[ Previous ] [ Chapter Index ] [ Next ]



The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis


The Tenth Chapter

Do Not Lightly Forego Holy Communion

The Voice of Christ

YOU must often return to the source of grace and divine mercy, to the
fountain of goodness and perfect purity, if you wish to be free from passion
and vice, if you desire to be made stronger and more watchful against all
the temptations and deceits of the devil.

The enemy, knowing the great good and the healing power of Holy Communion,
tries as much as he can by every manner and means to hinder and keep away
the faithful and the devout. Indeed, there are some who suffer the worst
assaults of Satan when disposing themselves to prepare for Holy Communion.
As it is written in Job, this wicked spirit comes among the sons of God to
trouble them by his wonted malice, to make them unduly fearful and
perplexed, that thus he may lessen their devotion or attack their faith to
such an extent that they perhaps either forego Communion altogether or
receive with little fervor.

No attention, however, must be paid to his cunning wiles, no matter how base
and horrible—all his suggestions must be cast back upon his head. The wretch
is to be despised and scorned. Holy Communion must not be passed by because
of any assaults from him or because of the commotion he may arouse.

Oftentimes, also, too great solicitude for devotion and anxiety about
confession hinder a person. Do as wise men do. Cast off anxiety and scruple,
for it impedes the grace of God and destroys devotion of the mind.

Do not remain away from Holy Communion because of a small trouble or
vexation but go at once to confession and willingly forgive all others their
offenses. If you have offended anyone, humbly seek pardon and God will
readily forgive you.

What good is it to delay confession for a long time or to put off Holy
Communion? Cleanse yourself at once, spit out the poison quickly. Make haste
to apply the remedy and you will find it better than if you had waited a
long time. If you put it off today because of one thing, perhaps tomorrow a
greater will occur to you, and thus you will stay away from Communion for a
long time and become even more unfit.

Shake off this heaviness and sloth as quickly as you can, for there is no
gain in much anxiety, in enduring long hours of trouble, and in depriving
yourself of the divine Mysteries because of these daily disturbances. Yes,
it is very hurtful to defer Holy Communion long, for it usually brings on a
lazy spiritual sleep.

How sad that some dissolute and lax persons are willing to postpone
confession and likewise wish to defer Holy Communion, lest they be forced to
keep a stricter watch over themselves! Alas, how little love and devotion
have they who so easily put off Holy Communion!

How happy and acceptable to God is he who so lives, and keeps his conscience
so pure, as to be ready and well disposed to communicate, even every day if
he were permitted, and if he could do so unnoticed.

If, now and then, a man abstains by the grace of humility or for a
legitimate reason, his reverence is commendable, but if laziness takes hold
of him, he must arouse himself and do everything in his power, for the Lord
will quicken his desire because of the good intention to which He
particularly looks. When he is indeed unable to come, he will always have
the good will and pious intention to communicate and thus he will not lose
the fruit of the Sacrament.

Any devout person may at any hour on any day receive Christ in spiritual
communion profitably and without hindrance. Yet on certain days and times
appointed he ought to receive with affectionate reverence the Body of his
Redeemer in this Sacrament, seeking the praise and honor of God rather than
his own consolation.

For as often as he devoutly calls to mind the mystery and passion of the
Incarnate Christ, and is inflamed with love for Him, he communicates
mystically and is invisibly refreshed.

He who prepares himself only when festivals approach or custom demands, will
often find himself unprepared. Blessed is he who offers himself a sacrifice
to the Lord as often as he celebrates or communicates.

Be neither too slow nor too fast in celebrating but follow the good custom
common to those among whom you are. You ought not to cause others
inconvenience or trouble, but observe the accepted rule as laid down by
superiors, and look to the benefit of others rather than to your own
devotion or inclination.


The Eleventh Chapter

The Body of Christ and Sacred Scripture Are Most Necessary to a Faithful Soul

The Disciple

O MOST sweet Lord Jesus, how great is the happiness of the devout soul that
feasts upon You at Your banquet, where there is set before her to be eaten
no other food but Yourself alone, her only Lover, most desired of all that
her heart can desire!

To me it would be happiness, indeed, to shed tears in Your presence from the
innermost depths of love, and like the pious Magdalen to wash Your feet with
them. But where now is this devotion, this copious shedding of holy tears?
Certainly in Your sight, before Your holy angels, my whole heart ought to be
inflamed and weep for joy. For, hidden though You are beneath another form,
I have You truly present in the Sacrament.

