his old sins in the waters of baptism. On the next day soon after sunrise she stood upon the brow of Capharbarucha, that is,
the house of blessing, the point to which Abraham pursued the Lord when he made intercession with Him. Genesis 18:23-33 And here, as she looked down upon the wide solitude and upon the country once belonging to Sodom and Gomorrha, to Admah and Zeboim, she beheld the balsam vines of Engedi and Zoar. By Zoar I mean that
heifer of three years old Isaiah 15:5 which was formerly called Bela Genesis 14:2 and in Syriac is rendered Zoar that is 'little.' She called to mind the cave in which Lot found refuge, and with tears in her eyes warned the virgins her companions to beware of
wine wherein is excess; Ephesians 5:18 for it was to this that the Moabites and Ammonites owe their origin. Genesis 19:30-38
12. I linger long in the land of the midday sun for it was there and then that the spouse found her bridegroom at rest Song of Songs 1:7 and Joseph drank wine with his brothers once more. Genesis 43:16 I will return to Jerusalem and, passing through Tekoa the home of Amos, Amos 1:1 I will look upon the glistening cross of Mount Olivet from which the Saviour made His ascension to the Father. Here year by year a red heifer was burned as a holocaust to the Lord and its ashes were used to purify the children of Israel. Numbers 19:1-10 Here also according to Ezekiel the Cherubim after leaving the temple founded the church of the Lord. Ezekiel 10:18-19
After this Paula visited the tomb of Lazarus and beheld the hospitable roof of Mary and Martha, as well as Bethphage, 'the town of the priestly jaws.' Here it was that a restive foal typical of the Gentiles received the bridle of God, and covered with the garments of the apostles Matthew 21:1-7 offered its lowly back for Him to sit on. From this she went straight on down the hill to Jericho thinking of the wounded man in the gospel, of the savagery of the priests and Levites who passed him by, and of the kindness of the Samaritan, that is, the guardian, who placed the half-dead man upon his own beast and brought him down to the inn of the church. Luke 10:30-35 She noticed the place called Adomim or the Place of Blood, so-called because much blood was shed there in the frequent incursions of marauders. She beheld also the sycamore tree Luke 19:4 of Zacchæus, by which is signified the good works of repentance whereby he trod under foot his former sins of bloodshed and rapine, and from which he saw the Most High as from a pinnacle of virtue. She was shown too the spot by the wayside where the blind men sat who, receiving their sight from the Lord, Matthew 20:30-34 became types of the two peoples who should believe upon Him. Then entering Jericho she saw the city which Hiel founded in Abiram his firstborn and of which he set up the gates in his youngest son Segub. 1 Kings 16:34 She looked upon the camp of Gilgal and the hill of the foreskins Joshua 5:3 suggestive of the mystery of the second circumcision: Romans 2:28-29 and she gazed at the twelve stones brought there out of the bed of Jordan to be symbols of those twelve foundations on which are written the names of the twelve apostles. Revelation 21:14 She saw also that fountain of the Law most bitter and barren which the true Elisha healed by his wisdom changing it into a well sweet and fertilising. Scarcely had the night passed away when burning with eagerness she hastened to the Jordan, stood by the brink of the river, and as the sun rose recalled to mind the rising of the sun of righteousness; Malachi 4:2 how the priest's feet stood firm in the middle of the river-bed; Joshua 3:17 how afterwards at the command of Elijah and Elisha the waters were divided here and there and made way for them to pass; and again how the Lord had cleansed by His baptism waters which the deluge had polluted and the destruction of mankind had defiled.
13. It would be tedious were I tell of the valley of Achor, that is, of 'trouble and crowds,' where theft and covetousness were condemned; Joshua 7:24-26 and of Bethel, 'the house of God,' where Jacob poor and destitute slept upon the bare ground. Here it was that, having set beneath his head a stone which in Zechariah is described as having seven eyes Zechariah 3:9 and in Isaiah is spoken of as a corner-stone, Isaiah 28:16 he beheld a ladder reaching up to heaven; yes, and the Lord standing high above it Genesis 28:12-13 holding out His hand to such as were ascending and hurling from on high such as were careless. Also when she was in Mount Ephraim she made pilgrimages to the tombs of Joshua the Son of Nun and of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, exactly opposite the one to the other; that of Joshua being built at Timnath-serah
on the north side of the hill of Gaash, Joshua 24:30 and that of Eleazar
in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son. Joshua 24:33 She was somewhat surprised to find that he who had had the distribution of the land in his own hands had selected for himself portions uneven and rocky. What shall I say about Shiloh where a ruined altar 1 Samuel 1:3 is still shown today, and where the tribe of Benjamin anticipated Romulus in the rape of the Sabine women? Passing by Shechem (not Sychar as many wrongly read ) or as it is now called Neapolis, she entered the church built upon the side of Mount Gerizim around Jacob's well; that well where the Lord was sitting when hungry and thirsty He was refreshed by the faith of the woman of Samaria. Forsaking her five husbands by whom are intended the five books of Moses, and that sixth not a husband of whom she boasted, to wit the false teacher Dositheus, she found the true Messiah and the true Saviour. Turning away thence Paula saw the tombs of the twelve patriarchs, and Samaria which in honour of Augustus Herod renamed Augusta or in Greek Sebaste. There lie the prophets Elisha and Obadiah and John the Baptist than whom there is not a greater among those that are born of women. Luke 7:28 And here she was filled with terror by the marvels she beheld; for she saw demons screaming under different tortures before the tombs of the saints, and men howling like wolves, baying like dogs, roaring like lions, hissing like serpents and bellowing like bulls. They twisted their heads and bent them backwards until they touched the ground; women too were suspended head downward and their clothes did not fall off. Paula pitied them all, and shedding tears over them prayed Christ to have mercy on them. And weak as she was she climbed the mountain on foot; for in two of its caves Obadiah in a time of persecution and famine had fed a hundred prophets with bread and water. 1 Kings 18:4 Then she passed quickly through Nazareth the nursery of the Lord; Cana and Capernaum familiar with the signs wrought by Him; the lake of Tiberias sanctified by His voyages upon it; the wilderness where countless Gentiles were satisfied with a few loaves while the twelve baskets of the tribes of Israel were filled with the fragments left by them that had eaten. Matthew 14:13-21 She made the ascent of mount Tabor whereon the Lord was transfigured. In the distance she beheld the range of Hermon; and the wide stretching plains of Galilee where Sisera and all his host had once been overcome by Barak; and the torrent Judges 5:21 Kishon separating the level ground into two parts. Hard by also the town of Nain was pointed out to her, where the widow's son was raised. Luke 7:11-15 Time would fail me sooner than speech were I to recount all the places to which the revered Paula was carried by her incredible faith.
