Classics: The Straight Path to Hell!

Jerome, Epistles 2.30:

When several years earlier I had, for the kingdom of heaven, separated myself from home, from my parents, from my sister, from my relations, and – what is more difficult than this – from the habit of taking finer food, and as I was heading as a soldier to fight for Jerusalem, I found that I missed the library which I had created in Rome with the utmost zeal and labor. After depriving myself of sleep for several nights, and after the tears which the recollection of my past sings brought to my eyes, I took Plautus up in my hands. If ever I returned to myself and began to read the Prophets, their unrefined speech made my hair stand on end. And because I could not see the light with my blind eyes, I thought it was not the fault of those eyes, but of the sun. Thus while the ancient serpent deceived me, a fever spread through my marrow in the middle of Lent and waged war upon my exhausted body. And without any rest (which seems also incredible to say), it ate away at my wretched limbs to such a degree that I could barely cling to my bones. My funeral was being prepared, and the vital heat of my soul, with my whole body now freezing, remained beating only in my lukewarm little heart.

Suddenly, I was taken in spirit and dragged to the seat of a judge. There was so much light, so much shining from the clarity of those standing around, that I threw myself to the floor and did not dare to glance up. When asked about my condition, I responded that I was a Christian. And he who was presiding as judge said, ‘You lie! You are a Ciceronian, not a Christian. For where your treasure is, there too is your heart (Matth. 6.21).’ There I stood silent, and amidst my lashings, I thought over that little verse: “Who will grant anything to you in Hell?” (Ps. 6.6)

It starts with Cicero and ends with searing pain!

Cum ante annos plurimos domo, parentibus sorore, cognatis, et quod his difficilius est, consuetudine lautioris cibi, propter coelorum me regna castrassem, et Jerosolymam militaturus pergerem, Bibliotheca, quam mihi Romae summo studio ac labore confeceram, carere omnino non poteram. Itaque miser ego lecturus Tullium, jejunabam. Post noctium crebras vigilias, post lacrymas, quas mihi praeteritorum recordatio peccatorum ex imis visceribus eruebat, Plautus sumebatur in manus . Si quando in memetipsum reversus, Prophetas legere coepissem, sermo horrebat incultus; et quia lumen caecis oculis non videbam, non oculorum putabam culpam esse, sed solis. Dum ita me antiquus serpens [al. hostis] illuderet, in media ferme Quadragesima medullis infusa febris, corpus invasit exhaustum: et sine ulla requie (quod dictu quoque incredibile sit) sic infelicia membra depasta est, ut ossibus vix haererem. Interim parantur exequiae, et vitalis animae calor, toto frigescente jam corpore, in solo tantum tepente pectusculo palpitabat: Cum subito raptus in spiritu, ad tribunal judicis pertrahor; ubi tantum luminis, et tantum erat ex circumstantium claritate fulgoris, ut projectus in terram, sursum aspicere non auderem. Interrogatus de conditione, Christianum me esse respondi. Et ille qui praesidebat: Mentiris, ait, Ciceronianus es, non Christianus: ubi enim thesaurus tuus, ibi et cor tuum (Matth. 6. 21). Illico obmutui, et inter verbera (nam caedi me jusserat) conscientiae magis igne torquebar, illum mecum versiculum reputans: “In inferno autem quis confitebitur tibi” (Ps. 6. 6)

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