Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 1, Chapter 11: The means to get peace, and of desire to profit in virtues

The means to get peace, and of desire to profit in virtues
We may enjoy abundance of peace if we refrain from busying
ourselves with the sayings and doings of others, and things which
concern not ourselves.  How can he abide long time in peace who
occupieth himself with other men’s matters, and with things
without himself, and meanwhile payeth little or rare heed to the
self within?  Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall have
abundance of peace.
How came it to pass that many of the saints were so perfect,
so contemplative of divine things?  Because they steadfastly
sought to mortify themselves from all worldly desires, and so
were enabled to cling with their whole heart to God, and be free
and at leisure for the thought of Him.  We are too much occupied
with our own affections, and too anxious about transitory things.
Seldom, too, do we entirely conquer even a single fault, nor are
we zealous for daily growth in grace.  And so we remain lukewarm
and unspiritual.
Were we fully watchful of ourselves, and not bound in spirit
to outward things, then might we be wise unto salvation, and make
progress in divine contemplation.  Our great and grievous
stumbling-block is that, not being freed from our affections and
desires, we strive not to enter into the perfect way of the
saints.  And when even a little trouble befalleth us, too quickly
are we cast down, and fly to the world to give us comfort.
If we would acquit ourselves like men, and strive to stand firm
in the battle, then should we see the Lord helping us from Heaven.
For He Himself is always ready to help those who strive and who
trust in Him; yea, He provideth for us occasions of striving, to
the end that we may win the victory.  If we look upon our
progress in religion as a progress only in outward observances
and forms, our devoutness will soon come to an end.  But let us
lay the axe to the very root of our life, that, being cleansed
from affections, we may possess our souls in peace.
If each year should see one fault rooted out from us, we
should go quickly on to perfection.  But on the contrary, we
often feel that we were better and holier in the beginning of our
conversion than after many years of profession.  Zeal and
progress ought to increase day by day; yet now it seemeth a great
thing if one is able to retain some portion of his first ardour.
If we would put some slight stress on ourselves at the beginning,
then afterwards we should be able to do all things with ease and
It is a hard thing to break through a habit, and a yet harder
thing to go contrary to our own will.  Yet if thou overcome not
slight and easy obstacles, how shalt thou overcome greater ones?
Withstand thy will at the beginning, and unlearn an evil habit,
lest it lead thee little by little into worse difficulties.  Oh,
if thou knewest what peace to thyself thy holy life should bring
to thyself, and what joy to others, me thinketh thou wouldst be
more zealous for spiritual profit.

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