The writings of St Jerome (Hieronymus), known and copied since antiquity, have shaped his image as a learned exegete, a bold translator and a fiery polemicist. A somewhat different picture of the saint, as someone who prays earnestly, sings psalms and cares about the salvation of his monks, is revealed to us through the critical edition (by G. Morin) of the homilies given by him in Bethlehem c. 400. They also allow us to reconstruct the liturgical customs introduced by Hieronymus in his 'monasterium'. We find in them certain features of local Palestinian customs (among them 'multi-stage' homilies, anaphora (?), Psalm 33 sung during communion); others may, with a high degree of probability, be ascribed to the Roman tradition. Among the latter belong some elements of the calendar (Christmas celebrated on 25 December) and 'lectio continua' in readings and Mass psalmody. The article also puts forward the hypothesis that the morning service in the Bethlehem community began with the recitation of 'laudes' (Ps. 148-150), followed by other fixed psalms of the cathedral hourly liturgy. A mention in Jerome's letter 38 (to Marcella) suggests that such an order of psalms was also common in the Roman church, which would confirm the information given by John Cassian (De institutis coenobiorum), previously disregarded, about the custom, peculiar to Italy, of reciting Psalms 148-150 before Psalm 50. Jerome's letter also allow us to differentiate a number of types of psalmody practiced by the monks in Bethlehem (responsorial, antiphonal chant), where the customary refrain appears to have been the word “Alleluia”.
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