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A Meditation On The Incarnation Of Christ, Sermons On The Life And
Passion Of Our Lord And Of Hearing And Speaking Good Words. -Thomas A Kempis

BUT now from the New Testament: a few testimonies also are to be sought. All things that I read therein: without hesitation I believe to be testimonies of Thee. And not as formerly in figures and dark sayings: but with clear and plain words they declare Thee the Christ the Son of God.

This first testifies the angel Gabriel, sent to the Virgin Mary, saying, “The Holy which shall be born of thee: shall be called the Son of God.”

The angel also speaking to the shepherds witnesses: that this day is born to us a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.

Those most devout Magi also bear witness, who had come from the East to Jerusalem; whence they were directed to Bethlehem: to honour with mystic gifts Him Whom they had foreseen in the star.

This same testifies that memorable Simeon, a just man and fearing God: who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. For he, having received an answer from the Holy Ghost that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord: by the spirit came into the temple. Taking therefore the members of Thine infant body into His arms, but recognizing the majesty within: with giving of thanks he devoutly sang, “Now Thou dismiss Thy servant, O Lord: according to Thy word in peace.” Which canticle when he had ended: he said also to Thy venerable Mother, “Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce: that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” O devout and sincere faith of this most blessed old man. For he adored Thee an infant: Whom the scribes and Pharisees despised working miracles. He confesses Thee true God and man: they call Thee seducer and having a devil. Wherefore he is held worthy of veneration and praise: and they are deservedly disproved as children of perdition.

The venerable John Baptist also gives witness: who was sent into the world of God to bear testimony to Thee. And he cried, saying, “After me there cometh a man, Who is preferred before me: the latchet of Whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.” And seeing Thee walking amid men: but innocent of all stain of sin, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God: behold Who taketh away the sins of the world.” He was a lamp bright and burning: but Thou the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He the herald: but Thou the judge. He the lowly servant: and Thou the Lord of all. He the friend of the bridegroom: Thou the Bridegroom of the Church. He the prophet of the Most High: Thou the only-begotten Son of God, co-eternal with God the Father. He as the morning star went before Thee preparing the way: Thou as the bright sun didst follow fulfilling all justice. Who also didst send Thy blessed apostles as rays of the sun into the whole world: to preach the light of faith unto salvation to all peoples.

Thou hast still another witness greater than John. For the Father testifies from Heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son: in Whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Ghost, appearing in the shape of a dove: came down and rested upon Thee. Thou, present in the flesh, didst declare to Thy most faithful friend John more fully how great Thy glory and power: so that for the greatness of the revelation then made to him, accounting rather as ignorance the former knowledge of Thee which he had received, he said, “And I knew Him not.” O man most excelling in holiness, forechosen to behold the so singular and most sublime mystery of the Trinity: whose life, and death, baptism and preaching: stood forth as a most true witness of Thy coming in the flesh.

Now let the most blessed apostle Peter come, thy ardent lover and devout confessor of the truth; what he feels and how it behoves to believe in Thee: silencing the opinions of them that err, let him plainly declare: “Thou,” quoth he, “art Christ the Son of the living God.” O truly apostolic confession, which flesh and blood taught not: but a heavenly revelation inspired in the son of the dove. And so from the strength of his faith he merited to be called also Peter, after the rock: because leaving all things he cleaved to Thee as to a most solid rock. If one wonders that a rough fisherman was made chief of the apostolic order: let him wonder also that Moses the leader of the people and King David were first for a time shepherds of sheep. Who therefore raised Moses to a prophet, and David to a king from following the ewes great with young: He and no other raised Peter, whilom a fisherman, to be head of the whole Church.

Now let Paul come forth, the master of the gentiles and the teacher of the world, the vessel of election, and light of the universal Church: to give witness to Thee: “When,” saith he, “the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son made of a woman, made under the law; that He might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons.” This is that most glorious Paul: to whom from Heaven Thou didst say, “I am Jesus of Nazareth Whom Thou persecutest.” Him of a persecutor Thou didst make a preacher, of a Pharisee an apostle; bidding him bear Thy name, which before he persecuted through the whole world: nor fear to carry it before the gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. Who zealously fulfilling the office of his apostolate: and traversing divers parts of the world, sounded the gospel trumpet: and the sound of Thy name came unto the boundaries of the world: through the mouth of the most glorious Paul. Now there is not in the world a church: which is not supported by the teaching of blessed Paul, under the Catholic rule. He confounded the Jews: and utterly silenced them by the authority of holy writ: asserting that Thou art the Christ the Son of God. He converted the Gentiles, taught that their idols are nothing: subdued barbarians, refuted philosophers: and brought all together to the light of faith. This is that divine Paul, who was rapt to the secrets of the third heaven: the gospel which he preached, he learnt not of man nor by man, but by Thy revelation, Christ Jesus. And so he was able to preach it with the greater confidence, and to write of it the more gloriously: as also he did: “Great is the mystery of godliness,” he saith: “which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels; hath been preached unto the gentiles, is believed in the world: is taken up in glory.”

