BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 11: THAT THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
ARE MOST NECESSARY TO A FAITHFUL SOUL
The Voice of the Disciple.
O SWEETEST Lord Jesus, how great sweetness is that of a devout soul feasting with Thee in Thy banquet, in which there is no other meat set before her to be eaten but Thyself, her only Beloved, and most to be desired above all the desires of her heart!
And to me, indeed, it would be delightful, from my inmost affection, to pour out tears in Thy presence, and with loving Magdalen to wash Thy feet with my tears.
But where is this devotion, where is this so plenteous effusion of holy tears?
Of a truth, in Thy sight, and in that of Thy holy Angels, my whole heart ought to be inflamed and weep for joy.
For I have Thee in the Sacrament truly present, though hidden under another species.
2. For to behold Thee in Thine Own real and Divine brightness my eyes could not endure, neither could the whole world subsist in the splendor of the glory of Thy majesty.
In this, therefore, Thou consultest my weakness, that Thou concealest Thyself under the Sacrament.
I truly possess and adore Him Whom the Angels adore in Heaven; I as yet a while in faith, but they indeed by sight and without a veil.
I must be content with the light of true faith, and walk therein till the day of eternal brightness break forth, and the shadows of figures shall have passed a way.
But when that which is perfect shall come; the use of Sacraments shall cease; for the blessed in heavenly glory need not the sacramental medicine.
For they rejoice without end in the presence of God, beholding face to face His glory; and transformed from brightness to brightness of the abyss of God, they taste the Word of God made flesh, as He was from the beginning, and remaineth forever.
3. When I call to mind these wonders, every spiritual comfort whatsoever becomes even tedious to me: because as long as I behold not my Lord openly in His glory, I make no account of all that I see and hear in the world.
Thou art my witness, O God, that no one thing can comfort me, nor anything created give me rest, but only Thou, my God, Whom I desire to contemplate for eternity.
But this is not possible so long as I sojourn in this mortal life.
And therefore I must set myself to much patience, and submit myself to Thee in every desire.
For thus also Thy Saints, O Lord, who now exult with Thee in the kingdom of Heaven, during life awaited in faith and much patience the advent of Thy glory.
What they believed, I believe; what they hoped, I hoped for; and whither they are arrived, I trust that I also, through Thy grace, shall arrive.
In the meantime I will walk in faith, being strengthened by the examples of the Saints.
I shall have, moreover, for my consolation and a mirror of life, Thy holy Books, and above all these, Thy most holy Body for my special remedy and refuge.
4. For in this life I find there are two things especially necessary for me, without which this miserable life would be to me insupportable.
Whilst detained in the prison of this body, I acknowledge that I need two things, viz.: Food and light.
Thou hast, therefore, given to me, weak as I am, Thy Sacred Body for the nourishment of my soul and body, and Thou hast set Thy Word as a light to my feet.
Without these two I could not well live: for the Word of God is the light of my soul, and Thy Sacrament is the Bread of life.
These also may be called the two tables set on either side in the storehouse of Thy holy Church.
One is of the table of the holy altar, having the holy Bread-----that is, the precious Body of Christ; the other is that of the Divine Law, containing holy doctrine, teaching a right faith, and leading most securely even to the interior of the veil, where is the Holy of Holies.
5. Thanks be to Thee, O Lord Jesus, Light of eternal Light, for the table of holy doctrine, which Thou hast ministered to us Thy servants, the Prophets and Apostles, and other teachers.
Thanks be to Thee, O Thou Creator and Redeemer of men, Who, to manifest to the whole world Thy love, hast prepared a great supper, wherein Thou hast set before us to be eaten, not the typical lamb, but Thy most sacred Body and Blood, rejoicing all the faithful with Thy holy Banquet, and inebriating them with the chalice of salvation, in which are all the delights of Paradise; and the holy Angels do feast with us, but with a more happy sweetness.
6. Oh, how great and honorable is the office of priests, to whom it is given to consecrate with sacred words the Lord of Majesty, to bless Him with their lips, to hold Him with their hands, to receive Him with their own mouths, and to administer Him to others!
Oh, how clean ought to be the hands, how pure the mouth, how holy the body, how immaculate the heart of the priest, into whom the Author of Purity so often enters!
From the mouth of a priest nothing but what is holy, no word but what is becoming and profitable, ought to proceed, who so often receiveth the Sacrament of Christ.
7. Simple and chaste should be those eyes which are accustomed to behold the Body of Christ.
Pure and lifted up to Heaven should be the hands which are used to handle the Creator of Heaven and earth.
Unto priests especially it is said in the Law: Be ye holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy.
8. Let Thy grace, O God omnipotent, assist us, that we, who have undertaken the sacerdotal office, may be enabled to serve Thee worthily and devoutly, in all purity, and with a good conscience.
And if we cannot live in so great innocence of life as we ought, grant us still duly to bewail the sins we have committed, and in the spirit of humility, and the purpose of a good will, to serve Thee more fervently for the future.
The reading of pious books is a means of attaining the dispositions of Communion; and of preserving the fruit thereof in the soul.
GOD therefore gave the Israelites in the desert a pillar of fire to light and to guide them, and manna to support them in their journey to the promised land. In like manner has our Lord given us pious books to enlighten us, and the adorable Sacrament of His Body and Blood to nourish us in our way to Heaven. We should, therefore, make frequent use of both, in order to arrive there; of good books that we may not go astray, and of the Divine Eucharist that we way be strengthened to walk in that narrow path which leads to Paradise.
On this account it is proper, on the eve and on the day of Communion, to read some pious book, which treats of the Blessed Sacrament, in order to keep up in the soul that spirit of fervor, fidelity, and love towards God, and that sacred fire which Jesus Christ Himself comes to enkindle within us. That all-Divine discourse which Jesus made to His Apostles after the institution of the Most Holy Sacrament, may be read; but we should read the Scriptures in those sentiments in which the Holy Spirit composed them; we should read them with that faith, respect, and docility which they merit, and with which they inspire those who read them fervently and in a proper manner: we should read them with all the attention due to the presence of God, with an ardent desire to profit by them and to derive nourishment from them, confidently having recourse to the Holy Spirit, Who dictated them.
O MY Savior! Who hast so abundantly provided us with pious books, to serve us as a bright, shining light, to withdraw or to preserve us from those wanderings which are so dangerous to our souls, enlighten our minds with the truths we read, and move our hearts to practice them. Grant that they may be our consolation in trouble, our support in difficulties, and the rule of our whole conduct. But grant also, O Word Incarnate, that we may hear Thy voice speaking to our hearts, when we read Thy Gospel with our lips, and that through the respect we owe to Thy Divine Word, we may endeavor to put it in practice on those occasions when we have need of it: since it is not less necessary to practice the holy maxims of the Gospel, than it is to believe them. Amen.