BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 48: OF THE DAY OF ETERNITY,
AND OF THE DISTRESSES OF THIS LIFE
AH, most happy mansion of the supernal city!
Oh, most bright day of eternity! Which no night ever obscureth, but which the sovereign truth always enlighteneth.
A day always joyful, always secure, and never changing its state for the contrary.
Oh, that this day would shine forth, and that all these temporal things would come to an end!
It shineth, indeed, upon the Saints, resplendent with everlasting brightness; but to us pilgrims upon earth it is seen only as afar off and through a glass.
2. The citizens of Heaven know how joyful that day is; but we poor exiled children of Eve mourn that this our day is bitter and tedious.
The days of this life are short and evil, full of grief and distresses; where man is defiled with many sins, ensnared by many passions, enslaved with many fears, harassed with many snares, distracted with many curiosities, entangled with many vanities, encompassed with many errors, worn with many labors, troubled with temptation, enervated with pleasure, tormented with want.
3. Oh, when will there be an end of these evils?
When shall I be set at liberty from the wretched slavery of vice?
When, O Lord, shall I think of Thee alone?
When shall I fully rejoice in Thee? When shall I be without any impediment in true liberty, without any grievance of mind and body?
When shall there be solid peace, peace firm and undisturbed, peace within and without, peace on every side secure?
O good Jesus! when shall I stand to behold Thee?
When shall I contemplate the glory of Thy kingdom? When wilt Thou be all in all to me?
Oh, when shall I be with Thee in Thy kingdom, which Thou hast prepared for Thy beloved from all eternity?
I am left poor and exiled in an enemy's country, where there are daily wars and grievous misfortunes.
4. Solace my banishment, assuage my sorrow, for my every desire aspireth unto Thee; for whatever this world offereth for my comfort is all burdensome to me.
I long to enjoy Thee intimately, but cannot attain unto it.
I desire to cleave to heavenly things, but temporal things and my unmortified passions weigh me down.
With my mind I wish to be above all things, but by the flesh I am forced against my will to be subject to them.
Thus, unhappy man that I am, I fight with myself, and am become burdensome to myself, whilst the spirit tendeth upwards, and the flesh downwards.
5. Oh! what do I suffer interiorly, whilst with my mind I consider heavenly things; and presently a crowd of carnal thoughts interrupt me as I pray.
O my God, remove not Thyself far from me, and depart not in anger from Thy servant.
Dart forth Thy lightning, and disperse them: shoot Thine arrows, and let all the phantoms of the enemy be put to flight.
Recollect my senses in Thee; make me forget all worldly things; grant me speedily to cast away and to despise all phantoms and vice.
Come to my aid, O eternal truth, that no vanity may move me.
Come, heavenly sweetness, and let all impurity fly from before Thy face.
Pardon me also, and mercifully forgive me, as often as in my prayer I think of aught else beside Thee.
For I truly confess that I am accustomed to be very much distracted.
For many a time I am not there where I am bodily standing or sitting, but am there rather where my thoughts carry me.
There am I where my thought is: and there oftentimes are my thoughts where that which I love is.
That thing most readily cometh to my mind which naturally delighteth me, or which through custom is pleasing to me.
6. Whence Thou, the eternal truth, hast plainly said: Where thy treasure is, there also is thy heart.
If I love Heaven, I love to think on heavenly things.
If I love the world, I rejoice at the world's prosperity, and am troubled at its adversity.
If I love the flesh, my imagination is often on the things of the flesh.
If I love the spirit, I delight to think of spiritual things.
For whatsoever things I love, of the same I love to speak and hear, and I carry home with me the imaginative impressions of such.
But blessed is that man who for Thee, O Lord, abandoneth all things created; who offereth violence to nature, and through fervor of spirit crucifieth the concupiscence of the flesh; that so, with a serene conscience, he may offer to Thee pure prayer, and become worthy to be admitted among the choir of Angels, having excluded himself both exteriorly and interiorly from all the things of earth.
WHAT will it avail us to suffer and to deplore the miseries of this life, and to sigh after the good things of the next, if we do not endeavor to receive our present tribulations with patience, as coming from the hand of God, and with humility, as corresponding with our deserts; if we strive not to obtain that eternal happiness, after which we sigh, by constant fidelity? O happy day! O eternal joy! O infinite, unchangeable happiness! O establishment! O mansion! O plenitude of God in us and of us in God! O transformation of a blessed soul into its God and its all! When shall I possess thee? But when shall I deserve thee? Weary of myself and of the inefficacy of my desires, I ardently long for thee, O Paradise! and yet how little do I do to obtain thine eternal happiness! Let us join, my soul, let us add to the esteem we have of Paradise our exertions to obtain it. Let us regard it as a crown which can only be obtained by offering a holy violence to ourselves, and as a recompense to be earned only by a supernatural life.
WHEN, O God, shall I withdraw my heart from all things, visible and terrestrial,
and give my whole self to Thee, my sovereign and invisible good? When shalt Thou alone become my consolation and the only happiness of my soul? When shall I see in Thee, my Savior, what I now believe? When shall I possess what I love? When shall I find what I seek? Comfort me in this exile, support me in my sufferings, strengthen me in my weakness. Come, O Jesus, come into my soul by Thy grace, Thy presence and Thy love. Take possession of my heart, that it may never more be separated from Thee. I languish, I sigh, and burn with the desire of beholding Thee face to face in Thy glory. O when shall faith be lost in vision, and hope swallowed up in fruition?
How burdensome is this life to a soul that loves only Thee, my Savior! and how cruel a martyrdom to support it! No, Lord, I can no longer live without loving Thee, nor love Thee as I desire, without seeing Thee! Terminate, therefore, my anguish, by closing my life. Speak, my soul, speak to thy God; but rather, O God, do Thou speak to my heart, that it may die to itself, and live only to Thee. Amen.