BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 10: THAT IT IS SWEET TO DESPISE THE WORLD
AND SERVE GOD
NOW I will speak again, O Lord, and will not be silent; I will say in the hearing of my God and my King Who is on high:
Oh, how great is the abundance of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which Thou hast hidden for those that fear Thee!
But what art Thou to those that love Thee? What to those that serve Thee with their whole heart?
Unspeakable, indeed, is the sweetness of Thy contemplation, which Thou bestowest on those that love Thee.
In this most of all hast Thou showed me the sweetness of Thy love, that when I had no being, Thou didst make me: and when I was straying far from Thee, Thou broughtest me back again, that I might serve Thee; and Thou hast commanded me to love Thee.
2. O Fountain of everlasting love, what shall I say of Thee?
How can I ever forget Thee, Who hast vouchsafed to remember me even after that I was corrupted and was lost?
Beyond all hope hast Thou shown mercy to Thy servant: and beyond all desert hast Thou manifested Thy grace and friendship.
What return shall I make to Thee for this favor? for it is not granted to all to forsake all things, to renounce the world, and to assume the monastic life.
Is it much that I should serve Thee, Whom the whole creation is bound to serve?
It ought not to seem much to me to serve Thee; but this rather doth appear great and wonderful to me, that Thou vouchsafest to receive one so wretched and unworthy for Thy servant, and to unite Him to Thy Beloved.
3. Behold all things are Thine which I have, and with which I serve Thee. And yet contrariwise Thou rather servest me than I Thee.
Lo! Heaven and earth, which Thou hast created for the service of man, stand prepared, and daily perform whatsoever Thou hast commanded.
And this is but little; for Thou hast also created and appointed Angels for the service of man.
But what transcendeth all this is, that Thou Thyself hast vouchsafed to serve man, and hast promised that Thou wilt give him Thyself.
4. What shall I give Thee for all these thousand favors? Would that I could serve Thee all the days of my life!
Would that I were able, were it but for one day, to render Thee worthy homage!
Verily Thou art worthy of all service, of all honor, and of eternal praise.
Thou art truly my Lord, and I am Thy poor servant, who am bound with all my strength to serve Thee, and ought never to grow weary of praising Thee.
This is my will, this is my desire; and whatever is wanting in me do Thou vouchsafe to supply.
5. It is a great honor, a great glory, to serve Thee, and to despise all things for Thee.
For they who willingly subject themselves to Thy most holy service shall have great grace.
They shall experience the most sweet consolation of the Holy Spirit, who for the love of Thee have cast away all carnal delight.
They shall gain great freedom of mind, who for Thy Name's sake enter upon the narrow way, and relinquish all worldly care.
6. O pleasant and delightful service of God, which maketh a man truly free and holy!
O sacred state of religious servitude, which maketh men equal to Angels, pleasing God, terrible to the devils, and commendable to all the faithful!
O servitude lovely and ever to be desired, in which we are rewarded with the greatest good, and joy is acquired that will never end!
To judge ourselves unworthy of every grace; to correspond with those we receive; to refer to God all the glory of our fidelity in His service; often to thank Him for His goodness in seeking us when we go astray, and receiving us again after we have sinned; to hope all things from His mercy, and to place ourselves entirely in His hands, is what should be done by every Christian soul who knows what Jesus Christ is to him, and what he ought to be to Jesus Christ.
How fortunate we are in not being able to find in ourselves any real cause for feelings of vanity or self-complacency, for this obliges us to forsake ourselves, and abide only in God! Ah! how does the sense of our miseries establish us in the heart of the God of mercy! And how does the experience of our inability to do good, and our inclination for evil, oblige us to adhere to God, and to have continual recourse to Him!
HOW can I forget Thee, O Lord, Who hast so often preserved me from Hell into which I might have precipitated myself by my irregular or useless life? Cure me of that vain complacency and swelling pride which would persuade me that there is something of good in me. It is in Thee, O Lord, it is all from Thee; for without Thee I can do nothing but offend Thee. Suffer me not to exalt myself before Thee by voluntary pride, lest I draw upon myself the same chastisement with which Thou didst visit the first Angels. I would rather be despised by men and loved by Thee, than be esteemed by them and reproved by Thee. Grant that I may do Thee justice by referring all that is good to Thee, and to myself naught but the evil I have committed, that I may thus obtain Thy merciful pardon. Amen.