BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 20: OF THE CONFESSION OF OUR OWN INFIRMITY,
AND OF THE MISERIES OF THIS LIFE
I WILL confess against myself my injustice; I will confess to Thee, O Lord, my infirmity.
It is oftentimes a small thing which casteth me down and troubleth me.
I purpose to behave myself valiantly; but when a small temptation cometh, I am brought into great straits.
It is sometimes a very trifling thing, whence a grievous temptation proceedeth.
And when I think myself somewhat safe, when I least apprehend it, I find myself sometimes almost overcome by a light blast.
2. Behold, then, O Lord, my abjection and frailty, every way known to Thee.
Have pity on me, and draw me out of the mire, that I stick not fast therein, that I may not be utterly cast down forever.
This it is which often drives me back, and confounds me in Thy sight, that I am so subject to fall, and so powerless to resist my passions.
And although I do not altogether consent, yet their assaults are troublesome and grievous to me; and I am weary of thus always living in conflict.
Hence my infirmity is made known to me: because abominable imaginations much more easily rush in upon me than they forsake me.
3. Oh, that Thou, most mighty God of Israel, zealous Lover of faithful souls, wouldst regard the labor and sorrow of Thy servant, and stand by him in all his undertakings!
Strengthen me with heavenly fortitude, lest the old man, the miserable flesh not fully subdued to the spirit, prevail and get the upper hand; against which we must battle so long as we breathe in this most wretched life.
Alas, what kind of life is this, where afflictions and miseries are never wanting, where all things are full of snares and enemies!
For when one tribulation or temptation is gone, another approacheth; yea, and whilst the first conflict still lasteth, many others come on, and those unexpected.
4. And how is it possible that the life of man can be loved, which hath so great bitterness, and is subject to so many calamities and miseries?
How even can it be called life, which generateth so many deaths and plagues?
And yet it is loved, and many seek their delight in it.
The world is censured as deceitful and vain; and yet it is with reluctance abandoned, because the concupiscence of the flesh too much prevails.
But some things draw us to love the world; others to despise it.
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life, draw us to the love of the world; but the pains and miseries which justly follow these things breed a hatred and loathing of the world.
5. But, alas, evil delights prevail over a mind that is given to the world, and under thorns she imagineth there are delights: because she hath neither seen nor tasted the sweetness of God, nor the internal pleasure of virtue.
But such as perfectly despise the world, and study to live to God under holy discipline, they are not unconscious of that Divine sweetness promised to those who forsake all; and they clearly see both how grievously the world is mistaken, and in how many ways it is deceived.
IT is not sufficient to know and to feel our weaknesses and miseries, and our continual danger of perishing eternally by yielding to our passions; we should also at the sight of them humble ourselves before God, and place our whole confidence in Him. We should incessantly bewail our exile, and cast and support ourselves upon the bounty of God. We should never remain in the state of sin, tepidity, or infidelity in which our weakness too often engages us, but immediately arise after we have fallen and speedily return to our heavenly Father when we find we have gone astray.
This life is so replete with temptations, pains, and miseries, that it becomes insupportable to a soul that loves God, and is afraid of offending Him. How shall I live, does it exclaim, and not sin? Yet how shall I sin and still live? To be ever falling and then rising again; ever resisting my passions, and fighting against the irregular desires of my heart-----is this life? It is continual death. But let us not grow weary of repressing, of fighting, and conquering our predominant passions, for in this consists the merit of a supernatural life, of a life conducting to eternal happiness.
I ACKNOWLEDGE, O God, that life would be unsatisfactory had I no trial of suffering for Thy sake. Grant, therefore, that, when weary of myself, and fatigued with the miseries of this life, I may commit them all to Thy most merciful Providence. Support me by Thy bounty, and give me patience and fidelity to endure myself, and to suffer whatever Thou shalt appoint. Amen.