14. I will now pass on to Egypt, pausing for a while on the way at Socoh, and at Samson's well which he clave in the hollow place that was in the jaw. Here I will lave my parched lips and refresh myself before visiting Moresheth; in old days famed for the tomb of the prophet Micah, and now for its church. Then skirting the country of the Horites and Gittites, Mareshah, Edom, and Lachish, and traversing the lonely wastes of the desert where the tracks of the traveller are lost in the yielding sand, I will come to the river of Egypt called Sihor, Jeremiah 2:18 that is
the muddy river, and go through the five cities of Egypt which speak the language of Canaan, Isaiah 19:18 and through the land of Goshen and the plains of Zoan on which God wrought his marvellous works. And I will visit the city of No, which has since become Alexandria; and Nitria, the town of the Lord, where day by day the filth of multitudes is washed away with the pure nitre of virtue. No sooner did Paula come in sight of it than there came to meet her the reverend and estimable bishop, the confessor Isidore, accompanied by countless multitudes of monks many of whom were of priestly or of Levitical rank. On seeing these Paula rejoiced to behold the Lord's glory manifested in them; but protested that she had no claim to be received with such honour. Need I speak of the Macarii, Arsenius, Serapion, or other pillars of Christ! Was there any cell that she did not enter? Or any man at whose feet she did not throw herself? In each of His saints she believed that she saw Christ Himself; and whatever she bestowed upon them she rejoiced to feel that she had bestowed it upon the Lord. Her enthusiasm was wonderful and her endurance scarcely credible in a woman. Forgetful of her sex and of her weakness she even desired to make her abode, together with the girls who accompanied her, among these thousands of monks. And, as they were all willing to welcome her, she might perhaps have sought and obtained permission to do so; had she not been drawn away by a still greater passion for the holy places. Coming by sea from Pelusium to Maioma on account of the great heat, she returned so rapidly that you would have thought her a bird. Not long afterwards, making up her mind to dwell permanently in holy Bethlehem, she took up her abode for three years in a miserable hostelry; till she could build the requisite cells and monastic buildings, to say nothing of a house for passing travellers where they might find the welcome which Mary and Joseph had missed. At this point I conclude my narrative of the journeys that she made accompanied by Eustochium and many other virgins.
15. I am now free to describe at greater length the virtue which was her peculiar charm; and in setting forth this I call God to witness that I am no flatterer. I add nothing. I exaggerate nothing. On the contrary I tone down much that I may not appear to relate incredibilities. My carping critics must not insinuate that I am drawing on my imagination or decking Paula, like Æsop's crow, with the fine feathers of other birds. Humility is the first of Christian graces, and hers was so pronounced that one who had never seen her, and who on account of her celebrity had desired to see her, would have believed that he saw not her but the lowest of her maids. When she was surrounded by companies of virgins she was always the least remarkable in dress, in speech, in gesture, and in gait. From the time that her husband died until she fell asleep herself she never sat at meat with a man, even though she might know him to stand upon the pinnacle of the episcopate. She never entered a bath except when dangerously ill. Even in the severest fever she rested not on an ordinary bed but on the hard ground covered only with a mat of goat's hair; if that can be called rest which made day and night alike a time of almost unbroken prayer. Well did she fulfil the words of the psalter:
All the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears! Her tears welled forth as it were from fountains, and she lamented her slightest faults as if they were sins of the deepest dye. Constantly did I warn her to spare her eyes and to keep them for the reading of the gospel; but she only said: 'I must disfigure that face which contrary to God's commandment I have painted with rouge, white lead, and antimony. I must mortify that body which has been given up to many pleasures. I must make up for my long laughter by constant weeping. I must exchange my soft linen and costly silks for rough goat's hair. I who have pleased my husband and the world in the past, desire now to please Christ.' Were I among her great and signal virtues to select her chastity as a subject of praise, my words would seem superfluous; for, even when she was still in the world, she set an example to all the matrons of Rome, and bore herself so admirably that the most slanderous never ventured to couple scandal with her name. No mind could be more considerate than hers, or none kinder towards the lowly. She did not court the powerful; at the same time, if the proud and the vainglorious sought her, she did not turn from them with disdain. If she saw a poor man, she supported him: and if she saw a rich one, she urged him to do good. Her liberality alone knew no bounds. Indeed, so anxious was she to turn no needy person away that she borrowed money at interest and often contracted new loans to pay off old ones. I was wrong, I admit; but when I saw her so profuse in giving, I reproved her alleging the apostle's words:
I mean not that other men be eased and you burthened; but by an equality that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want. 2 Corinthians 8:13-14 I quoted from the gospel the Saviour's words:
he that has two coats, let him impart one of them to him that has none; and I warned her that she might not always have means to do as she would wish. Other arguments I adduced to the same purpose; but with admirable modesty and brevity she overruled them all.
