Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 1, Chapter 23: Contemplating Death

Album cover art for Sketchy and the Wronguns with their breakout hit "Sideways" from their album "Hear Today" on Rounder Records

Art by David Taulbee Anderson: "Monks in a Graveyard"

Contemplating Death

Very quickly will there be an end of thee here; take heed
therefore how it will be with thee in another world.  Today man
is, and tomorrow he will be seen no more.  And being removed out
of sight, quickly also he is out of mind.  O the dullness and
hardness of man’s heart, which thinketh only of the present, and
looketh not forward to the future.  Thou oughtest in every deed
and thought so to order thyself, as if thou wert to die this day.
If thou hadst a good conscience thou wouldst not greatly fear
death.  It were better for thee to watch against sin, than to fly
from death.  If today thou art not ready, how shalt thou be
ready tomorrow?  Tomorrow is an uncertain day; and how knowest
thou that thou shalt have a tomorrow?
What doth it profit to live long, when we amend so little?
Ah!  long life doth not always amend, but often the more
increaseth guilt.  Oh that we might spend a single day in this
world as it ought to be spent!  Many there are who reckon the
years since they were converted, and yet oftentimes how little is
the fruit thereof.  If it is a fearful thing to die, it may be
perchance a yet more fearful thing to live long.  Happy is the
man who hath the hour of his death always before his eyes, and
daily prepareth himself to die.  If thou hast ever seen one die,
consider that thou also shalt pass away by the same road.
When it is morning reflect that it may be thou shalt not see
the evening, and at eventide dare not to boast thyself of the
morrow.  Always be thou prepared, and so live that death may
never find thee unprepared.  Many die suddenly and unexpectedly.
For at such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.
When that last hour shall come, thou wilt begin to think very
differently of thy whole life past, and wilt mourn bitterly that
thou hast been so negligent and slothful.
Happy and wise is he who now striveth to be such in life as he
would fain be found in death!  For a perfect contempt of the
world, a fervent desire to excel in virtue, the love of
discipline, the painfulness of repentance, readiness to obey,
denial of self, submission to any adversity for love of Christ;
these are the things which shall give great confidence of a happy
death.  Whilst thou art in health thou hast many opportunities of
good works; but when thou art in sickness I know not how much
thou wilt be able to do.  Few are made better by infirmity: even
as they who wander much abroad seldom become holy.
Trust not thy friends and kinsfolk, nor put off the work of
thy salvation to the future, for men will forget thee sooner than
thou thinkest.  It is better for thee now to provide in time, and
to send some good before thee, than to trust to the help of
others.  If thou art not anxious for thyself now, who, thinkest
thou, will be anxious for thee afterwards?  Now the time is most
precious.  Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.
But alas!  that thou spendest not well this time, wherein thou
mightest lay up treasure which should profit thee everlastingly.
The hour will come when thou shalt desire one day, yea, one hour,
for amendment of life, and I know not whether thou shalt obtain.
Oh, dearly beloved, from what danger thou mightest free
thyself, from what great fear, if only thou wouldst always live
in fear, and in expectation of death!  Strive now to live in such
wise that in the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than
fear.  Learn now to die to the world, so shalt thou begin to live
with Christ.  Learn now to contemn all earthly things, and then
mayest thou freely go unto Christ.  Keep under thy body by
penitence, and then shalt thou be able to have a sure confidence.
Ah, foolish one!  why thinkest thou that thou shalt live long,
when thou art not sure of a single day?  How many have been
deceived, and suddenly have been snatched away from the body!
How many times hast thou heard how one was slain by the sword,
another was drowned, another falling from on high broke his neck,
another died at the table, another whilst at play! One died by
fire, another by the sword, another by the pestilence, another by
the robber.  Thus cometh death to all, and the life of men
swiftly passeth away like a shadow.
Who will remember thee after thy death?  And who will entreat
for thee?  Work, work now, oh dearly beloved, work all that thou
canst.  For thou knowest not when thou shalt die, nor what shall
happen unto thee after death.  While thou hast time, lay up for
thyself undying riches.  Think of nought but of thy salvation;
care only for the things of God.  Make to thyself friends, by
venerating the saints of God and walking in their steps, that
when thou failest, thou mayest be received into everlasting
Keep thyself as a stranger and a pilgrim upon the earth, to
whom the things of the world appertain not.  Keep thine heart
free, and lifted up towards God, for here have we no continuing
city. To Him direct thy daily prayers with crying and tears,
that thy spirit may be found worthy to pass happily after death
unto its Lord.  Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment