Jerome on Beginnings

What, then, should I do? I cannot satisfy and I dare not deny. I am an unskilled passenger put in charge of a freight ship; I am a man who has not yet commanded a rowboat and is entrusted to the crashing of the Euxine Sea. Now, with the land fading, “sky on every side, and on every side the sea,” now a shadowy wave rises up, and in a night gloomy with rainclouds, foamy surges grow white. You urge me to hoist my swelling sails, to loosen the halyards, to take the helm.

I submit to your demands. And because love has power over all things, I will entrust my course to the Holy Spirit as my guide, and will have this as my solace, whatever my lot. If the sea-swell pushes me into wished-for ports, I will be considered an inferior pilot; if my unrefined way of speaking instead puts us in the choppy channels of speaking, you may perhaps question my ability, but you certainly will not be able to criticize my intent.

Quid igitur faciam? quod implere non possum, negare non audeo. Super onerariam navem rudis vector imponor. Et homo, qui necdum scalmum in lacu rexi, Euxini maris credor fragoribus. Nunc mihi evanescentibus terris, “coelum undique et undique pontus” [Virg. Aen. 5.9]: nunc unda tenebris inhorrescit, et caeca nocte nimborum spumei fluctus canescunt. Hortaris, ut tumida malo vela suspendam, rudentes explicem, clavum regam.

Pareo iam iubenti, et quia caritas omnia potest, Spiritu Sancto cursum prosequente confidam, habiturus in utraque parte solatium; si me ad optatos portus aestus impulerit, gubernator putabor infirmior; si inter asperos orationis anfractus impolitus sermo substiterit, facultatem forsitan quaeras, voluntatem certe flagitare non poteris.

—Jerome, Epistulae 1.2

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