that what I do I do for His sake. My prayer is that I may die a beggar not leaving a penny to my daughter and indebted to strangers for my winding sheet. She then concluded with these words:
I, if I beg, shall find many to give to me; but if this beggar does not obtain help from me who by borrowing can give it to him, he will die; and if he dies, of whom will his soul be required? I wished her to be more careful in managing her concerns, but she with a faith more glowing than mine clave to the Saviour with her whole heart and poor in spirit followed the Lord in His poverty, giving back to Him what she had received and becoming poor for His sake. She obtained her wish at last and died leaving her daughter overwhelmed with a mass of debt. This Eustochium still owes and indeed cannot hope to pay off by her own exertions; only the mercy of Christ can free her from it.
16. Many married ladies make it a habit to confer gifts upon their own trumpeters, and while they are extremely profuse to a few, withhold all help from the many. From this fault Paula was altogether free. She gave her money to each according as each had need, not ministering to self-indulgence but relieving want. No poor person went away from her empty handed. And all this she was enabled to do not by the greatness of her wealth but by her careful management of it. She constantly had on her lips such phrases as these:
Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy: Matthew 5:7 and Sirach 3:30 and
make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that...they may receive you into everlasting habitations; Luke 16:9 and
give alms...and behold all things are clean unto you; Luke 11:41 and Daniel's words to King Nebuchadnezzar in which he admonished him to redeem his sins by almsgiving. She wished to spend her money not upon these stones, that shall pass away with the earth and the world, but upon those living stones, which roll over the earth; of which in the apocalypse of John the city of the great king is built; Revelation 21:14 of which also the scripture tells us that they shall be changed into sapphire and emerald and jasper and other gems. Revelation 21:19-21
17. But these qualities she may well share with a few others and the devil knows that it is not in these that the highest virtue consists. For, when Job has lost his substance and when his house and children have been destroyed, Satan says to the Lord:
Skin for skin, yea all that a man has, will he give for his life. But put forth your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face. Job 2:4-5 We know that many persons while they have given alms have yet given nothing which touches their bodily comfort; and while they have held out a helping hand to those in need are themselves overcome with sensual indulgences; they whitewash the outside but within they are
full of dead men's bones. Matthew 23:27 Paula was not one of these. Her self-restraint was so great as to be almost immoderate; and her fasts and labours were so severe as almost to weaken her constitution. Except on feast days she would scarcely ever take oil with her food; a fact from which may be judged what she thought of wine, sauce, fish, honey, milk, eggs, and other things agreeable to the palate. Some persons believe that in taking these they are extremely frugal; and, even if they surfeit themselves with them, they still fancy their chastity safe.
18. Envy always follows in the track of virtue: as Horace says, it is ever the mountain top that is smitten by the lightning. It is not surprising that I declare this of men and women, when the jealousy of the Pharisees succeeded in crucifying our Lord Himself. All the saints have had illwishers, and even Paradise was not free from the serpent through whose malice death came into the world. Wisdom 2:24 So the Lord stirred up against Paula Hadad the Edomite to buffet her that she might not be exalted, and warned her frequently by the thorn in her flesh 2 Corinthians 12:7 not to be elated by the greatness of her own virtues or to fancy that, compared with other women, she had attained the summit of perfection. For my part I used to say that it was best to give in to rancour and to retire before passion. So Jacob dealt with his brother Esau; so David met the unrelenting persecution of Saul. I reminded her how the first of these fled into Mesopotamia; and how the second surrendered himself to the Philistines, 1 Samuel 21:10 and chose to submit to foreign foes rather than to enemies at home. She however replied as follows:— 'Your suggestion would be a wise one if the devil did not everywhere fight against God's servants and handmaidens, and did he not always precede the fugitives to their chosen refuges. Moreover, I am deterred from accepting it by my love for the holy places; and I cannot find another Bethlehem elsewhere. Why may I not by my patience conquer this ill will? Why may I not by my humility break down this pride, and when I am smitten on the one cheek offer to the smiter the other? Matthew 5:39 Surely the apostle Paul says
Overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 Did not the apostles glory when they suffered reproach for the Lord's sake? Did not even the Saviour humble Himself, taking the form of a servant and being made obedient to the Father unto death, even the death of the cross, Philippians 2:7-8 that He might save us by His passion? If Job had not fought the battle and won the victory, he would never have received the crown of righteousness, or have heard the Lord say:
Do you think that I have spoken unto you for anything else than this, that you might appear righteous. Job 40:8 In the gospel those only are said to be blessed who suffer persecution for righteousness' sake. Matthew 5:10 My conscience is at rest, and I know that it is not from any fault of mine that I am suffering; moreover affliction in this world is a ground for expecting a reward hereafter.' When the enemy was more than usually forward and ventured to reproach her to her face, she used to chant the words of the psalter:
While the wicked was before me, I was dumb with silence; I held my peace even from good: and again,
I as a deaf man heard not; and I was as a dumb man that opens not his mouth: and
I was as a man that hears not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs. When she felt herself tempted, she dwelt upon the words in Deuteronomy:
The Lord your God proves you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 13:3 In tribulations and afflictions she turned to the splendid language of Isaiah:
You that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts, look for tribulation upon tribulation, for hope also upon hope: yet a little while must these things be by reason of the malice of the lips and by reason of a spiteful tongue. Isaiah 28:9-11 This passage of scripture she explained for her own consolation as meaning that the weaned, that is, those who have come to full age, must endure tribulation upon tribulation that they may be accounted worthy to receive hope upon hope. She recalled to mind also the words of the apostle,
we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope: and hope makes not ashamed Romans 5:3-5 and
though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day: 2 Corinthians 4:16 and