Let Andrew also speak, the brother of Simon Peter, the most ardent lover of the cross: one of the disciples of blessed John, but afterwards following Thee, by Whom also he was chosen as an apostle: let him, I say, speak witness unto Thee, that we may hear and believe: “We have found the Messias,” he saith, “Who is called Christ.” O simple and constant faith: to be imitated by all Christians. For having followed Thee with a simple heart, with devout confession of the mouth he at once took pains to manifest to his brother Simon: the faith which he had drawn from Thee, the source of truth. And he brought him, namely Peter, to Jesus. For this is truly to have found Thee, to consult a brother’s salvation: and to show him the way of heavenly life. Not thus the Jews: who tempting said, “If Thou be the Christ: tell us plainly.” Wo to you, scribes and Pharisees: who believed in neither the signs nor the words of Christ. Andrew, a man of no letters, hearing Christ speak once: followed Him and believed. You, knowing the law and the prophets, moreover hearing the truth from the mouth of Christ: seeing also His signs and wonders such as none other wrought: did not yet believe in Him. Wherefore you shall receive the more severe judgement; and the pious simplicity of the believers shall judge you with those who said: “There is no God: and foolish are they that serve Him.”

Let also speak that beloved apostle John: who at the supper reclined upon Thy breast, Lord Jesus: “In the beginning,” he saith, “was the Word; and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.” And further on: “And the Word was made flesh: and dwelt among us. And we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the Only-begotten of the Father: full of grace and truth.” This is that disciple: who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things. And we know, that his testimony is true. But O most sweet John, what is the motive of this gospel narrative? “But these are written that you may believe, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God: and that believing you may have life in His name.” This is the John whom Peter often took as his companion: and who with like constancy resisted the princes and magistrates. Who even scourged by the same held not his peace: but for Thy name Jesus joyously bore insults and blows. Afterwards dispatched by the apostles with Peter, gladly he went into Samaria: prayed that they that believed might receive the Holy Ghost, and was heard. This is John, the theologian, the most enlightened seer and historian of the sublime Trinity: the pillar of the primitive Church, the ruler and founder of all Asia: who for God’s word and the witness of Jesus cast into exile, there wrote the book of the Apocalypse, full of heavenly visions; manifesting in the beginning and in the end: that the spirit of his prophecy, is witness to Jesus. He in his epistles burning with divine love: interwove some most beautiful testimonies of the incarnation, saying, “Every spirit, which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: is of God. And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus: is not of God.”

Let it please also to hear the witness of Philip: who finding Nathanael, saith to him, “We have found Him of Whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write: Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.” For thus Thou didst still suffer Thyself to be named and deemed: before Thou didst reveal Thyself to the world. But in truth Thou art not the son of Joseph, but the son of the intact mother, the perpetual Virgin Mary; of whom Thou wast conceived by the operation of the Holy Ghost: and created free from all stain of sin.

To this truth a more sublime testimony bears Nathanael an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile: and he said, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God: Thou art the King of Israel.”

If also the witness of a lawyer is sought: Nicodemus is here, a prince of the Jews, saying, “Rabbi, we know, that Thou art come a teacher from God. For no man can do these signs which Thou dost: unless God be with him.”

Now then weigh, O Jews, and see how many witnesses hath Christ: Whom you have not feared to deny. If you still require more, the faith of the thief will reprove you, and the confession of the centurion: of whom each acknowledged Christ; the former, as He hung upon the cross: the latter, when He expired with a great cry, who said, “Indeed this was the son of God.” False therefore is your objection: which you brought against Christ saying, “Thou givest testimony of Thyself: Thy testimony is not true.” For indeed witnesses are not wanting to Christ, either in the Old or in the New Testament: if you are willing to accept them. But because charity is wanting to you, and you have not the word of God abiding in you: therefore no authority is able to convince you.

