In this new year I will be slowly working through Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, an early 15th century work that may be the most widely read and distributed Christian work next to the Bible. In addition, I will be looking at the day’s lectionary readings for connections to the chapter in Kempis on which I’m focused. I endeavor to post daily some thoughts that strike me as I carefully and meditatively read the book (I invite you to read along with your own copy or use a full text version, but I will also link, in the post, directly to the chapter under discussion). I will also add some beautiful and inspirational art for contemplation (click on the image to see it in its original location) as well as additional links for further study and exploration.
I plan to do three or four posts on each chapter. The citation in the headline will provide the book, chapter, and paragraph numbers.
I hope it will provide us all a deeper appreciation of the Faith and Scripture. Of course, I would love for you to provide your thoughts in the comments and will be happy to engage in a discussion with you.
Kempis begins his work by contrasting the importance of knowledge of Christ and our fallen nature’s obsession with worldly pursuits (IC 1,1). He certainly highlights the importance of the Gospel in this endeavor, yet he emphasizes not head knowledge but rather heart knowledge that cannot be attained “without the love and grace of God” (IC 1,1,3).
This fits perfectly with today’s gospel reading (Lk 2:16-21) in which we hear of the shepherds coming to see the wondrous event of the Savior’s birth that the angels had just announced to them and then going to spread the Good News before coming back once again to the stable to glorify and praise God. Jesus’ mother, seeing all these things unfold, “reflect[s] on them in her heart.” How often must Our Lady have mulled over the wondrous events in her life, even to this point! An announcement of an angel out of the blue; the exclamation of her cousin, Elizabeth, upon their meeting; faithful Joseph with her the whole way; the long trip to Bethlehem so late in her term; consignment to a cave that becomes her maternity ward; and, all the while, wondering what this will mean for their little family and for her beloved Child.
A mother’s heart, so full of love for her child, for her family, and for all of humanity. A heart and soul, as we will soon find out (see Lk 2:35), that will be pierced as only a mother’s can be when witnessing the suffering of her offspring. A heart that will continue to ponder the meaning of all these things for the remainder of her time on earth (see Lk 2:51).
What better example was there ever of a human person whose “chief study [was] to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ,” as Kempis admonishes us, than the Blessed Mother (and what more appropriate title for the one whom all generations shall call “blessed” [see Lk 1:48] and who is “the mother of my Lord” [Lk 1:43]).
O, dear Lady, on this the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, make our hearts like unto yours.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart by Alice Havers, c. 1888. Norwich Castle, Norwich, United Kingdom.