our light affliction which is but for a moment works in us an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 She used to say that, although to human impatience the time might seem slow in coming, yet that it would not be long but that presently help would come from God who says:
In an acceptable time have I heard you, and in a day of salvation have I helped you. Isaiah 49:8 We ought not, she declared, to dread the deceitful lips and tongues of the wicked, for we rejoice in the aid of the Lord who warns us by His prophet:
fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be afraid of their revilings; for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: Isaiah 51:7-8 and she quoted His own words,
In your patience you shall win your souls: as well as those of the apostle,
the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us: Romans 8:18 and in another place,
we are to suffer affliction that we may be patient in all things that befall us, for
he that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29
19. In her frequent sicknesses and infirmities she used to say,
when I am weak, then am I strong: 2 Corinthians 12:10
we have our treasure in earthen vessels 2 Corinthians 4:7 until
this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality 1 Corinthians 15:54 and again
as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ: 2 Corinthians 1:5 and then as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation. 2 Corinthians 1:7 In sorrow she used to sing:
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? hope thou in God for I shall yet praise him who is the health of my countenance and my God. In the hour of danger she used to say:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me: Luke 9:23 and again
whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and
whosoever will lose his life for my sake the same shall save it. Luke 9:24 When the exhaustion of her substance and the ruin of her property were announced to her she only said:
What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul: Matthew 16:26 and
naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord: Job 1:21 and Saint John's words,
Love not the world neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away and the lust thereof. 1 John 2:15-17 I know that when word was sent to her of the serious illnesses of her children and particularly of Toxotius whom she dearly loved, she first by her self-control fulfilled the saying:
I was troubled and I did not speak, and then cried out in the words of scripture,
He that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:37 And she prayed to the Lord and said: Lord
preserve thou the children of those that are appointed to die, that is, of those who for your sake every day die bodily. I am aware that a talebearer — a class of persons who do a great deal of harm — once told her as a kindness that owing to her great fervour in virtue some people thought her mad and declared that something should be done for her head. She replied in the words of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 4:9 and
we are fools for Christ's sake 1 Corinthians 4:10 but
the foolishness of God is wiser than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25 It is for this reason she said that even the Saviour says to the Father,
You know my foolishness, and again
I am as a wonder unto many, but you are my strong refuge.
I was as a beast before you; nevertheless I am continually with you. In the gospel we read that even His kinsfolk desired to bind Him as one of weak mind. Mark 3:21 His opponents also reviled him saying John 8:48 and another time
he casts out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. Luke 11:15 But let us, she continued, listen to the exhortation of the apostle,
Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity and sincerity...by the grace of God we have had our conversation in the world. 2 Corinthians 1:12 And let us hear the Lord when He says to His apostles,
If you were of the world the world would love his own; but because you are not of the world...therefore the world hates you. John 15:19 And then she turned to the Lord Himself, saying,
You know the secrets of the heart, and
all this has come upon us; yet have we not forgotten you, neither have we dealt falsely in your covenant; our heart is not turned back.
Yea for your sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. But
the Lord is on my side: I will not fear what man does unto me. She had read the words of Solomon, Proverbs 7:2 These passages and others like them she used as God's armour against the assaults of wickedness, and particularly to defend herself against the furious onslaughts of envy; and thus by patiently enduring wrongs she soothed the violence of the most savage breasts. Down to the very day of her death two things were conspicuous in her life, one her great patience and the other the jealousy which was manifested towards her. Now jealousy gnaws the heart of him who harbours it: and while it strives to injure its rival raves with all the force of its fury against itself.
20. I shall now describe the order of her monastery and the method by which she turned the continence of saintly souls to her own profit. She sowed carnal things that she might reap spiritual things; 1 Corinthians 9:11 she gave earthly things that she might receive heavenly things; she forewent things temporal that she might in their stead obtain things eternal. Besides establishing a monastery for men, the charge of which she left to men, she divided into three companies and monasteries the numerous virgins whom she had gathered out of different provinces, some of whom are of noble birth while others belonged to the middle or lower classes. But, although they worked and had their meals separately from each other, these three companies met together for psalm-singing and prayer. After the chanting of the Alleluia— the signal by which they were summoned to the Collect — no one was permitted to remain behind. But either first or among the first Paula used to await the arrival of the rest, urging them to diligence rather by her own modest example than by motives of fear. At dawn, at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, at evening, and at midnight they recited the psalter each in turn. No sister was allowed to be ignorant of the psalms, and all had every day to learn a certain portion of the holy scriptures. On the Lord's day only they proceeded to the church beside which they lived, each company following its own mother-superior. Returning home in the same order, they then devoted themselves to their allotted tasks, and made garments either for themselves or else for others. If a virgin was of noble birth, she was not allowed to have an attendant belonging to her own household lest her maid having her mind full of the doings of old days and of the license of childhood might by constant converse open old wounds and renew former errors. All the sisters were clothed alike. Linen was not used except for drying the hands. So strictly did Paula separate them from men that she would not allow even eunuchs to approach them; lest she should give occasion to slanderous tongues (always ready to cavil at the religious) to console themselves for their own misdoing. When a sister was backward in coming to the recitation of the psalms or showed herself remiss in her work, Paula used to approach her in different ways. Was she quick-tempered? Paula coaxed her. Was she phlegmatic? Paula chid her, copying the example of the apostle who said:
What will you? Shall I come to you with a rod or in love and in the spirit of meekness? 1 Corinthians 4:21 Apart from food and raiment she allowed no one to have anything she could call her own, for Paul had said,
Having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 1 Timothy 6:8 She was afraid lest the custom of having more should breed covetousness in them; an appetite which no wealth can satisfy, for the more it has the more it requires, and neither opulence nor indigence is able to diminish it. When the sisters quarrelled one with another she reconciled them with soothing words. If the younger ones were troubled with fleshly desires, she broke their force by imposing redoubled fasts; for she wished her virgins to be ill in body rather than to suffer in soul. If she chanced to notice any sister too attentive to her dress, she reproved her for her error with knitted brows and severe looks, saying;
a clean body and a clean dress mean an unclean soul. A virgin's lips should never utter an improper or an impure word, for such indicate a lascivious mind and by the outward man the faults of the inward are made manifest. When she saw a sister verbose and talkative or forward and taking pleasure in quarrels, and when she found after frequent admonitions that the offender showed no signs of improvement; she placed her among the lowest of the sisters and outside their society, ordering her to pray at the door of the refectory instead of with the rest, and commanding her to take her food by herself, in the hope that where rebuke had failed shame might bring about a reformation. The sin of theft she loathed as if it were sacrilege; and that which among men of the world is counted little or nothing she declared to be in a monastery a crime of the deepest dye. How shall I describe her kindness and attention towards the sick or the wonderful care and devotion with which she nursed them? Yet, although when others were sick she freely gave them every indulgence, and even allowed them to eat meat; when she fell ill herself, she made no concessions to her own weakness, and seemed unfairly to change in her own case to harshness the kindness which she was always ready to show to others.
21. No young girl of sound and vigorous constitution could have delivered herself up to a regimen so rigid as that imposed upon herself by Paula whose physical powers age had impaired and enfeebled. I admit that in this she was too determined, refusing to spare herself or to listen to advice. I will relate what I know to be a fact. In the extreme heat of the month of July she was once attacked by a violent fever and we despaired of her life. However by God's mercy she rallied, and the doctors urged upon her the necessity of taking a little light wine to accelerate her recovery; saying that if she continued to drink water they feared that she might become dropsical. I on my side secretly appealed to the blessed pope Epiphanius to admonish, nay even to compel her, to take the wine. But she with her usual sagacity and quickness at once perceived the stratagem, and with a smile let him see that the advice he was giving her was after all not his but mine. Not to waste more words, the blessed prelate after many exhortations left her chamber; and, when I asked him what he had accomplished, replied,
Only this that old as I am I have been almost persuaded to drink no more wine. I relate this story not because I approve of persons rashly taking upon themselves burthens beyond their strength (for does not the scripture say:
Burden not yourself above your power? Sirach 13:2) but because I wish from this quality of perseverance in her to show the passion of her mind and the yearning of her believing soul; both of which made her sing in David's words,
My soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs after you. Difficult as it is always to avoid extremes, the philosophers are quite right in their opinion that virtue is a mean and vice an excess, or as we may express it in one short sentence
In nothing too much. While thus unyielding in her contempt for food Paula was easily moved to sorrow and felt crushed by the deaths of her kinsfolk, especially those of her children. When one after another her husband and her daughters fell asleep, on each occasion the shock of their loss endangered her life. And although she signed her mouth and her breast with the sign of the cross, and endeavoured thus to alleviate a mother's grief; her feelings overpowered her and her maternal instincts were too much for her confiding mind. Thus while her intellect retained its mastery she was overcome by sheer physical weakness. On one occasion a sickness seized her and clung to her so long that it brought anxiety to us and danger to herself. Yet even then she was full of joy and repeated every moment the apostle's words:
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24
The careful reader may say that my words are an invective rather than an eulogy. I call that Jesus whom she served and whom I desire to serve to be my witness that so far from unduly eulogizing her or depreciating her I tell the truth about her as one Christian writing of another; that I am writing a memoir and not a panegyric, and that what were faults in her might well be virtues in others less saintly. I speak thus of her faults to satisfy my own feelings and the passionate regret of us her brothers and sisters, who all of us love her still and all of us deplore her loss.
22. However, she has finished her course, she has kept the faith, and now she enjoys the crown of righteousness. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 She follows the Lamb wherever he goes. Revelation 14:4 She is filled now because once she was hungry. Luke 6:21 With joy does she sing:
as we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God. O blessed change! Once she wept but now laughs for evermore. Once she despised the broken cisterns of which the prophet speaks; Jeremiah 2:13 but now she has found in the Lord a fountain of life. John 4:14 Once she wore haircloth but now she is clothed in white raiment, and can say:
you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. Once she ate ashes like bread and mingled her drink with weeping; saying
my tears have been my meat day and night; but now for all time she eats the bread of angels and sings:
O taste and see that the Lord is good; and
my heart is overflowing with a goodly matter; I speak the things which I have made touching the king. She now sees fulfilled Isaiah's words, or rather those of the Lord speaking through Isaiah:
Behold, my servants shall eat but you shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink but you shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be ashamed: behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but you shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. Isaiah 65:13-14 I have said that she always shunned the broken cisterns: she did so that she might find in the Lord a fountain of life, and that she might rejoice and sing:
as the hart pants after the waterbrooks, so pants my soul after You, O God. When shall I come and appear before God?
