Friday, August 27, 2010

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, transl. Aloysius and Harold Bolton, Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola New York, 2003.

Theories most popular at the moment ascribe the Imitation to two or three men, members of the Brethren of the Common Life, an association of priests organized in the Netherlands in the latter half of the fourteenth century. That Thomas Hemerken of Kempen, or Thomas a Kempis as he is now known, later translated a composite of their writings, essentially a spiritual diary, from the original Netherlandish into Latin is generally admitted by scholars. This Thomas, born about the year 1380, … (vii)

…the Imitation became and has remained, after the Bible, the most widely read book in the world. (viii)

Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men. (Book 1, The Second Chapter, page 2) [know thyself… know thy limitations]

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of knowledge of which does little or not good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. (2)

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do no be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. (2)

Happy is he to whom the truth manifests itself, not in signs and words that fade, but as it actually is. Our opinion, our senses often deceive us and we discern very little. (3rd Chapter, 3)

He to whom the Eternal Word speaks is free from theorizing. (3)

I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You; do You alone speak to me. (3)

Truth, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction. (5)

Our curiosity often impedes our readings of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by. (5th chapter, 5)

Do not be self-sufficient but place your trust in God. … Put no trust in your own learning nor in the cunning of any man, but rather in the grace of God… (7th chapter, 6)

It is a very great thing to obey, to live under a superior and not to be one’s own master, for it is much safer to be subject than it is to command. (9th chapter, 7)

Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. (12th chapter, 9)

If you would persevere in seeking perfection, you must consider yourself a pilgrim, an exile on earth. (17th chapter, 13)

…in the evening examine yourself on what you have said this day, what you have done and thought, for in these things perhaps you have often offended god and those about you. (19th chapter, 15)

Leave curiosities alone. Read such matters as bring sorrow to the heart rather than occupation to the mind. (20th chapter, 16)

No man deserves the consolation of heaven unless he persistently arouses himself to holy contrition. (20th chapter, 17)

But woe to those who know not their own misery, and greater woe to those who love this miserable and corruptible life. Some, indeed, can scarcely procure its necessities either by work or by begging; yet they love it so much that, if they could live here always, they would care nothing for the kingdom of God. (22nd chapter, 20)

Indeed, a long life does not always benefit us, but on the contrary, frequently adds to our guilt. (chapter 22, 21)

In truth, you cannot have two joys: you cannot taste the pleasures of this world and afterward reign with Christ. (24th chapter, 24)

Therefore, faithful soul, prepare your heart for this Bridegroom that He may come and dwell within you; He Himself says: “If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, … (Book 2, 1st chapter, 28)

Consider nothing great, nothing high, nothing pleasing, nothing acceptable, except God Himself or that which is of God. (5th chapter, 33)

Blessed is he who appreciates what it is to love Jesus and who despises himself for the sake of Jesus. (7th chapter, 34)

Why do you look for rest when you were born to work? (10th chapter, 38)

For He wishes you to learn to bear trial without consolation, to submit yourself wholly to Him that you may become more humble through suffering. (12th chapter, 41)

Blessed are the ears that catch the accents of divine whispering, and pay no heed to the murmurings of this world. (Book 3, 1st chapter, 44)

“I am that you can hear what the Lord your God speaks within you. (44)

And who am I that I should dare speak to You? I am Your poorest and meanest servant, a vile worm, much more poor and contemptible than I know or dare to say. Yet remember me, Lord, because I am nothing, I have nothing, and I can do nothing. You alone are good, just, and holy. (A Prayer for the Grace of Devotion, 47)

Your progress in spiritual life does not consist in having the grace of consolation, but in enduring its withdrawal. (7th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 52)

Nor is he very brave or wise who becomes too despondent in times of adversity and difficulty and thinks less confidently of Me than he should (Voice of Christ, 7th chapter, 53)