What is there between me and these Jews? what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever? Not more than the fellowship that light hath to darkness. Nevertheless while their manifest error is demonstrated: our faith in Thee, Lord Jesus, is the more strongly established. Their foolish questioning is profitable to me, as a warning: but much more profitable unto truth is Thy most sweet response. Thou didst say therefore to them, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness: but shall have the light of life.” Willingly I listen to the prophets speaking of Thee: but more sweetly the word from Thy mouth falls upon my ear. Pleasing is the witness of the prophets: but with greater pleasure I receive the witness uttered by Thee. For if the testimony of man is received; the testimony of God is greater, for Thou art the truth, which does not deceive: the wisdom, which knows all things. However, to strengthen our weakness Thou didst use the prophets; who were of advantage to us, not to Thee: as also Thou didst answer certain men. “This voice came not because of Me: but for your sakes.” I rejoice then, most loving Jesus, in all things that the prophets have spoken: I exult also in those which the apostles and evangelists have delivered to us. Of all whom, the faith was one, the spirit one: and the understanding in the greatest accord. For the Holy Ghost filled their hearts: that they might grasp the secret things both of the past and the future. Which when I read or hear; I embrace with all devotion: and am inflamed in the love of Thy name although an unworthy sinner. The sayings of the prophets help me: their visions and heavenly colloquies. The writings of the evangelists profit me: and the physical beholding, hearing and touch of the disciples conversing with Thee. For me they saw who were worthy: for me they heard, that were to narrate: for me they touched, that were to strengthen me in the faith.

In after times the most glorious martyrs give the strongest testimony to Thee. For these not only with the confession of the mouth; but also by the pouring out of their precious blood bore witness: whom neither the bitterness of pain, nor the softness of luxuries, could in any way turn from the true faith.

Saint Stephen, the first martyr, bears this witness. “Behold I see the heavens opened: and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Blessed Laurence the martyr, when he was in torments: spake these words, “O Lord Jesus Christ, God of God, have pity on me Thy servant; for charged, I denied not Thy name: questioned I confessed Thee the Lord.”

Blessed Vincent, deacon and great-souled martyr, although he was racked in his whole body: was not however broken in spirit: but with a loud voice boldly cried. “This is the glory of the Christian name. The servant of Christ, I am ready for all things.”

Saint Ignatius, disciple of blessed John the apostle, scourged with leaden thongs, torn with hooks, and given over to living coals, rendered great witness to the faith: and how in his heart love had burned as strong as death: he showed by his fervent answer, saying, “Neither burning fire, nor boiling water: will be able to put out charity in me, Lord Jesus.” O noble martyr: whose constancy moved the Emperor Trajan to admiration: “Which of the Greeks,” he said, “would bear as much for his god?” Ah, how greatly he is worthy to be venerated, and everywhere attended with devout heralding of praise: who amid so many species of torments, we read, never gave over calling upon Thy most sweet name, Lord Jesus. Questioned thereupon he replied, “I HAVE THIS NAME WRITTEN ON MY HEART: and therefore I CANNOT CEASE FROM NAMING IT”; and afterwards, when taken from his body, and divided through the centre: it was found to have JESUS CHRIST inscribed in letters of gold. O good Jesus how lovable and pleasant is Thy name: in the heart of them that love Thee. O how supremely necessary also is the frequent invocation of Thy honied name to me dwelling amid so many divers temptations. Deign therefore, Lord Jesus, to write Thy most sweet name as a perpetual memorial upon my heart; and enkindle it with so mighty a zeal of charity, that neither sad things nor joyous may avail to separate me from Thy love.

The venerable confessors also and doctors, in their actions and teachings, bear many praiseworthy testimonies to Thee. For these are they that set themselves as a wall for the Church: and uttered most vigorous warnings against the guiles of heretics.

Of these is the glorious Jerome priest, the noble doctor Ambrose; the most blessed prelate Augustine, the most sweet Pope Gregory: the venerable Bede, the most devout Bernard, and the others of the same kind, honourable and famous men; strong in deed, eloquent in word, catholic in faith, rich in knowledge, edifying themselves and others most numerous: and leaving their posterity a worthy monument of divine learning.

For said the glorious father Jerome: when, approaching his end, he was about to receive Holy Communion: “Thou art He, Who, although Thou wert the only God before all time and begotten of God the Father without beginning by an eternal and unsearchable generation, didst shut Thyself up made man within the small body of one maiden, that is the glorious Virgin. For thus in the virgin’s womb Thou didst assume human nature: that Thou art neither God without being man, nor man without being God. Thou art truly the life by which every creature liveth: and without which it dies. Thou art the living life sweet and lovable and pleasant. The sweetness of Thine odour refreshes the weak and ailing: whom the taste of Thee renders healthy and most strong.”

