Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Imagine Receiving Such a Luminous Letter

I was so intrigued by researching the life of Saint Paulinus of Nola for his feast day. He is beloved, in part, because of his correspondence with such heavy hitters as Jerome and Augustine. I just had to find some of the poems and letters he wrote.

Among the jewels I encountered were letters Paulinus wrote to Sulpicius Severus. The men had much in common; both were from wealthy families, grew up in France and converted to Christianity and a life of ascetism after enduring losses. In fact, they converted the same year - 389. As Paulinus found solace in the Church after the loss of his newborn son, Sulpicius was drawn to the faith after the death of his wife shortly after their marriage. The Church later recognized both men as saints. Here are two excerpts from a letter.
What I love about these passages are the extended metaphors; Saint Paulinus compares fields to our souls. Imagine receiving such a letter as this. 

"But the field which you are does not bristle with thorns, nor is it dry with sand, or rough and bare with rocky places, where the seed that falls is choked, left uncovered or scorched. No, you are the field which God blessed with the dew of heaven and fertility of the earth. So your tongue is bedewed with the word of God, and your heart, which God finds fertile, receives the seed and multiplies it in spiritual harvest, so that with your  fruit the Reaper fills His hand, and He that gathereth sheathes, His bosom. It is God himself who is referred to here,  for He is both Sower and Reaper of the Word in us. He is also the hand, the right hand of God, which we fill with good works;  He is also the bosom of Abraham in which we find rest as rewards for our works."

And later in the letter he writes: 

"May the same Lord become for our food the sweet grape, which was hung for us on the lever of the cross, showing us and allowing us to taste the fruit of the promised land so that we may no longer seek after the poor growth of the uncultivated fields, amongst which we risk plucking also the noxious cluster of wild vines. This certainly happened to me when my soul, whose culture is the word of God, was rough with the thorns of worldly cares. I yearned for this present life, so short in years and barren in good, and amongst my  meaningless actions, I gathered harmful sins like poisonous grass amongst wild grass, and so I admitted death to the cauldron of my body or my heart. But thanks be to God, who has delivered me from the body of this death through Jesus Christ our Lord. As He mingled the strength of His spirit  with my weakness,  my bitter wickedness and barren uselessness were transformed to sweetness and fertility."
This post first appeared last year at www.yimcatholic.blogspot.com


  1. This is really lovely and I need lovely right now. Thank you, thank you.

  2. Thanks for reading Fran and I hope you find some peace today. Some days are just tough (reading into your comment here; perhaps yesterday wasn't a tough one)

    In Christ,