My eyes could not bear to behold You in Your own divine brightness, nor
could the whole world stand in the splendor of the glory of Your majesty. In
veiling Yourself in the Sacrament, therefore, You have regard for my

In truth, I possess and adore Him Whom the angels adore in heaven—I as yet
by faith, they face to face unveiled. I must be content with the light of
the true faith and walk in it until the day of eternal brightness dawns and
the shadow of figures passes away. When, moreover, that which is perfect
shall have come, the need of sacraments shall cease, for the blessed in
heavenly glory need no healing sacrament. Rejoicing endlessly in the
presence of God, beholding His glory face to face, transformed from their
own brightness to the brightness of the ineffable Deity, they taste the Word
of God made flesh, as He was in the beginning and will remain in eternity.

Though mindful of these wonderful things, every spiritual solace becomes
wearisome to me because so long as I do not plainly see the Lord in His
glory, I consider everything I hear and see on earth of little account.

You are my witness, O God, that nothing can comfort me, no creature give me
rest but You, my God, Whom I desire to contemplate forever. But this is not
possible while I remain in mortal life, and, therefore, I must be very
patient and submit myself to You in every desire.

Even Your saints, O Lord, who now rejoice with You in the kingdom of heaven,
awaited the coming of Your glory with faith and great patience while they
lived. What they believed, I believe. What they hoped for, I hope for, and
whither they arrived, I trust I shall come by Your grace. Meanwhile I will
walk in faith, strengthened by the example of the saints. I shall have,
besides, for comfort and for the guidance of my life, the holy Books, and
above all these, Your most holy Body for my special haven and refuge.

I feel there are especially necessary for me in this life two things without
which its miseries would be unbearable. Confined here in this prison of the
body I confess I need these two, food and light. Therefore, You have given
me in my weakness Your sacred Flesh to refresh my soul and body, and You
have set Your word as the guiding light for my feet. Without them I could
not live aright, for the word of God is the light of my soul and Your
Sacrament is the Bread of Life.

These also may be called the two tables, one here, one there, in the
treasure house of holy Church. One is the table of the holy altar, having
the holy Bread that is the precious Body of Christ. The other is the table
of divine law, containing holy doctrine that teaches all the true faith and
firmly leads them within the veil, the Holy of holies.

Thanks to You, Lord Jesus, Light of eternal light, for the table of Your
holy teaching which You have prepared for us by Your servants, the prophets
and Apostles and other learned men.

Thanks to You, Creator and Redeemer of men, Who, to declare Your love to all
the world, have prepared a great supper in which You have placed before us
as food not the lamb, the type of Yourself, but Your own most precious Body
and Blood, making all the faithful glad in Your sacred banquet, intoxicating
them with the chalice of salvation in which are all the delights of
paradise; and the holy angels feast with us but with more happiness and

Oh, how great and honorable is the office of the priest, to whom is given
the consecration of the Lord of majesty in sacred words, whose lips bless
Him, whose hands hold Him, whose tongue receives Him, and whose ministry it
is to bring Him to others!

Oh, how clean those hands should be, how pure the lips, how sanctified the
body, how immaculate the heart of the priest to whom the Author of all
purity so often comes. No word but what is holy, none but what is good and
profitable ought to come from the lips of the priest who so often receives
the Sacrament of Christ. Single and modest should be the eyes accustomed to
looking upon the Body of Christ. Pure and lifted up to heaven the hands
accustomed to handle the Creator of heaven and earth. To priests above all
it is written in the law: “Be ye holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

Let Your grace, almighty God, assist us, that we who have undertaken the
office of the priesthood may serve You worthily and devoutly in all purity
and with a good conscience. And if we cannot live as innocently as we ought,
grant us at least to lament duly the wrongs we have committed and in the
spirit of humility and the purpose of a good will to serve You more
fervently in the future.


The Twelfth Chapter

The Communicant Should Prepare Himself for Christ with Great Care

The Voice of Christ

I AM the Lover of purity, the Giver of all holiness. I seek a pure heart and
there is the place of My rest.

Prepare for Me a large room furnished and I with My disciples will keep the
Pasch with you.

If you wish that I come to you and remain with you, purge out the old leaven
and make clean the dwelling of your heart. Shut out the whole world with all
the din of its vices. Sit as the sparrow lonely on the housetop, and think
on your transgressions in bitterness of soul.

Everyone who loves prepares the best and most beautiful home for his
beloved, because the love of the one receiving his lover is recognized

But understand that you cannot by any merit of your own make this
preparation well enough, though you spend a year in doing it and think of
nothing else. It is only by My goodness and grace that you are allowed to
approach My table, as though a beggar were invited to dinner by a rich man
and he had nothing to offer in return for the gift but to humble himself and
give thanks.