Saith the poet-orator Ambrose: “O wondrous condescension of Thy love towards us. O inestimable love of charity: to redeem the slave, Thou hast given up the Son.”

Saith the most learned of doctors Augustine: “Our Redeemer and Creator, the Son of God, existing before the ages, was made the son of man at the end of time; that He, Who had created us by the power of His divinity to enjoy the blessedness of everlasting life: the same by the weakness of our humanity might restore us to recover the life which we lost.” This is that sublime, contemplative Augustine; whose heart the love of Christ had so wounded, that he bore His words in his breast as sharp arrows: who in the beginning of his conversion could not be sated pondering with wondrous sweetness the sublimity of the divine plan, concerning the salvation of the human race. Whence also, inflamed with the desire of divine knowledge, while he sought above himself the immutable truth: he burst forth into this cry of exultation. “O eternal truth, both true love and loved eternity: Thou art my God: to Thee I sigh day and night.”

Saith the most noble Pope Gregory: “The mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, came among men to show a simple example of life to men: He was upright, so that He might crush the evil spirits; He feared God, so that He might overcome pride: He avoided evil, so that He might wash away uncleanness of life in His elect.” The same: “O how great is the mercy of our Creator. We are not worthy slaves: and we are called friends.”

Origen. “The only-begotten Son of God, Who was ineffably born of the Father alone before the ages: now at the approach of the end of time by the will of the Father and the co-operation of the Holy Ghost, came in a human body to the midst of men.”

Isidore. “God seeing that the world, even when warned, would not confess its errors: sent His only begotten Son to take flesh and to appear to men: and heal sinners.”

Pope Leo. “The Son of God enters these weak things of the world, coming down from the heavenly abode, and leaving not the Father’s glory: in a new manner generated by a new birth. In a new manner: because invisible in His own, He was made visible in ours. The incomprehensible willed to be grasped: abiding before time, He commenced to be in time.”

Maximus Bishop. “The Saviour of the world took a time of birth through His mother: Who has no time of birth from the Father. The dweller of Heaven came to the earth: to call the inhabitants of the earth to Heaven. The Word was made flesh, not that God should be emptied into man: but that man should be glorified into God.”

Fulgentius Bishop. “Christ, the Son of God, true God of true God, and one with the Father by nature God: always nourishes the holy angels from Himself: but nevertheless the Son of God took not the nature of an angel. But that God might prove His love in us: His Son took our nature from us: and so the only begotten God, Who is the bread of the angels, that He might make Himself bread also for man: received together both the soul and the flesh of man. He received both real, both holy: both spotless. He took our soul without wickedness; He took our flesh with mortality: that dying therein, He might overcome death. He took a just soul: whereby to restore justice to our souls.”

Chrysostom. “Christ came to take upon Himself our weaknesses, and to bestow upon us His strength: to seek human things, to work divine: to accept insults, to confer dignities: to bear weariness, to restore health. He bore these necessities: that He might be proved a true man by human actions.”

Bede. “The Word was made flesh, that is, God was made man, and dwelt among us; that by the appearance of a man known to us He might be on a level with us in His daily actions, instruct us by His words, show us the way of life by His life, fight for us against the enemy: destroy our death by His death and resurrection.”

Bernard. “The only begotten of God, the sun of justice, as a taper of immense and glorious flame, was lighted to illumine the prison of this world; that every man, who wishes to be enlightened, may approach Him and be united with Him: so that there be no medium between Him and himself.”

The same. “I deem that this was the motive of the invisible God, wherefore He willed to be made visible in the flesh and converse with men; namely that HE MIGHT DRAW ALL THE AFFECTIONS OF CARNAL MEN, WHO WERE UNABLE TO LOVE EXCEPT OF THE FLESH TO THE SAVING LOVE OF HIS FLESH FIRST: and so lead them by degrees to a spiritual love.”

A most noble testimony to Thee also render Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus: who with single devotion cleaved to Thee living in the flesh.

This Mary is the most devout washer of Thy feet; to cleanse which she brought not exterior waters, but the tears of her own contrite heart: to wipe which she loosed her hair; to kiss which she gave her lips: to anoint which she exercised hands and arms. Indeed she turned to uses of piety everything: that formerly she had stained with the vanity of the world. O happy sorrow of this woman: which is immediately followed by the forgiveness of all her sins. For, she who had come fearful: returned in peace, free. She is more just than the Pharisee, more faithful than Simon the leper: for he doubts, she believes; he blames, she reverences and loves. He makes show of a false justice: she everywhere manifests true humility. She is Thy most pleasing and familiar friend; who after many services of kindness: also merited to be the witness, and the first messenger of Thy resurrection.

