Imitation of Christ by Thomas `a Kempis
Excerpts from Bk 2, Chapters 7, 8; Bk 3, Chapters 5 and 6
Thomas `a Kempis talks to us about what is love, how we should love God, and of the wonderful effects of God’s love. He reminds us that great love also has great responsibilities. A MUST read for us all.
Love is a great thing, a great good in every way, for it alone lightens every burden and passes smoothly over all misfortunes. Love carries a burden without feeling it and makes every bitter thing sweet and savory. The noble love of Jesus spurs us on to do great things and excites us always to long for perfection. Love wants to soar to the heights and not be tied down by anything low. Love wants to be free, unencumbered and whole, lest its inner vision be clouded by any momentary gain or temporary setback.
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger, nothing more sublime, nothing more expansive, nothing more joyful, nothing more abundant or better in heaven or on earth. Love is born of God; in the end, it rests in nothing other than God.
A person who loves may soar, run and rejoice; he is free and nothing holds him back. He gives all for all and has all in all, since above all he rests in that one highest good, from whom all good springs and flows. He does not look at the gifts he receives, but he turns himself beyond all gifts to the giver.
Love often knows no limit, but exceeds all limits. Love feels no burden, shrugs off all labor, aims beyond its strength, and refuses to admit impossibility. Because love believes that it can accomplish anything, it does.
Love keeps watch, and sleeping keeps one eye open. Tired, it is not wearied; constrained, it is not bound; frightened, it is not terrified, but like a living flame or burning torch it mounts upward, passing through unharmed. Whoever loves recognizes this voice: “My God! My Love! You are all mine and I am all yours!” It is the cry of the ardent soul deeply in love with God.
Love is swift, honest, devout, joyous and pleasing; love is strong, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, courageous. Love is never self-seeking, for when we seek ourselves, we abandon love. Love is watchful, humble and upright; it is not soft, not frivolous, not given to empty things; it is sober, chaste, steadfast, calm and it always stays alert. Love is submissive and obedient; it is ordinary and insignificant in its own eyes, devout and grateful to God, always trusting and hoping in him, even when it cannot taste him, for one does not know love without pain.
The person who is not ready to suffer all things and to do all things that his beloved asks, does not deserve to be called a lover. For the sake of the beloved, a lover should willingly embrace every hardship and bitterness and not turn away from his beloved when things go wrong.
That person is truly blessed who understands what it is to love Jesus and to serve him with deep humility. Jesus wishes to be loved above all things; everything else must come second. The love of anything other than Jesus is deceptive and fickle; the love of Jesus is faithful and enduring. The person who embraces Jesus stands firm forever. Love Jesus and keep him as your friend. He alone can help you when all else fails.
If you seek Jesus in everything, you will surely find him, but if you seek yourself, self you will surely find, but to your own ruin. By not seeking Jesus, we hurt ourselves more than the whole world and all our enemies could hurt us.
When Jesus is with us, all is right with the world and nothing seems difficult; when he is missing, everything is hard. When Jesus does not speak to the heart, comfort is worthless; but if he speaks only one word, we feel great joy.
Love all things for Jesus’ sake, but love Jesus for his own sake. Of all the friends you will find, you should love Jesus Christ in a unique way, for he is the only one who will be good and faithful to the end. Through him and in him love friends and foes alike, and pray that each one may come to know and love him.
Be a courageous and wise lover! Do not be like the lover who at the least little hardship drops what he is doing and impatiently looks around for a word of comfort from anyone who happens to be close at hand. A courageous lover remains firm in the midst of temptation and does not cave in to the cunning suggestions of the enemy.
The wise lover does not consider so much the lover’s gift, as the giver’s love. He pays more attention to the giver’s affection than to the gift’s value, and he places less value on all gifts than he does on the beloved.
Prayer: Stretch wide my love so that I may learn to taste how sweet it is to love, to dissolve in love, to swim in it. Let me be gripped by love, soaring beyond myself through boundless passion and wonder. Let me sing love’s song. Let me follow you, my Jesus, my beloved, on high. Let my soul, exalting in love, lose itself in your praise. Let me love you more than myself, and let me love myself only for love of you. Let me love you in all others who truly love you, as the law of love, which shines from you, commands. Amen.