23. I must briefly mention the manner in which she avoided the foul cisterns of the heretics whom she regarded as no better than heathen. A certain cunning knave, in his own estimation both learned and clever, began without my knowledge to put to her such questions as these: What sin has an infant committed that it should be seized by the devil? Shall we be young or old when we rise again? If we die young and rise young, we shall after the resurrection require to have nurses. If however we die young and rise old, the dead will not rise again at all: they will be transformed into new beings. Will there be a distinction of sexes in the next world? Or will there be no such distinction? If the distinction continues, there will be wedlock and sexual intercourse and procreation of children. If however it does not continue, the bodies that rise again will not be the same. For, he argued,
the earthy tabernacle weighs down the mind that muses upon many things, Wisdom 9:15 but the bodies that we shall have in heaven will be subtle and spiritual according to the words of the apostle:
it is sown a natural body: it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:44 From all of which considerations he sought to prove that rational creatures have been for their faults and previous sins subjected to bodily conditions; and that according to the nature and guilt of their transgression they are born in this or that state of life. Some, he said, rejoice in sound bodies and wealthy and noble parents; others have for their portion diseased frames and poverty stricken homes; and by imprisonment in the present world and in bodies pay the penalty of their former sins. Paula listened and reported what she heard to me, at the same time pointing out the man. Thus upon me was laid the task of opposing this most noxious viper and deadly pest. It is of such that the Psalmist speaks when he writes:
deliver not the soul of your turtle dove unto the wild beast, and
Rebuke the wild beast of the reeds; creatures who write iniquity and speak lies against the Lord and lift up their mouths against the Most High. As the fellow had tried to deceive Paula, I at her request went to him, and by asking him a few questions involved him in a dilemma. Do you believe, said I, that there will be a resurrection of the dead or do you disbelieve? He replied, I believe. I went on: Will the bodies that rise again be the same or different? He said, The same. Then I asked: What of their sex? Will that remain unaltered or will it be changed? At this question he became silent and swayed his head this way and that as a serpent does to avoid being struck. Accordingly I continued, As you have nothing to say I will answer for you and will draw the conclusion from your premises. If the woman shall not rise again as a woman nor the man as a man, there will be no resurrection of the dead. For the body is made up of sex and members. But if there shall be no sex and no members what will become of the resurrection of the body, which cannot exist without sex and members? And if there shall be no resurrection of the body, there can be no resurrection of the dead. But as to your objection taken from marriage, that, if the members shall remain the same, marriage must inevitably be allowed; it is disposed of by the Saviour's words:
ye do err not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels. Matthew 22:29-30 When it is said that they neither marry nor are given in marriage, the distinction of sex is shown to persist. For no one says of things which have no capacity for marriage such as a stick or a stone that they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but this may well be said of those who while they can marry yet abstain from doing so by their own virtue and by the grace of Christ. But if you cavil at this and say, how shall we in that case be like the angels with whom there is neither male nor female, hear my answer in brief as follows. What the Lord promises to us is not the nature of angels but their mode of life and their bliss. And therefore John the Baptist is called an angel even before he is beheaded, and all God's holy men and virgins manifest in themselves even in this world the life of angels. When it is said
you shall be like the angels, likeness only is promised and not a change of nature.
24. And now do you in your turn answer me these questions. How do you explain the fact that Thomas felt the hands of the risen Lord and beheld His side pierced by the spear? John 20:26-28 And the fact that Peter saw the Lord standing on the shore John 21:4 and eating a piece of a roasted fish and a honeycomb. Luke 24:42-43 If He stood, He must certainly have had feet. If He pointed to His wounded side He must have also had chest and belly for to these the sides are attached and without them they cannot be. If He spoke, He must have used a tongue and palate and teeth. For as the bow strikes the strings, so to produce vocal sound does the tongue come in contact with the teeth. If His hands were felt, it follows that He must have had arms as well. Since therefore it is admitted that He had all the members which go to make up the body, He must have also had the whole body formed of them, and that not a woman's but a man's; that is to say, He rose again in the sex in which He died. And if you cavil farther and say: We shall eat then, I suppose, after the resurrection; or How can a solid and material body enter in contrary to its nature through closed doors? You shall receive from me this reply. Do not for this matter of food find fault with belief in the resurrection: for our Lord after raising the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue commanded food to be given her. Mark 5:43 And Lazarus who had been dead four days is described as sitting at meat with Him, John 12:2 the object in both cases being to show that the resurrection was real and not merely apparent. And if from our Lord's entering in through closed doors John 20:19 you strive to prove that His body was spiritual and aerial, He must have had this spiritual body even before He suffered; since — contrary to the nature of heavy bodies — He was able to walk upon the sea. Matthew 14:25 The apostle Peter also must be believed to have had a spiritual body for he also walked upon the waters with buoyant step. Matthew 14:29 The true explanation is that when anything is done against nature, it is a manifestation of God's might and power. And to show plainly that in these great signs our attention is asked not to a change in nature but to the almighty power of God, he who by faith had walked on water began to sink for the want of it and would have done so had not the Lord lifted him up with the reproving words, Matthew 14:31 I wonder that you can display such effrontery when the Lord Himself said,
reach hither your finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither your hand and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing, John 20:27 and in another place,
behold my hands and my feet that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see me have. And when he had thus spoken he showed them his hands and his feet. Luke 24:39-40 You hear Him speak of bones and flesh, of feet and hands; and yet you want to palm off on me the bubbles and airy nothings of which the stoics rave!