And Martha her sister, busy about much serving: renders Thee a testimony of perfect faith: “I have believed,” saith she, “that Thou art Christ the Son of God Who art come into this world.” This is that dear hostess of Thine, who with honour often received Thee into her home in Thy bodily presence; but within the home of her mind made ready a more pleasing dwelling-place: where Thou didst spiritually recline in the joyous concord of faith, hope and charity.

Rivalling her perfect faith also a certain woman from the crowd: with sublime voice cried: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee: and the paps that gave Thee suck.” This woman is recognized to have been possessed of great faith and devotion: who while Scribes and Pharisees blaspheme Thee, with such sincerity confesses the mystery of Thy incarnation.

Witness also to Thee bear the holy virgins: of whom Thou hast deigned to become the spouse and comforter.

Blessed Agatha, a modest maiden and noble of race, said, “My mind is strengthened: and established in Christ.” This is she that went to prison for Thy name most joyously and exultantly. After the torture and the cutting away of her breasts, she sought no earthly remedy; but “I have my Lord Jesus Christ: Who by a word alone restores all things.”

Lucy, a devout maiden, making ready for Thee a pleasing dwelling in her virginity: showed the great force of her faith, saying, “For three years I have sacrificed to the living God: now since nothing is left over: I shall offer myself a living victim in sacrifice to God.” And when she was given over to the fire: she subdued the power of the flame by prayer, saying, “I have asked my Lord Jesus Christ: that this fire have not power over me.”

Agnes, a most blessed maiden, Thy especial and beloved spouse: bears Thee so manifest a testimony: that all that she said seems to have been not a human but a divine utterance. What this noble little virgin pronounced concerning faith and chastity, the love and beauty of her Spouse: surpasses nature and her years: “I,” saith she, “love Christ, into Whose bridal-chamber I have entered: Whose mother is a virgin: Whose Father knows not woman. To Him alone I keep my troth: with all devotedness I commit myself to Him, Whom angels serve: at Whose beauty the sun and moon marvel.” And she gloried, as was entirely befitting, saying, “With His ring my Lord Jesus Christ hath espoused me: and as a spouse He hath adorned me with a crown.”

Cecilia, a most glorious virgin, bearing the gospel words in her breast, and desiring to please Thee only, gave her mind to no amusement or vanity: but intent upon fastings and prayer, sang in her heart, saying, “May my heart and my body be made spotless, O Lord: that I be not shamed.” And questioned of her faith: with great constancy she answered, “We knowing the holy name: are utterly unable to deny it.”

Likewise also the other holy virgins, Catharine, Barbara, Ursula and Christina, constant in faith, fervent in the love of Thee: treading under foot the blandishments of the flesh, loving angelic purity, overcame their sex together with the world: and merited an undying name in Heaven.

The very elements which Thou didst establish: bear witness also to Thee. It was indeed befitting, that the irrational creatures also should acknowledge their Creator: and show forth by wondrous signs Him: Whom they could not announce with words. For to Thee as to its Creator: all creation was bound to pay service. Offering therefore an obedience of unwonted strangeness: by deeds it showed beyond doubt that it knew its Lord. For the heavens knew that Thou art the Lord of the heavens: for they immediately sent forth a star as a sign of Thy birth. The earth knew: for at the voice of Thy cry it rendered up Lazarus four days dead: but also in Thy Passion it was moved and quaked. The sea knew: for it offered a solid road to Thy feet: and made a wondrous path to Thee for Peter. The air knew: for at Thy command at once it ceased from fierce gales. The sun also knew: for at the time of the Passion it withdrew the rays of its light: lest it should behold dying Him, Whom it understood to be the author of its splendour. The rocks and stones knew: since at the same hour they were rent for compassion. The clouds knew: for they received Thee ascending into Heaven. Since therefore all these elements proclaim that their Lord and God is come in the flesh: be not thou, Oman, a rational creature, doubtful or slothful unto confessing the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, wrought chiefly for thy salvation: full of divine miracles, confirmed on all sides by scripture testimonies: lest perchance thou become more insensible than senseless things, or more stolid than the beasts of burden: as against the perfidy of the Jews, the Lord thunders by Isaias, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel hath not known Me: My people hath not understood.” But now having briefly examined these things, let infinite thanks and praises be to Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ: and in Thy name let every knee bow of those that are in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth: and let every tongue confess, that Thou art in the glory of God the Father.


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