Today is the feast of the monk and priest St. Jerome (circa 347-420). After living throughout the Mediterranean world, he spent his final years in Bethlehem. Jerome is best remembered for the Vulgate, his translation of the Bible into Latin. The Latin biblical texts sung in the liturgy at Ascension and St. Agnes generally come from this translation.
Jerome claims that ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ. He is not asking us to become biblical scholars as he was. Instead, he is setting forth as a principle what Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) recognizes in a prayer. Cranmer’s prayer remains in our liturgy. In it we ask God to grant that we may so hear the holy Scriptures, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, “that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life” that God has given us in Christ.
Ignorance of the scripture is ignorance of Christ. We can keep overcoming this ignorance through a lifelong process of engagement with scripture. As we do so in diverse ways, the hope of everlasting life becomes in us an ever-deeper reality.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington