When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate His life and character… The imitation of Christ Bk.1 Ch 1
Thomas von Kempen, Thomas à Kempis, (c. 1380 – 25 July 1471) was a German-Dutch Canon Regular of the Congregation of Windesheim.
Thomas (Thomas of/from Kempen) was born in Kempen in the Rhineland, Thomas Hemerken (or Hammerlein), which means "little hammer", after his father’s profession as a blacksmith. Thomas entered the Monastery of Mount St. Agnes, in 1399, as a layman after visiting his brother who was Prior of that monastery at the time. Thomas took Holy Orders in 1413 and was made Sub-Prior of the monastery in 1429.
As Sub-Prior he was charged with instructing novices. In that capacity, he wrote four booklets between 1420 and 1427, later collected and named after the title of the first chapter of the first booklet: The Imitation of Christ. Thomas died near Zwolle in 1471.
The Imitation of Christ
“He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness,” says the Lord. These are the words of Christ, by which we are reminded that we must copy His life and conduct if we wish to be truly enlightened and to be delivered from all blindness of heart. To meditate on the life of Jesus should therefore be our chief study.
Thus begins the great work known, loved, and venerated for six centuries as The Imitation of Christ (De Imitatione Christi), first published in 1418 by the German-Dutch monk and scribe, Thomas Hemerken of Kempen, better known as Thomas à Kempis (1380 – 25 July 1471).
“The Imitation” became, and has remained, after the Bible, the most widely read and translated book in the world, and certainly the most influential of Christian devotional writings. Widely praised across centuries and continents, a preface to an 1873 edition of the book reads, “The Imitation of Christ has received the unqualified approbation of every learned and pious ornament of the Church; it is still held in as high estimation by people of every denomination as it was at any time since it came from the pen of Thomas à Kempis.” A century prior, French author Fontenelle described it as, “The most excellent production that ever yet issued from the hand of man.”
Indeed, through writing pitched in the highest key of Christian experience, it reveals an exquisite sense of the beauty and wisdom of the Divine will, urging all believers to humbly—and happily—submit with their whole being.
While many assume the work to have been intended primarily for monastics and ascetics, its exhortations derive directly from the very bedrock of the Christian life: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Here, then, is the dividing line, the hinge upon which all else in the Christian life swings, and the core principle that informs our vision to amplify this simple and most fundamental aspect of the Gospel message. (From web site of the same name)
We begin our four-week book study of The Imitation this Wednesday, January 26th (tomorrow night). You may be receiving this news for the first time, but it is not too late to join the study.
I am posting several links below which will give you immediate access to the book, both written and in audio form. On Wednesday night we will determine how many participants have bought the book and which translation they have. There are many translation (as you have read above), but the two most popular are the “Modern Translation” and the translation by William Benham.
It was my intention to use the “Modern Translation” for this study, but we will make this determination on Wednesday. In the meantime, I have provided links below for both translations.
The first link is for the “Modern Translation.” Below is an excerpt of the "Contents page." This page lists the "Forward" and books one through four as you see in this excerpt:
Table of Contents
Book One -- Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
Book Two -- The Interior Life
Book Three -- Internal Consolation
Book Four -- An Invitation to Holy Communion
The page then continues with the contents of Book One, Two, Three, and Four as thus:
Book One. Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
1. Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth
2. Having A Humble Opinion of Self
3. The Doctrine of Truth
4. Prudence in Action
5. Reading the Holy Scripture
6. Unbridled Affections
7. Avoiding False Hope and Pride
You may use the first set of links to jump to the dedicated "book" page, or you may use the links below to jump straight to the chapter. The BLUE number next to each line is the chapter of the that Book. You will notice the Chapters are several paragraphs or less each. Here is the link:
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis - Cyber Library (leaderu.com)
Next, are the two links below for the translation by William Benham. The first link presents the text in a “chapter format.” This format uses direct jumps to the chapters and a “next” button to advance. I have also placed a second link for this translation which presents the text in a “whole book” format in which the entire book is accessible in scroll form.
Link for chapter format:
Link for whole book format:
In like manner, below are two links, one for the “Modern Translation” and the second for the translation by William Benham.
“Modern Translation” link:
Thomas à Kempis - The Imitation of Christ (Audiobook) - YouTube
William Benham link:
We will focus on several chapters in Book One this Wednesday, however, I suggest that you read or listen to all of Book One.
For this Wednesday please read and listen to:
Ch's. 1 through 9
Ch's. 11, 12, 14, 20, 23
We will focus on the theme of "Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life," as Thomas states in the opening.