When a spirit of fervor is enkindled within you, you may well mediate on how you will feel when the fervor leaves. Then, when this happens, remember that the light which I have withdrawn for a time as a warning to you and for My own glory may return. (7th chapter, Voice of Christ, 53)

That you conform your desires entirely according to My good pleasure, (The Voice of Christ, 11th chapter, 57)

Behold, they who prosper in the world shall perish as smoke, and there shall be no memory of their past joys. (The Voice of Christ, 12th chapter, 58)

Habit already formed will resist you, but it shall be overcome by a better habit. The flesh will murmur against you, but it will be bridled by fervor of spirit. (The Voice of Christ, 12th chapter, 58)

Be zealous against yourself. (13th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 59)

Not every desire is from the Holy Spirit, even though it may seem right and good. It is difficult to be certain whether it is a good spirit or a bad one that prompts one to this or that, … commit the whole matter to Me with true resignation, and say: “Lord, You know what is better for me (Voice of Christ, 15th chapter, 61)

Whatever I can desire or imagine for my own comfort I look for not here but hereafter. For if I alone should have all the world’s comforts and could enjoy all its delights, it is certain that they could not long endure. Therefore, my soul, you cannot enjoy full consolation or perfect delight except in God, (16th chapter, The Disciple, 62)

From the moment of My birth to My death on the cross, suffering did not leave Me. I suffered great want of temporal goods. Often I heard many complaints against Me. Disgrace and reviling I bore with patience. For My blessings I received ingratitude, for My miracles blasphemies, and for My teaching scorn. (The Voice of Christ, 18th chapter, 64)

Grant, most sweet and loving Jesus, that I may seek my repose in You above every creature; above all health and beauty; above every honor and glory; every power and dignity; above all knowledge and cleverness, all riches and arts, all joy and gladness; (21st chapter, The Disciple, 67)

My child, do not be curious. Do not trouble yourself with idle cares. What matters this or that to you? Follow Me. What is it to you if a man is such and such, if another does or says this or that? You will not have to answer for others, but you will have to give an account of yourself. (24th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 72)

It is the mark of a perfect man, Lord, never to let his mind relax in attention to heavenly things, …but having by the certain prerogative of a free mind no disorderly affection for any created being. (The Disciple, 26th chapter, 74)

Behold, eating, drinking, clothing, and other necessities that sustain the body are burdensome to the fervent soul. … It is not lawful to cast them aside completely, for nature must be sustained, but Your holy law forbids us to demand superfluous things and things that are simply for pleasure, (The Disciple, 26th chapter, 74)

Of what use is anxiety about the future? Does it bring you anything but trouble upon trouble? Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. It is foolish and useless to be either grieved or happy about future things which perhaps may never happen. (30th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 77)

There is great difference between the wisdom of an enlightened and devout man and the learning of a well-read and brilliant scholar, for the knowledge which flows down from divine sources is much nobler than that laboriously acquired by human industry. (31st chapter, The Disciple, 79)

‘A Man Should Not Be Unduly Solicitous About His Affairs.’ My child, always commit your cause to Me. I will dispose of it rightly in good time. Await My ordering of it and it will be to your advantage. (The Voice of Christ, 39th chapter, 87)

Lord, I am nothing, of myself I have nothing that is good; (The Disciple, 40th chapter, 88)

My child, if you place your peace in any creature because of your own feeling or for the sake of his company, you will be unsettled and entangled. But if you have recourse to the everliving and abiding Truth, you will not grieve if a friend should die or forsake you. Your love for your friend should be grounded in Me, and for My sake you should love whoever seems to be good and is very dear to you in this life. Without My friendship has no strength and cannot endure. Love which I do not bind is neither true nor pure. (42nd chapter, The Voice of Christ, 89) [an insult to love]

My child, there are many matters of which it is well for you to be ignorant, and to consider yourself as one who is dead upon the earth and to whom the whole world is crucified. (The Voice of Christ, 44th chapter, 91)