Do what you can and do that carefully. Receive the Body of the Lord, your
beloved God Who deigns to come to you, not out of habit or necessity, but
with fear, with reverence, and with love.

I am He that called you. I ordered it done. I will supply what you lack.
Come and receive Me.

When I grant the grace of devotion, give thanks to God, not because you are
worthy but because I have had mercy upon you. If you have it not and feel
rather dry instead, continue in prayer, sigh and knock, and do not give up
until you receive some crumb of saving grace.

You have need of Me. I do not need you. You do not come to sanctify Me but I
come to sanctify you and make you better. You come to be sanctified and
united with Me, to receive new grace and to be aroused anew to amend. Do not
neglect this grace, but prepare your heart with all care, and bring into it
your Beloved.

Not only should you prepare devoutly before Communion, but you should also
carefully keep yourself in devotion after receiving the Sacrament. The
careful custody of yourself afterward is no less necessary than the devout
preparation before, for a careful afterwatch is the best preparation for
obtaining greater grace. If a person lets his mind wander to external
comforts, he becomes quite indisposed.

Beware of much talking. Remain in seclusion and enjoy your God, for you have
Him Whom all the world cannot take from you.

I am He to Whom you should give yourself entirely, that from now on you may
live, not in yourself, but in Me, with all cares cast away.


The Thirteenth Chapter

With All Her Heart the Devout Soul Should Desire Union with Christ in the

The Disciple

LET it be granted me to find You alone, O Christ, to open to You my whole
heart, to enjoy You as my soul desires, to be disturbed by no one, to be
moved and troubled by no creature, that You may speak to me and I to You
alone, as a lover speaks to his loved one, and friend converses with friend.

I pray for this, I desire this, that I may be completely united to You and
may withdraw my heart from all created things, learning to relish the
celestial and the eternal through Holy Communion and the frequent
celebration of Mass.

Ah Lord God, when shall I be completely united to You and absorbed by You,
with self utterly forgotten? You in me and I in You? Grant that we may
remain so together. You in truth are my Beloved, chosen from thousands, in
Whom my soul is happy to dwell all the days of her life. You are in truth my
pledge of peace, in Whom is the greatest peace and true rest, without Whom
there is toil and sorrow and infinite misery.

You truly are the hidden God. Your counsel is not with the wicked, and Your
conversation is rather with the humble and the simple.

O how kind is Your spirit, Lord, Who in order to show Your sweetness toward
Your children, deign to feed them with the sweetest of bread, bread come
down from heaven! Surely there is no other people so fortunate as to have
their god near them, as You, our God, are present everywhere to the
faithful, to whom You give Yourself to be eaten and enjoyed for their daily
solace and the raising of their hearts to heaven.

Indeed, what other nation is so renowned as the Christian peoples? What
creature under heaven is so favored as the devout soul to whom God comes, to
feed her with His glorious Flesh? O unspeakable grace! O wonderful
condescension! O love beyond measure, singularly bestowed upon man!

What return shall I make to the Lord for this love, this grace so boundless?
There is nothing I can give more pleasing than to offer my heart completely
to my God, uniting it closely with His. Then shall all my inner self be glad
when my soul is perfectly united with God. Then will He say to me: “If you
will be with Me, I will be with you.” And I will answer Him: “Deign, O Lord,
to remain with me. I will gladly be with You. This is my one desire, that my
heart may be united with You.”


The Fourteenth Chapter

The Ardent Longing of Devout Men for the Body of Christ

The Disciple

HOW great is the abundance of Your kindness, O Lord, which You have hidden
from those who fear You!

When I think how some devout persons come to Your Sacrament with the
greatest devotion and love, I am frequently ashamed and confused that I
approach Your altar and the table of Holy Communion so coldly and
indifferently; that I remain so dry and devoid of heartfelt affection; that
I am not completely inflamed in Your presence, O my God, nor so strongly
drawn and attracted as many devout persons who, in their great desire for
Communion and intense heart love, could not restrain their tears but longed
from the depths of their souls and bodies to embrace You, the Fountain of
Life. These were able to appease and allay their hunger in no other way than
by receiving Your Body with all joy and spiritual eagerness. The faith of
these men was true and ardent—convincing proof of Your sacred presence. They
whose hearts burn so ardently within them when Jesus lives with them truly
know their Lord in the breaking of bread.

