#48. The Imitation of Christ (Thomas à Kempis)

Book: The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis

Genre and Year of Publication: Spiritual exhortation; written in the 1420s, in Latin

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 220 pages approx.

Briefly, it’s a series of reflections on growing in the spiritual life and in union with God, by a monk and (seemingly) intended for monks, though it has influenced many others down the centuries.  Alleged to be the second most widely read Christian book of all time, and generally hailed as a Christian (Catholic) classic.

Comments: It took me many months to read this book, from the beginning of March to the very last days of October.  That is not because, as some find, its wisdom is so rich that it can be ingested only a little at a time, but because I found it quite heavy and wearisome.  I wanted to like this book.  I was open to receiving it positively.  I know that many holy people have found it to be a treasure.  But I just couldn’t find much in it to make me want to pick it up again whenever I left it down.  Yes, I was impressed by the 100% dedication which the author expects us to give to following the Gospel and loving Jesus Christ.  But I was really turned off by the constant harping on our own vileness, filth, worthlessness, etc.  Here is just one example picked at random:

What shall I think upon in this Communion in approaching my Lord, whom I am not able worthily to honour, and nevertheless whom I long devoutly to receive?  What shall be better and more healthful meditation for me, than utter humiliation of myself before Thee, and exaltation of Thine infinite goodness towards me? I praise Thee, O my God, and exalt Thee for evermore. I despise myself, and cast myself down before Thee into the deep of my vileness.  Book IV, Chapter II, par 2

It also promotes a very individualistic spirituality; there is little sense of being on a spiritual journey with others, and little about working with others or for others in our following of the Gospel.  I suppose it is of its era.  It has a very different tone to, for example, Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel.

Challenges: Back to the Classics challenge, for the category “A Classic in translation”; ebook reading challenge; non-fiction challenge


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