You are encouraged to take notes or highlight places of interest as you read/listen. We will be looking at key aspects of these chapters in our study time. However, if you have reflections or comments found in other chapters, we will try to address them all.
Peace in Christ,
For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Acts 17:23
“Knowledge obscures unknowing, and especially much knowledge.”
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Theologia Mystica
“Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite” is an unknown writer who wrote in the late 5th century under the pseudonym of Dionysius the Areopagite. The real Dionysius the Areopagite was an Athenian judge at the Areopagus Court in Athens who was converted to Christianity by St. Paul in the first century.
Pseudo-Dionysius wrote during the time of the great Christological controversies when competing philosophies and traditions sought to define the person of God. Into this fray, Pseudo-Dionysius wrote a short, powerful appeal to humility and peace. His Mystical Theology would become one of the most influential books of Christian thought and practice, in which he describes a state of awareness that is beyond knowing:
“Unknowing, or agnosia, is not ignorance or absence of knowledge as ordinarily understood, but rather the realization that no finite knowledge can fully know the Infinite One, and that therefore He is only truly to be approached by agnosia, or by that which is beyond and above knowledge.”
Note 1 on Ch.1, para 2
As thinking, rational beings, we are burdened by our reliance on intellectual understanding or on our belief that we understand. Pseudo-Dionysius provides a method by which we can transcend ourselves and truly encounter God; a method of unburdening ourselves from the belief we know without losing the assurance of being known.
We have been truly blessed by symbols, practices, and traditions, all of which aid and direct our faith exploration and our growth in Christlike-ness. Our rich and varied Anglican worship relies on and celebrates the diverse and beautiful offerings and opportunities to achieve spiritual contact with God. We are immersed in image, song, light, and color all offering varied avenues to spiritual awareness as we gather, seeking Christ in us. These wonderful liturgical and personal devotion practices guide us along the path of awareness and can deliver us to the doorstep of divine revelation, but there may be one more thing we need to take that final step: agnosia.
Let this be my prayer; [to] leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in the world of being… Ch.1, para 2
How to get there? Try this as you pray:
Think about what you imagine as you make your prayers. Give form, in your mind, to the image of God and see that image with the understanding of how that image came to be or is a comfort for you. Now, gently erase the image and imagine God, not in the image-less space, but as the image-less space; in fact, allow God to be the imageless space in the center of your spirit—in your mind.
Once you have allowed this to happen, simply stay in that moment. Allow the newness of this event to become your prayer—your wordless awareness of God, and you may experience the closeness of God as unknown; the divine presence of God boundless and encompassing. This may sound a bit “out there,” but on our journey of searching for God, is it too strange to try? Thankfully, we have 1,700 years of Christian practice and faith to help on the Way.
Peace in agnosia,
Well, we all know what it means, don’t we? Epiphany is from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “appearance,” or “manifestation.” In the church, Epiphany is the season which commemorates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi who traveled to Bethlehem to adore Jesus two years after his birth (Matthew 2:1–12). But what does it mean for us personally?
Epiphany is certainly an opportunity for worship, and to worship in a spectacular way: bonfire and all! It is an opportunity to sing favorite hymns reserved for this season. It is an opportunity for gentle reflection as Christmas decorations are boxed up and Christmas present bills come due. It is a time of recovering back to our routine following Christmas for sure, but there is so much more.
Let’s take the gifts of the Magi: what do they mean and how can they help us find new meaning? The Bible tells us there were three Magi, but, in fact, there were many more. Church tradition has presented us with three as a manageable number. The Bible does tell us, however, that the Magi brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The meaning of these gifts is fairly self-evident:
The 3 gifts of the Magi also represented three virtues: gold represents charity; frankincense represents prayer; and myrrh represents sacrifice.
Still further, we can reflect on Epiphany as an opportunity to renew our devotion to Jesus by entering into the process of revelation which unfolds in the biblical story. God revealed the Star in the sky, the importance in the heart, the longing in the spirit, the recognition in the mind. Epiphany can mean the unfolding newness of God in Christ radiating through our entire life.
How is the Epiphany of Christ revealing God in your life? A less used but beautiful way to reflect on God is through poetry. I offer you this poem whose images push us to reflect beyond the easily accessible biblical story, for prayer and reflection:
Epiphany And Revelation
Eons of water dripping on a stone
Altered and absorbed into creation--
But I need suddenness of something known
From Epiphany and Revelation.
Realization's not slow and steady,
Rather spontaneous elevation.
My need to learn demands I stay ready
For Epiphany and Revelation.
Show me no small lessons that life presents,
But insight with dramatic sensation!
Life unfolds in a series of events
Of Epiphany and Revelation.
Even silence is thunderous rapture
Triggering profound imagination.