25. Moreover, if you ask how it is that a mere infant which has never sinned is seized by the devil, or at what age we shall rise again seeing that we die at different ages; my only answer — an unwelcome one, I fancy — will be in the words of scripture:
The judgments of God are a great deep, and
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Romans 11:33-34 No difference of age can affect the reality of the body. Although our frames are in a perpetual flux and lose or gain daily, these changes do not make us different individuals. I was not one person at ten years old, another at thirty and another at fifty; nor am I another now when all my head is gray. According to the traditions of the church and the teaching of the apostle Paul, the answer must be this; that we shall rise as perfect men in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13 At this age the Jews suppose Adam to have been created and at this age we read that the Lord and Saviour rose again. Many other arguments did I adduce from both testaments to stifle the outcry of this heretic.
26. From that day forward so profoundly did Paula commence to loathe the man — and all who agreed with him in his doctrines — that she publicly proclaimed them as enemies of the Lord. I have related this incident less with the design of confuting in a few words a heresy which would require volumes to confute it, than with the object of showing the great faith of this saintly woman who preferred to subject herself to perpetual hostility from men rather than by friendships hurtful to herself to provoke or to offend God.
27. To revert then to that description of her character which I began a little time ago; no mind was ever more docile than was hers. She was slow to speak and swift to hear, James 1:19 remembering the precept,
Keep silence and hearken, O Israel. The holy scriptures she knew by heart, and said of the history contained in them that it was the foundation of the truth; but, though she loved even this, she still preferred to seek for the underlying spiritual meaning and made this the keystone of the spiritual building raised within her soul. She asked leave that she and her daughter might read over the old and new testaments under my guidance. Out of modesty I at first refused compliance, but as she persisted in her demand and frequently urged me to consent to it, I at last did so and taught her what I had learned not from myself — for self-confidence is the worst of teachers — but from the church's most famous writers. Wherever I stuck fast and honestly confessed myself at fault she would by no means rest content but would force me by fresh questions to point out to her which of many different solutions seemed to me the most probable. I will mention here another fact which to those who are envious may well seem incredible. While I myself beginning as a young man have with much toil and effort partially acquired the Hebrew tongue and study it now unceasingly lest if I leave it, it also may leave me; Paula, on making up her mind that she too would learn it, succeeded so well that she could chant the psalms in Hebrew and could speak the language without a trace of the pronunciation peculiar to Latin. The same accomplishment can be seen to this day in her daughter Eustochium, who always kept close to her mother's side, obeyed all her commands, never slept apart from her, never walked abroad or took a meal without her, never had a penny that she could call her own, rejoiced when her mother gave to the poor her little patrimony, and fully believed that in filial affection she had the best heritage and the truest riches. I must not pass over in silence the joy which Paula felt when she heard her little granddaughter and namesake, the child of Laeta and Toxotius — who was born and I may even say conceived in answer to a vow of her parents dedicating her to virginity— when, I say, she heard the little one in her cradle sing
alleluia and falter out the words
aunt. One wish alone made her long to see her native land again; that she might know her son and his wife and child to have renounced the world and to be serving Christ. And it has been granted to her in part. For while her granddaughter is destined to take the veil, her daughter-in-law has vowed herself to perpetual chastity, and by faith and alms emulates the example that her mother has set her. She strives to exhibit at Rome the virtues which Paula set forth in all their fullness at Jerusalem.
28. What ails you, my soul? Why do you shudder to approach her death? I have made my letter longer than it should be already; dreading to come to the end and vainly supposing that by saying nothing of it and by occupying myself with her praises I could postpone the evil day. Hitherto the wind has been all in my favour and my keel has smoothly ploughed through the heaving waves. But now my speech is running upon the rocks, the billows are mountains high, and imminent shipwreck awaits both you and me. We must needs cry out:
Master; save us we perish: and
awake, why do you sleep, O Lord? For who could tell the tale of Paula's dying with dry eyes? She fell into a most serious illness and thus gained what she most desired, power to leave us and to be joined more fully to the Lord. Eustochium's affection for her mother, always true and tried, in this time of sickness approved itself still more to all. She sat by Paula's bedside, she fanned her, she supported her head, she arranged her pillows, she chafed her feet, she rubbed her stomach, she smoothed down the bedclothes, she heated hot water, she brought towels. In fact she anticipated the servants in all their duties, and when one of them did anything she regarded it as so much taken away from her own gain. How unceasingly she prayed, how copiously she wept, how constantly she ran to and fro between her prostrate mother and the cave of the Lord! Imploring God that she might not be deprived of a companion so dear, that if Paula was to die she might herself no longer live, and that one bier might carry to burial her and her mother. Alas for the frailty and perishableness of human nature! Except that our belief in Christ raises us up to heaven and promises eternity to our souls, the physical conditions of life are the same for us as for the brutes.
There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good and to the evil; to the clean and to the unclean; to him that sacrifices and to him that sacrifices not: as is the good so is the sinner; and he that swears as he that fears an oath. Ecclesiastes 9:2 Man and beast alike are dissolved into dust and ashes.
