Saturday, July 19, 2014

Goodreads review: Imitation of Christ

Imitation of ChristImitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No accident that Imitation of Christ is, second to the Bible, the most beloved book in Christendom. Filled with sound doctrine and timeless exhortations to religious perfection, it offers no fashionable alternatives nor shortcuts nor culturally correct 'relevance'. It is a work for all seasons and all centuries. Its target audience is the serious Christian, no one else. It simply instructs the reader on the Truth and on how therefore to live. It is to be slowly absorbed, not just read.

This passage, written in the person of Christ, may be the most perfect portrayal of the Cross that I've ever found:
Of my own will did I offer up myself unto God the Father for thy sins. My hands were stretched forth on the cross, and my body laid bare, so that nothing remained in me that was not wholly turned into a sacrifice for the appeasing of the divine majesty. [4th Book, Ch.VIII,1a]

If Imitation of Christ has a flaw, it is that it was intended for monks and hermits. As such, many of its exhortations, such as
Choose therefore a secret place to thyself, love to live alone with thyself, desire the conversation of none; but rather pour out devout prayer unto God, that thou mayest keep thy soul contrite, and thy conscience pure. [3rd Book, Ch.LIII,1c]
can not be literally practiced by, say, a married person or a parish priest, whose vocation necessarily involves contact with people. This caveat, in my opinion, does not detract from the book's profound prophetic worth.

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