Knowledge springs from the wisdom I capture
With Epiphany and Revelation.
Who I am today is a product of
Awe in my moments of education.
It's these times in life that I've learned to love--
My Epiphany and Revelation.
Written by, notthepoethewantstobe Aug 2018
Epiphany in Christ,
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as “Twelvetide,” is the period in which we celebrate the Birth of Christ. Historically and liturgically, Twelvetide was initiated at one of the great councils of the church, the Council of Tours. There were actually five Councils of Tours convened by Emperor Charlemagne in Tours, France, calling together Bishops and theologians to discuss church order. The Council of 567 proclaimed “the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany (traditionally 6 January) as a sacred and festive season, and established the duty of Advent fasting in preparation for the feast." This decision was made, in part, based on the effort to align the Gregorian and Julian calendars concurrently being used by the eastern and the western churches.
The medieval Twelvetide was a time of joy and celebration. With Christmas as the anchor, the twelve days were filled with feasts of the eastern and western churches’ specific saints and events. These feasts were a reminder of God’s bountiful love for us and the ability of humankind to respond in dedication and devotion to God. They included the feasts of Saint Stephen, Saint John the Apostle, Saint Sylvester, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Saint Basil the Great; the Circumcision of Christ (or the Feast of Mary); and the Memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus. If you were worried about putting a few pounds at Uncle Merv’s on Christmas day—imagine this dozen opportunities to over-indulge! Instead, the “feast” was every bit as much about spiritual nourishment and theological significance: each day held a special focus and a unique opportunity to show devotion to God and each other in Jesus’ name.
Even as Christmas, an established Christian celebration, has been usurped by our contemporary culture, so too were the celebrations of Twelvetide. The celebration of the twelfth day, for instance—a celebration of the proclamation of the Christian faith through the Apostles’ Creed (more on that in a moment)—became simply a time to party and let loose. Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night is a much beloved comedy of role reversals and breaking rules thought to be inspired by the party atmosphere of what the playwright knew well in his time: the twelfth night.
In an effort to reclaim and observe our Christian history and heritage of this period of time, we need look no further than one of our beloved Christmas songs. Thought to be a secular, cutesy love song, The Twelve Days of Christmas was actually written by priests for Catechism. In Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas1, celebrated author Ace Collins details the song’s history:
Originally a poem written by Catholic clerics, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" song was transformed into a carol at a time when celebrating the twelve days of Christmas was one of the most important holiday customs. By understanding the meaning the clerics chose the twelve days as wrapping for their poem, the full impact of the tradition of the twelve days of Christmas can be understood.
Perhaps this year we can reclaim the lost meaning. As you read more of Collins’ wonderful explanation of the true meaning of this song, I pray you are blessed with joy in the revelation and encouraged to teach others of its origin and meaning.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... a partridge in a pear tree.
The partridge in a pear tree represents Jesus, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on the first day of Christmas. Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge, the only bird that will die to protect its young.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... two turtledoves.
These twin birds represent the Old and New Testaments. So, in this gift, the singer finds the complete story of Judeo-Christian faith and God’s plan for the world. The doves are the biblical roadmap that is available to everyone.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... three French hens.
These birds represent faith, hope, and love. This gift hearkens back to 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter written by the apostle Paul.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... four calling birds.
One of the easiest facets of the song’s code to figure out, these fowl are the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... five gold rings.
The gift of the rings represents the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... six geese a-laying.
These lyrics can be traced back to the first story found in the Bible. Each egg is a day in creation, a time when the world was “hatched” or formed by God.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me... seven swans a-swimming.
It would take someone quite familiar with the Bible to identify this gift. Hidden in the code are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion. As swans are one of the most beautiful and graceful creatures on earth, they would seem to be a perfect symbol for spiritual gifts.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... eight maids a-milking.
As Christ came to save even the lowest of the low, this gift represents the ones who would receive his word and accept his grace. Being a milkmaid was about the worst job one could have in England during this period; this code conveyed that Jesus cared as much about servants as he did those of royal blood. The eight who were blessed included the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... nine ladies dancing.
These nine dancers were really the gifts known as the fruit of the Spirit. The fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... ten lords a-leaping.
This is probably the easiest gift to understand. As lords were judges and in charge of the law, this code for the Ten Commandments was fairly straightforward to Catholics.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... eleven pipers piping.
This is almost a trick question, as most think of the disciples in terms of a dozen. But when Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, there were only eleven men who carried out the gospel message.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... twelve drummers drumming.
The final gift is tied directly to the Catholic Church. The drummers are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.”
Peace on earth, good will towards all!
Father Bill Burk†