Today’s “The Imitation of Christ” Book One Chapter VII Of avoiding vain hope and arrogance

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by
The Imitation of Christ: Book 1 Chapter 7; Of avoiding vain hope and arrogance

Book One Chapter VII Of avoiding vain hope and arrogance

He is a vain man that putteth his hope in man, or in things created.

Be not ashamed to wait on others for the love of Jesus Christ, and to be looked upon as poor in this world.

Depend not upon thyself, but place thy hope in God.

Do what thou canst, and God will be with thy good will.

Trust not in thine own knowledge nor in the cunning of any man living, but rather in the grace of God, who helpeth the humble and humbleth them that presume upon themselves.

Glory not in riches, if thou have them, nor in friends, because they are powerful; but in God, who giveth all things, and desireth to give Himself above all things.

Boast not of thyself of thy stature or beauty of body, which with a little sickness is spoiled and disfigured.

Be not proud of thy abilities or thy talents, lest thou offend God, to whom appertaineth whatever good thou mayst naturally have.

Esteem not thyself better than others, lest, perhaps, thou be accounted worse in the sight of God, who knoweth what is in man.

Be not proud of thy own good words; for the judgements of God are other than those of men; and what pleaseth men oftentimes displeaseth Him.

If thou have any good in thee, believe still better things of others, that thou mayest preserve humility.

It will do thee no harm to put thyself below every body, but it will hurt thee very much to put thyself before any one.

Continual peace dwelleth with the humble; but in the heart of the proud is frequent envy and indignation.

Practical Reflections

Depend only upon God, whom nothing can move, on whom alone thou oughtest to rely; for nothing is weaker, more uncertain, and more inconstant than man, who is made up of error, malice, and lies.

Hope all things of God, and nothing from thyself, nor from others. Do not glory in thy good works or ability, but in all things, and by all things, give glory to God, to whom alone glory is due.

Prayer

As, O Jesus, Thou hatest and despisest those who, through a secret self-complacency, exalt themselves before Thee, but lovest and honorest those who attribute nothing to themselves but evil, and refer all good to Thee. Impart to us we beseech Thee, interior humility of heart, which brings us nigh to Thee, and makes us worthy of thy love: heal the pride and vanity of our high nad haughty minds, which remove us to a distance from Thee, and excite Thy hatred against us: and make our hearts humble, submissive and docile to Thy holy will, that so we may bring down Thy mercies upon us. Amen


“Turn to the Lord with all your heart, forsake this sorry world, and your soul will find rest.”

Thomas Kempis

​Thomas à Kempis

’That gentle and anxious Augustian’ as one of his translators called him [1]

Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471) was born in the town of Kempen along the Rhine, within the Holy Roman Empire, now part of modern Germany. His family name, Hemerken (meaning little hammer), reflected his father’s trade as a blacksmith. His mother was a school mistress.

At the age of twelve, while learning Latin in Deventer, Thomas became familiar with the Brethren of the Common Life, a lay monastic community founded eighteen years earlier by Geert Groote and Floris Radewyns. The pair had been the catalyst for a widespread spiritual renewal, known as the Devotio Moderna (Modern-Day Devout), calling for a rediscovery of the simple apostolic faith. In 1406, after leaving school, Thomas followed his brother Jan into the Augustinian monastery of Mount St. Agnes, a Brethren congregation in the nearby city of Zwolle. Except for a brief exile, Thomas spent the remainder of his long life there.

In an age of clerical corruption, the Brethren devoted themselves to holiness, challenging laity and priests alike with their authentic piety. They founded schools, served the poor, taught the Scriptures and copied manuscripts. As Thomas was educated, he spent most of his time in the latter exercises and personally copied the Bible no fewer than four times.[2]

 In the course of instructing novices, he wrote four booklets which were later combined and published anonymously in 1418 under the title of the first: On the Imitation of Christ. Its central themes are devotion to God, humility, contempt of the world, and meditation on the sufferings of Christ. The work also serves as a brief manual on the monastic life—especially a kind of interior monasticism, unconcerned with outward appearances, but rather with ‘the transformation of one’s way of life’. [3]

The success of the Imitation was both immediate and enduring so that by the 18th century no book, apart from the Bible, had been translated into more languages. [4]

 It remains to this day perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional and a classic expression of the Devotio Moderna. Thomas authored many other works including biographies on de Groote and Radewijns (who was his spiritual father).

As Thomas’ reputation grew many sought him for spiritual guidance, but he avoided all visitors as far as courtesy would allow. The conversation for which he longed best is described in the 2nd chapter of book three of the Imitation. Toward the close of his life, he wrote, ‘I have sought rest everywhere, but I have found it nowhere except in a little corner with a little book.'[5]

Thomas died at the venerable age of 92. The Brethren remembered him as a ‘kind man, in love with Christ, a comforter to those in temptation and trouble’.[6]

A statue of Thomas à Kempis at his home town of Kempen. An ironic tribute to a man who ‘loved to be unknown’


1. E. M. Blaiklock, Introduction to The Imitation of Christ (1979), Hodder and Stoughton, p102. Vincent Sculley, Thomas à Kempis, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14 (1912) Robert Appleton Company.
3. Greg Peters, Imitating Christ, Christian History: Medieval lay mystics, Issue 127, p27.4. von Habsburg, Catholic and Protestant Translations of the Imitatio Christi, 1425-1650 (2011), Ashgate.
5. The Imitation of Christ, (1974) J. M. Dent & Sons, London, p12.
6. Chronicle of Mount St Agnes, ch. 30.

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