Such affection and devotion, such mighty love and zeal are often far beyond
me. Be merciful to me, O sweet, good, kind Jesus, and grant me, Your poor
suppliant, sometimes at least to feel in Holy Communion a little of the
tenderness of Your love, that my faith may grow stronger, that my hope in
Your goodness may increase, and that charity, once perfectly kindled within
me by tasting heavenly manna, may never fail.

Your mercy can give me the grace I long for and can visit me most graciously
with fervor of soul according to Your good pleasure. For although I am not
now inflamed with as great desire as those who are singularly devoted to
You, yet by Your grace I long for this same great flame, praying and seeking
a place among all such ardent lovers that I may be numbered among their holy


The Fifteenth Chapter

The Grace of Devotion is Acquired Through Humility and Self-Denial

The Voice of Christ

YOU must seek earnestly the grace of devotion, ask for it fervently, await
it patiently and hopefully, receive it gratefully, guard it humbly,
cooperate with it carefully and leave to God, when it comes, the length and
manner of the heavenly visitation.

When you feel little or no inward devotion, you should especially humiliate
yourself, but do not become too dejected or unreasonably sad. In one short
moment God often gives what He has long denied. At times He grants at the
end what He has denied from the beginning of prayer. If grace were always
given at once, or were present at our beck and call, it would not be well
taken by weak humankind. Therefore, with good hope and humble patience await
the grace of devotion.

When it is not given, or for some unknown reason is taken away, blame
yourself and your sins. Sometimes it is a small matter that hinders grace
and hides it, if, indeed, that which prevents so great a good may be called
little rather than great. But if you remove this hindrance, be it great or
small, and if you conquer it perfectly, you shall have what you ask. As soon
as you have given yourself to God with all your heart and seek neither this
nor that for your own pleasure and purpose, but place yourself completely in
His charge, you shall find yourself at peace, united with Him, because
nothing will be so sweet, nothing will please you so much as the good
pleasure of His will.

Anyone, therefore, who shall with simplicity of heart direct his intention
to God and free himself from all inordinate love or dislike for any creature
will be most fit to receive grace and will be worthy of the gift of
devotion. For where the Lord finds the vessel empty He pours down His

So also the more perfectly a man renounces things of this world, and the
more completely he dies to himself through contempt of self, the more
quickly this great grace comes to him, the more plentifully it enters in,
and the higher it uplifts the free heart.

Then shall he see and abound, then shall his heart marvel and be enlarged
within him, because the Hand of the Lord is with him and in the hollow of
that Hand he has placed himself forever. Thus shall the man be blessed who
seeks God with all his heart and has not regarded his soul in vain. Such a
one, receiving the Holy Eucharist, merits the grace of divine union because
he looks not on his own thoughts, nor to his own comfort, but above all
devotion and consolation to the glory and honor of God.


The Sixteenth Chapter

We Should Show Our Needs to Christ and Ask His Grace

The Disciple

O MOST kind, most loving Lord, Whom I now desire to receive with devotion,
You know the weakness and the necessity which I suffer, in what great evils
and vices I am involved, how often I am depressed, tempted, defiled, and

To You I come for help, to You I pray for comfort and relief. I speak to Him
Who knows all things, to Whom my whole inner life is manifest, and Who alone
can perfectly comfort and help me.

You know what good things I am most in need of and how poor I am in virtue.
Behold I stand before You, poor and naked, asking Your grace and imploring
Your mercy.

Feed Your hungry beggar. Inflame my coldness with the fire of Your love.
Enlighten my blindness with the brightness of Your presence. Turn all
earthly things to bitterness for me, all grievance and adversity to
patience, all lowly creation to contempt and oblivion. Raise my heart to You
in heaven and suffer me not to wander on earth. From this moment to all
eternity do You alone grow sweet to me, for You alone are my food and drink,
my love and my joy, my sweetness and my total good.

Let Your presence wholly inflame me, consume and transform me into Yourself,
that I may become one spirit with You by the grace of inward union and by
the melting power of Your ardent love.

Suffer me not to go from You fasting and thirsty, but deal with me
mercifully as You have so often and so wonderfully dealt with Your saints.

What wonder if I were completely inflamed by You to die to myself, since You
are the fire ever burning and never dying, a love purifying the heart and
enlightening the understanding.


The Seventeenth Chapter

The Burning Love and Strong Desire to Receive Christ

The Disciple

WITH greatest devotion and ardent love, with all affection and fervor of
heart I wish to receive You, O Lord, as many saints and devout persons, most
pleasing to You in their holiness of life and most fervent in devotion,
desired You in Holy Communion.

