BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 53: THAT THE GRACE OF GOD IS NOT
COMMUNICATED TO THE EARTHLY-MINDED
SON, My grace is precious; it suffereth not itself to be mingled with external things nor with earthly consolations.
Thou must, therefore, cast away every obstacle to grace, if thou desire to receive its infusion.
Choose for thyself a retired place; love to dwell with thyself alone; seek not to be talking with anyone, but rather pour forth devout prayer to God, that thou mayst keep thy mind in compunction, and thy conscience pure.
Esteem the whole world as nothing; prefer attendance on God before all external occupations.
For thou canst not both attend to Me and at the same time delight thyself in transitory things.
Thou must be sequestered from thine acquaintance and from thy dearest friends, and keep thy mind disengaged from all temporal consolation.
So the blessed Apostle Peter beseeches the faithful of Christ to keep themselves as strangers and pilgrims in this world.
2. Oh, what great confidence shall he have at death, who is not detained by an affection to anything in the world!
But an infirm soul is not yet capable of having a heart thus perfectly disengaged from all things, neither doth the animal man understand the liberty of the interior man.
But if he will be truly spiritual, he must renounce as well those that are near as those that are afar off, and beware of none more than of himself.
If thou perfectly overcomest thyself, thou shalt more easily subdue all things else.
The perfect victory is to triumph over one's self.
For whosoever keepeth himself in subjection, so that sensuality obeyeth reason, and reason in all things is obedient to Me, he is indeed a conqueror of himself, and lord of the world.
3. If thou longest to climb this eminence, thou must begin manfully, and lay the axe to the root, in order to pluck out and destroy secret and inordinate inclination to thyself and to every private and material good.
From this vice, that man loveth self too inordinately, depends almost all whatsoever must be radically overcome; which being vanquished and brought under, a great peace and tranquillity will immediately ensue.
But because few labor to die perfectly to themselves, or fully to aim out of themselves, therefore do they remain entangled in themselves, nor can they be elevated in spirit above themselves.
But whoever desireth to walk freely with Me, it is necessary that he mortify all his perverse and inordinate affections, and not cleave with particular love or concupiscence to anything created.
To withdraw the heart from ourselves and all created things, we should, first, frequently raise our affections to God, and endeavor to love Him in and above all things; secondly, we should renounce all voluntary attachments to creatures and to self-seeking; thirdly, we should separate and wean ourselves from all that is naturally pleasing to us, by regarding all things as passing away, and ourselves as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land, who must allow themselves no delay in their journey, but pass forward on their way.
When thoroughly impressed with these words of the Apostle, "We have not a permanent dwelling-place here, but we look for one above," how little does a Christian feel attached to the goods, the vanities, and pleasures of this world, knowing that all these things pass away, and must finally end in death! It is easy, says St. Jerome, to despise all earthly things, when we reflect that we must die and leave them all behind us.
Why, then, does the figure of this world, which passes away and escapes from our sight, make so deep an impression upon our hearts, and the good things of eternity, which alone never fade, affect us so little! Why should we be so strongly attached to what we possess but for a moment and hold only in trust, and so little attracted by that which is destined to be ours, and forever an
eternity of happiness?
GRANT, O Lord, that my heart may loathe all earthly things, and cleave to those alone which are eternal, which will be given to me in exchange for the little I renounce in this world for the love of Thee. Grant me, O God, to love only that which I shall love forever, and to esteem everything as unworthy of a Christian soul, which is not the eternal and sovereign God.
"How little does this world appear," said St. Ignatius, "when I view the heavens! and how little do the material heavens and this immense universe appear, when I think of Thee, my God!" Grant that in like manner, when impressed with the idea of Thine immensity I also may yield my whole soul to Thee. Amen.