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I have seen on multiple websites, mostly websites about seeing the Holy Land or otherwise pilgrimage-focused sites, that St. Jerome said:

If I could only see that manger in which the Lord lay! Now, as if to honour the Christ, we have removed the poor one and placed there a silver one; however, for me the one which was removed is more precious . . . .

The site typically prefaces it similar to the link above saying that St. Jerome, whose cave was nearby (since Jerome lived in Bethlehem at this time), did not approve of the 4th century replacement of the marble manger with the silver manger. Also quoted around the same point in the article is a "biblical scholar" who similarly disapproves of the "men's devotions" around the cave of the nativity.

I have yet to find a basis for this quote by Jerome. Do we have any record of this statement anywhere?

My search found a somewhat contradictory quote in letter 108, to Eustochium, dated AD 404:

I too, miserable sinner though I am, have been accounted worthy to kiss the manger in which the Lord cried as a babe, and to pray in the cave in which the travailing virgin gave birth to the infant Lord.

This quote suggests that he, at least some point in the past up to AD 404, was able to access the original manger. Perhaps the manger replacement came at a later point before his death in AD 420.

I could not find the original quote on either New Advent or Christian Classics Ethereal Library. If anyone could find a basis for this quote attributed to Jerome, that would be great.

  • @KenGraham Please don't add superfluous edits like this, particularly given that we're on a site where not everyone will agree about whether "St." should be put in front of names. – Kyralessa Jun 27 at 7:51
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I was a bit skeptical, but the quote appears to be legitimate. It's from one of Jerome's homilies. Merely searching for jerome manger silver, I found this page in The Homilies of Saint Jerome, Volume 2.

Here's a more complete quotation:

O, if only I were permitted to look upon that manger in which the Lord lay! Now, as an honor to Christ, we have taken away the manger of clay and have replaced it with crib [sic] of silver, but more precious to me is the one that has been removed. Silver and gold are proper to heathendom; Christian faith is worthy of the manger that is made of clay. He who was born in that manger cared nothing for gold and silver. I do not find fault with those who made the change in the cause of honor (nor do I look with disfavor upon those in the Temple who made vessels of gold), but I wonder at the Lord, the Creator of the universe, who is born, not surrounded by gold and silver, but by mud and clay.

  • Is there a date for this homily? And thank you so much! +1 – Alex Strasser Jun 26 at 16:45
  • From a glimpse at the introduction thanks to Amazon's "Look Inside" feature for the same book (The Homilies of Saint Jerome, Volume 2), it appears to be around the year 400, +/- 20 years. I don't know the exact date. The introduction said one set of scholars suggested all the homilies were delivered between 393 and 413, but I couldn't see the previous page for the alternate option. Of course looking at the Wikipedia page for Saint Jerome can give you the general date range. – Kyralessa Jun 26 at 18:52

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