29. Why do I still linger, and prolong my suffering by postponing it? Paula's intelligence showed her that her death was near. Her body and limbs grew cold and only in her holy breast did the warm beat of the living soul continue. Yet, as though she were leaving strangers to go home to her own people, she whispered the verses of the psalmist:
Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house and the place where your honour dwells, and
How amiable are your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs yea even faints for the courts of the Lord, and
I had rather be an outcast in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. When I asked her why she remained silent refusing to answer my call, and whether she was in pain, she replied in Greek that she had no suffering and that all things were to her eyes calm and tranquil. After this she said no more but closed her eyes as though she already despised all mortal things, and kept repeating the verses just quoted down to the moment in which she breathed out her soul, but in a tone so low that we could scarcely hear what she said. Raising her finger also to her mouth she made the sign of the cross upon her lips. Then her breath failed her and she gasped for death; yet even when her soul was eager to break free, she turned the death-rattle (which comes at last to all) into the praise of the Lord. The bishop of Jerusalem and some from other cities were present, also a great number of the inferior clergy, both priests and levites. The entire monastery was filled with bodies of virgins and monks. As soon as Paula heard the bridegroom saying:
Rise up my love my fair one, my dove, and come away: for, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, she answered joyfully
the flowers appear on the earth; the time to cut them has come and
30. No weeping or lamentation followed her death, such as are the custom of the world; but all present united in chanting the psalms in their several tongues. The bishops lifted up the dead woman with their own hands, placed her upon a bier, and carrying her on their shoulders to the church in the cave of the Saviour, laid her down in the centre of it. Other bishops meantime carried torches and tapers in the procession, and yet others led the singing of the choirs. The whole population of the cities of Palestine came to her funeral. Not a single monk lurked in the desert or lingered in his cell. Not a single virgin remained shut up in the seclusion of her chamber. To each and all it would have seemed sacrilege to have withheld the last tokens of respect from a woman so saintly. As in the case of Dorcas, Acts 9:39 the widows and the poor showed the garments Paula had given them; while the destitute cried aloud that they had lost in her a mother and a nurse. Strange to say, the paleness of death had not altered her expression; only a certain solemnity and seriousness had overspread her features. You would have thought her not dead but asleep.
One after another they chanted the psalms, now in Greek, now in Latin, now in Syriac; and this not merely for the three days which elapsed before she was buried beneath the church and close to the cave of the Lord, but throughout the remainder of the week. All who were assembled felt that it was their own funeral at which they were assisting, and shed tears as if they themselves had died. Paula's daughter, the revered virgin Eustochium,
as a child that is weaned of his mother, could not be torn away from her parent. She kissed her eyes, pressed her lips upon her brow, embraced her frame, and wished for nothing better than to be buried with her.
31. Jesus is witness that Paula has left not a single penny to her daughter but, as I said before, on the contrary a large mass of debt; and, worse even than this, a crowd of brothers and sisters whom it is hard for her to support but whom it would be undutiful to cast off. Could there be a more splendid instance of self-renunciation than that of this noble lady who in the fervour of her faith gave away so much of her wealth that she reduced herself to the last degree of poverty? Others may boast, if they will, of money spent in charity, of large sums heaped up in God's treasury, of votive offerings hung up with cords of gold. None of them has given more to the poor than Paula, for Paula has kept nothing for herself. But now she enjoys the true riches and those good things which eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man. 1 Corinthians 2:9 If we mourn, it is for ourselves and not for her; yet even so, if we persist in weeping for one who reigns with Christ, we shall seem to envy her her glory.
32. Be not fearful, Eustochium: you are endowed with a splendid heritage. The Lord is your portion; and, to increase your joy, your mother has now after a long martyrdom won her crown. It is not only the shedding of blood that is accounted a confession: the spotless service of a devout mind is itself a daily martyrdom. Both alike are crowned; with roses and violets in the one case, with lilies in the other. Thus in the Song of Songs it is written:
my beloved is white and ruddy; Song of Songs 5:10 for, whether the victory be won in peace or in war, God gives the same reward to those who win it. Like Abraham your mother heard the words:
get out of your country, and from your kindred, unto a land that I will show you; Genesis 12:1 and not only that but the Lord's command given through Jeremiah: Jeremiah 51:6 To the day of her death she never returned to Chaldæa, or regretted the fleshpots of Egypt or its strong-smelling meats. Accompanied by her virgin bands she became a fellow-citizen of the Saviour; and now that she has ascended from her little Bethlehem to the heavenly realms she can say to the true Naomi:
your people shall be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16
33. I have spent the labour of two nights in dictating for you this treatise; and in doing so I have felt a grief as deep as your own. I say in 'dictating' for I have not been able to write it myself. As often as I have taken up my pen and have tried to fulfil my promise; my fingers have stiffened, my hand has fallen, and my power over it has vanished. The rudeness of the diction, devoid as it is of all elegance or charm, bears witness to the feeling of the writer.
34. And now, Paula, farewell, and aid with your prayers the old age of your votary. Your faith and your works unite you to Christ; thus standing in His presence you will the more readily gain what you ask. In this letter
I have built to your memory
a monument more lasting than bronze, which no lapse of time will be able to destroy. And I have cut an inscription on your tomb, which I here subjoin; that, wherever my narrative may go, the reader may learn that you are buried at Bethlehem and not uncommemorated there.
The Inscription on Paula's Tomb.
Within this tomb a child of Scipio lies,
A daughter of the farfamed Pauline house,
A scion of the Gracchi, of the stock
Of Agamemnon's self, illustrious:
Here rests the lady Paula, well-beloved
Of both her parents, with Eustochium
For daughter; she the first of Roman dames
Who hardship chose and Bethlehem for Christ.
In front of the cavern there is another inscription as follows:—
Do you see here hollowed in the rock a grave,
'Tis Paula's tomb; high heaven has her soul.
Who Rome and friends, riches and home forsook
Here in this lonely spot to find her rest.
For here Christ's manger was, and here the kings
To Him, both God and man, their offerings made.
35. The holy and blessed Paula fell asleep on the seventh day before the Kalends of February, on the third day of the week, after the sun had set. She was buried on the fifth day before the same Kalends, in the sixth consulship of the Emperor Honorius and the first of Aristænetus. She lived in the vows of religion five years at Rome and twenty years at Bethlehem. The whole duration of her life was fifty-six years eight months and twenty-one days.
Source. Translated by W.H. Fremantle, G. Lewis and W.G. Martley. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001108.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.