O my God, everlasting love, my final good, my happiness unending, I long to
receive You with as strong a desire and as worthy a reverence as any of the
saints ever had or could have felt, and though I am not worthy to have all
these sentiments of devotion, still I offer You the full affection of my
heart as if I alone had all those most pleasing and ardent desires.

Yet, whatever a God-fearing mind can conceive and desire, I offer in its
entirety to You with the greatest reverence and inward affection. I wish to
keep nothing for self but to offer to You, willingly and most freely, myself
and all that is mine.

O Lord God, my Creator and my Redeemer, I long to receive You this day with
such reverence, praise, and honor, with such gratitude, worthiness and love,
with such faith, hope, and purity as that with which Your most holy Mother,
the glorious Virgin Mary, longed for and received You when she humbly and
devoutly answered the angel who announced to her the mystery of the
Incarnation: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to
thy word.” [54]

Likewise as Your blessed precursor, the most excellent of saints, John the
Baptist, gladdened by Your presence, exulted in the Holy Ghost while yet
enclosed in the womb of his mother, and afterward seeing Jesus walking among
men, humbled himself and with devout love declared: “The friend of the
bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth with joy because of the
bridegroom’s voice,” [55] even so I long to be inflamed with great and holy
desires and to give myself to You with all my heart.

Therefore I offer and present to You the gladness of all devout hearts,
their ardent affection, their mental raptures, their supernatural
illuminations and heavenly visions together with all the virtues and praises
which have been or shall be celebrated by all creatures in heaven and on
earth, for myself and all commended to my prayers, that You may be worthily
praised and glorified forever.

Accept, O Lord my God, my promises and desires of giving You infinite praise
and boundless benediction, which in the vastness of Your ineffable greatness
are justly due You. This I render and desire to render every day and every
moment of time, and in my loving prayers I invite and entreat all celestial
spirits and all the faithful to join me in giving You praise and thanks.

Let all people, races, and tongues praise You and with the greatest joy and
most ardent devotion magnify Your sweet and holy name. And let all who
reverently and devoutly celebrate this most great Sacrament and receive it
in the fullness of faith, find kindness and mercy in You and humbly pray for
me, a sinner. And when they have received the longed-for devotion and
blissful union, and, well consoled and wonderfully refreshed, have retired
from Your holy, Your celestial table, may they deign to remember my poor


[54] Luke 1:38.

[55] John 3:29.


The Eighteenth Chapter

Man Should Not Scrutinize This Sacrament in Curiosity, But Humbly Imitate
Christ and Submit Reason to Holy Faith

The Voice of Christ

BEWARE of curious and vain examination of this most profound Sacrament, if
you do not wish to be plunged into the depths of doubt. He who scrutinizes
its majesty too closely will be overwhelmed by its glory.

God can do more than man can understand. A pious and humble search for truth
He will allow, a search that is ever ready to learn and that seeks to walk
in the reasonable doctrine of the fathers.

Blest is the simplicity that leaves the difficult way of dispute and goes
forward on the level, firm path of God’s commandments. Many have lost
devotion because they wished to search into things beyond them.

Faith is required of you, and a sincere life, not a lofty intellect nor a
delving into the mysteries of God. If you neither know nor understand things
beneath you, how can you comprehend what is above you? Submit yourself to
God and humble reason to faith, and the light of understanding will be given
you so far as it is good and necessary for you. Some are gravely tempted
concerning faith and the Sacrament but this disturbance is not laid to them
but to the enemy.

Be not disturbed, dispute not in your mind, answer not the doubts sent by
the devil, but believe the words of God, believe His saints and prophets and
the evil enemy will flee from you. It is often very profitable for the
servant of God to suffer such things. For Satan does not tempt unbelievers
and sinners whom he already holds securely, but in many ways he does tempt
and trouble the faithful servant.

Go forward, then, with sincere and unflinching faith, and with humble
reverence approach this Sacrament. Whatever you cannot understand commit to
the security of the all-powerful God, Who does not deceive you. The man,
however, who trusts in himself is deceived. God walks with sincere men,
reveals Himself to humble men, enlightens the understanding of pure minds,
and hides His grace from the curious and the proud.

Human reason is weak and can be deceived. True faith, however, cannot be
deceived. All reason and natural science ought to come after faith, not go
before it, nor oppose it. For in this most holy and supremely excellent
Sacrament, faith and love take precedence and work in a hidden manner.

God, eternal, incomprehensible, and infinitely powerful, does great and
inscrutable things in heaven and on earth, and there is no searching into
His marvelous works. If all the works of God were such that human reason
could easily grasp them, they would not be called wonderful or beyond the
power of words to tell.



[ Previous ] [ Chapter Index ] [ Next ]