Saturday, May 2, 2015

With How Great Reverence Christ Must Be Received. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 4, Chapter 1


The Voice of Christ

Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I willrefresh you,(1) saith the Lord. The bread that I will give is Myflesh which I give for the life of the world.(2) Take, eat: thisis My Body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance ofMe.(3) He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth inMe and I in him. The words that I speak unto you, they arespirit, and they are life.(4)
(1) Matthew xi. 28 (2) John vi. 51.
(3) Matthew xxi. 26; Luke xxii. 19. (4) John vi. 51, 63.

The Voice of the Disciple
These are Thy words, O Christ, Eternal Truth; though not uttered
at one time nor written together in one place of Scripture.
Because therefore they are Thy words and true, I must gratefully
and faithfully receive them all. They are Thine, and Thou hast
uttered them; and they are mine also, because Thou didst speak
them for my salvation. Gladly I receive them from Thy mouth,
that they may be more deeply implanted in my heart. Words of
such great grace arouse me, for they are full of sweetness and
love; but my own sins terrify me, and my impure conscience
driveth me away from receiving so great mysteries. The sweetness
of Thy words encourageth me, but the multitude of my faults
presseth me down.
Thou commandest that I draw near to Thee with firm confidence,
if I would have part with Thee, and that I receive the food of
immortality, if I desire to obtain eternal life and glory. Come
unto Me, sayest Thou, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will refresh you. Oh, sweet and lovely word in the ear of the
sinner, that Thou, O Lord my God, dost invite the poor and needy
to the Communion of Thy most holy body and blood. But who am I,
O Lord, that I should presume to approach unto Thee? Behold the
heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, and yet Thou sayest, Come
ye all unto Me.
What meaneth this most gracious condescension, this most
lovely invitation? How shall I dare to come, who know no good
thing of myself, whence I might be able to presume? How shall I
bring Thee within my house, seeing that I so often have sinned in
Thy most loving sight? Angels and Archangels stand in awe of
Thee, the Saints and just men fear Thee, and Thou sayest, Come
unto Me! Except Thou, Lord, hadst said it, who should believe it
true? And except Thou hadst commanded, who should attempt to draw
Behold, Noah, that just man, laboured for a hundred years in
building the ark, that he might be saved with the few; and I, how
shall I be able in one hour to prepare myself to receive the
Builder of the world with reverence? Moses, Thy servant, Thy
great and especial friend, made an ark of incorruptible wood,
which also he covered with purest gold, that he might lay up in
it the tables of the law, and I, a corruptible creature, shall I
dare thus easily to receive Thee, the Maker of the Law and the
Giver of life? Solomon, the wisest of the kings of Israel, was
seven years building his magnificent temple to the praise of Thy
Name, and for eight days celebrated the feast of its dedication,
offered a thousand peace offerings, and solemnly brought up the
Ark of the Covenant to the place prepared for it, with the sound
of trumpets and great joy, and I, unhappy and poorest of mankind,
how shall I bring Thee into my house, who scarce know how to
spend half an hour in devotion? And oh that it were even one
half hour worthily spent!
O my God, how earnestly these holy men strove to please Thee!
And alas! how little and trifling is that which I do! how short
a time do I spend, when I am disposing myself to Communion.
Rarely altogether collected, most rarely cleansed from all
distraction. And surely in the saving presence of Thy Godhead no
unmeet thought ought to intrude, nor should any creature take
possession of me, because it is not an Angel but the Lord of
the Angels, that I am about to receive as my Guest.
Yet there is a vast difference between the Ark of the Covenant
with its relics, and Thy most pure Body with its ineffable
virtues, between those sacrifices of the law, which were figures
of things to come, and the true sacrifice of Thy Body, the
completion of all the ancient sacrifices.
Wherefore then do I not yearn more ardently after Thy adorable
presence? Why do I not prepare myself with greater solicitude to
receive Thy holy things, when those holy Patriarchs and Prophets
of old, kings also and princes, with the whole people, manifested
so great affection of devotion towards Thy Divine Service?
The most devout king David danced with all his might before
the Ark of God, calling to mind the benefits granted to his
forefathers in days past; he fashioned musical instruments of
various sorts, put forth Psalms, and appointed them to be sung
with joy, played also himself ofttimes on the harp, being
inspired with the grace of the Holy Ghost; he taught the people
of Israel to praise God with the whole heart, and with unity of
voice to bless and praise Him every day. If so great devotion
was then exercised, and celebration of divine praise was carried
on before the Ark of the Testimony, how great reverence and
devotion ought now to be shown by me and all Christian people at
the ministering of the Sacrament, at receiving the most precious
Body and Blood of Christ.
Many run to diverse places to visit the memorials of departed
Saints, and rejoice to hear of their deeds and to look upon the
beautiful buildings of their shrines. And behold, Thou art
present here with me, O my God, Saint of Saints, Creator of men
and Lord of the Angels. Often in looking at those memorials men
are moved by curiosity and novelty, and very little fruit of
amendment is borne away, especially when there is so much
careless trifling and so little true contrition. But here in the
Sacrament of the Altar, Thou art present altogether, My God, the
Man Christ Jesus; where also abundant fruit of eternal life is
given to every one soever that receiveth Thee worthily and
devoutly. But to this no levity draweth, no curiosity, nor
sensuality, only steadfast faith, devout hope, and sincere
O God, invisible Creator of the world, how wondrously dost
Thou work with us, how sweetly and graciously Thou dealest with
Thine elect, to whom Thou offerest Thyself to be received in this
Sacrament! For this surpasseth all understanding, this specially
draweth the hearts of the devout and enkindleth their affections.
For even thy true faithful ones themselves, who order their whole
life to amendment, oftentimes gain from this most excellent
Sacrament great grace of devotion and love of virtue.
Oh admirable and hidden grace of the Sacrament, which only
Christ’s faithful ones know, but the faithless and those who serve
sin cannot experience! In this Sacrament is conferred spiritual
grace, and lost virtue is regained in the soul, and the beauty
which was disfigured by sin returneth again. So great sometimes
is this grace that out of the fulness of devotion given, not only
the mind but also the weak body feeleth that more strength is
supplied unto it.
But greatly must we mourn and lament over our lukewarmness
and negligence, that we are not drawn by greater affection to
become partakers of Christ, in whom all the hope and the merit of
those that are to be saved consist. For He Himself is our
sanctification and redemption. He is the consolation of
pilgrims and the eternal fruition of the Saints. Therefore it is
grievously to be lamented that many so little consider this
health-giving mystery, which maketh heaven glad and preserveth
the whole world. Alas for the blindness and hardness of man’s
heart, that he considereth not more this unspeakable gift, and
even slippeth down through the daily use, into carelessness.
For if this most holy Sacrament were celebrated in one place
only, and were consecrated only by one priest in the whole world,
with what great desire thinkest thou, would men be affected
towards that place and towards such a priest of God, that they
might behold the divine mysteries celebrated? But now are many
men made priests and in many places the Sacrament is celebrated,
that the grace and love of God towards men might the more appear,
the more widely the Holy Communion is spread abroad over all the
world. Thanks be unto Thee, O good Jesus, Eternal Shepherd, who
hast vouchsafed to refresh us, poor and exiled ones, with Thy
precious Body and Blood, and to invite us to partake these holy
mysteries by the invitation from Thine own mouth, saying, Come
unto Me, ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh
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