And why do such small matters pierce you to the heart, unless because you are still carnal and pay more heed to men than you ought? … But look into yourself more thoroughly and you will learn that the world is still alive in your, in a vain desire to please men. For when you shrink from being abased and confounded for your failings, it is plain indeed that you are not truly humble or truly dead to the world, (46th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 94)

What you do, do well. Work faithfully in My vineyard. I will be your reward. Write, read, sing, mourn, keep silence, pray, and bear hardships like a man. Eternal life is worth all these and greater battles. Peace will come on a day which is known to the Lord, and then there shall be no day or night as at present but perpetual light, infinite brightness, lasting peace, and safe repose. (The Voice of Christ, 47th chapter, 95)

My child, often, when the fire is burning the flame does not ascend without smoke. Likewise, the desires of some burn toward heavenly tings, and yet they are not free from temptations of carnal affection. Therefore, it is not altogether for the pure honor of God that they act when they petition Him so earnestly. (49th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 98)

My judgments are to be feared, not discussed, because they are incomprehensible to the understanding of men. (58th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 111)

These are all Your words, O Christ, eternal Truth, through they were not all spoken at one time nor written together in one place. And because they are Yours and true, I must accept them … (Book 4, 1st chapter 1, The Disciple, 115)

The most devout King David danced before the ark of God with all his strength as he recalled the benefits once bestowed upon his fathers. He made musical instruments of many kinds. He composed psalms and ordered them sung with joy. He himself often played upon the harp when moved by the grace of the Holy Ghost. He taught the people of Israel to praise God with all their hearts and to raise their voices every day to bless and glorify Him. (1st chapter, The Disciple, 117)

‘It is profitable to receive communion often’ Behold, I come to You, Lord, that I may prosper by Your gift and be delighted at Your hold banquet which You, O God, in Your sweetness have prepared for Your poor. Behold, all that I can or ought to desire is in You. … I must often come to You, therefore, and receive the strength of my salvation lest, deprived of this heavenly food, I grow weak on the way. Once, most merciful Jesus, while preaching to the people the healing their many ills, You said: “I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” Deal with me likewise. (The Disciple, 3rd chapter, 120)

It is indeed necessary for me, who fall and sin so often, who so quickly become lax and weak, to renew, cleanse, and inflame myself through frequent prayer, confession, and the holy reception of Your Body, lest perhaps by abstaining too long, I fall away from my hold purpose. For from the days of his youth the senses of man are prone to evil, and unless divine aid strengthens him, he quickly falls deeper. (3rd chapter, The Disciple, 121)

Lament and grieve because you are still so worldly, so carnal, so passionate and unmortified, so full of roving lust, so careless in guarding the external senses, so often occupied in many vain fancies, so inclined to exterior things and so heedless of what lies within, so prone to laughter and dissipation and so indisposed to sorrow and tears, so inclined to ease and the pleasures of the flesh and so cool to austerity and zeal, so curious to hear what is new and to see the beautiful and so slow to embrace humiliation and dejection, so covetous of abundance, so niggardly in giving and so tenacious in keeping, so inconsiderate in speech, so reluctant in silence, so undisciplined in character, so disordered in action, so greedy at meals, so deaf to the Word of God, so prompt to rest and so slow to labor, so awake to empty conversation, so sleepy in keeping sacred vigils and so eager to end them , so wandering in your attention, so careless in saying the office, so lukewarm in celebrating, so heartless in receiving, so quickly distracted, so seldom fully recollected, so quickly moved to anger, so apt to take offense at others, so prone to judge, so severe in condemning, so happy in prosperity and so weak in adversity, so often making good resolutions and carrying so few of them into action. (7th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 125)

What more do I ask than that you give yourself entirely of Me? I care not for anything else you may give Me, for I seek not your gift but you. (8th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 126)

God can do more than man can understand. A pious and humble searched for truth He will allow, a search that is ever ready to learn and that seeks to walk in the reasonable doctrine of the fathers. (18th chapter, The Voice of Christ, 139)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home