Born in approximately 1380 AD, Thomas a Kempis lived his life as a canon regular priest in the Netherlands and authored the devotional knowns as The Imitation of Christ. It is said that the book is the second most read book in Christendom after the Bible in its popularity. This religious classic arose from the Devotio Moderna movement of which Kempis was a member.
The text is divided into four books of detailed spiritual directives. These are Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life; Directives for the Interior Life; On Interior Consolation and On the Blessed Sacrament. Each of these place an emphasis on the interior life and withdrawal from the world. Devotion to the Eucharist is set out as the key to a richly rewarding spiritual life.
Book Two is today’s reading and continues the theme from Book 1 but with respect to instructions in achieving inward peace, purity of heart, and a good conscience. In striving for these qualities, moderation of longing and desires, an emphasis on patience and submission to the will of God is coupled with a devotion to our love for Christ. Endurance of loss of comfort and taking up the cross is strongly encouraged in this work.
The impetus is on how a good conscience brings peace and contentment. Mankind judges external deeds but only God is capable of weighing the heart. Because of this, there is all the more reason to place faith in Jesus and not man. Also in the balance of surface versus inner workings of mankind is that the false sense of freedom and overconfidence are also obstacles for the development of a keen spiritual life. Grace is given to the grateful and its hard to be this when you are exceptionally filled with pride.
All of the good in this world is to the glory of God and comes from Him. No gift, however lowly valued by man should not be received with out grace and gratitude. And perhaps most important, we must carry our crosses with a spirit of willingness. These are the things that bring us the gains that God sees we need to obtain and therefore closer to our desired goals. Sometimes these crosses may seem unduly burdensome, this then is when we should most prayerfully rely on and trust in the Lord to give us strength from Heaven.
You may read book 2 of The Imitation of Christ here:
Alternatively, you may listen to this work in an audiobook format here: