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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

THE Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem: and His parents knew it not. Thou hast heard, faithful soul, how a few days ago the lovable Jesus revealed Himself to the shepherds and the kings: and how great was then the joy of his parents: yea and to thee also no small joy was added from the learning of so many good tidings. But to-day, alas, a very unhappy and sorrowful thing has happened; which may well pierce the heart: and stun all who hear it. For it is related that the beloved Jesus was lost by his parents; and, alack, at that time: when His parents went up to the temple to celebrate the feast. O sudden change of the right hand of the Most High. For if Jesus is lost, what joy can there be then in the heart of man? For who has lost Jesus: he has lost more than the whole world. Would it not have been better to have remained at home; than to lose Jesus on the way? Alas, what kind of festival is this: which so great a calamity overshades. For there is no greater grief: than that the comfort of mourners should be said to be lost. Let no pious soul doubt: that Mary was much grief-stricken in this loss of her Son. Would she not have been more pleased to remain in obscurity at Nazareth; than to appear in Jerusalem to-day? But the holy Mother wished to fulfil the custom of the sacred law: and to give all an example of perfect obedience. Therefore she left her home and city: and visited the temple of God with her Son and Joseph. But for a proof of her patience, and for our great profit, God permitted this to happen, that Mary should lose her Son: should seek Him lost sorrowing, and after three days should find Him in the holy temple: and should the more joyously carry back with her her treasure found.

But, O good parents, how could this happen; that you should suffer so beloved a Child to leave your side? Where were your eyes; when they were not fixed upon Jesus? How shall I excuse you of so great a neglect? Did you not deservedly lose Him; Whom you did not watch with sufficient care? But again how shall I dare reprove you in aught; whom I know to be holy and most devout in all? And how also did this good Child make bold; to go anywhere without your knowledge and without permission? Does He not seem to have given you cause of boundless grief; when He absented Himself so long from the eyes of your veneration? Or was it lawful for Him to do all that He would; since He did all with God. I am satisfied, because so He willed: for He is God, Whom no man can reproach. For the eternal wisdom of the Father could not do anything unwisely: Who rules the world in equity. Therefore He has done all things well, not only by revealing His presence to His friends: but also sometimes for certain reasons by hiding His face from His beloved ones.

But Jesus went up to the celebration of the legal feast, not to sanctify Himself according to the law: or to cleanse His conscience by prayer, Who was born holy; but to implore pardon for us: and to teach that THE CHURCH IS TO BE FREQUENTED, FOR THE OBTAINING OF HEAVENLY GIFTS. He entered the temple to hear the masters and teachers, Who was the Master and Lord of all; that children and youths may learn from early age to read their letters, frequent the school: be intent on learning, give heed to masters; not wander about the streets: or be engaged in foolish games. For eagerness to learn the arts is highly commendable in early years: since by them the understanding is aided to make progress in the divine Scriptures: inasmuch as GOD IS HENCE LOVED THE MORE the more often the word of God is heard, and the more clearly it is explained by teachers: and the more faithfully committed to a good memory from the book. The Child Jesus therefore gave an example to young and old to persevere in the study of saving wisdom: so that none grow slack from idleness, none give ear to vain matters; but that children humbly listen to their masters, diligently seek them: and learn with all discipline. But the old, according to the grace given them and the capacity of the young, should teach with prudence: and faithfully deliver the rules of faith handed down by the holy apostles and prophets: so that all the hearers of the word may recognize Jesus seated in the midst of the doctors, and ever make progress unto better: and devoutly praise God, Who has given such grace to their instructors. AND AS TEACHERS SURPASS OTHERS IN LEARNING AND WISDOM: SO THEY OUGHT TO EXCEL THEM IN THE MERIT OF THEIR LIFE AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THEIR MORALS. Let then both learned and unlearned strive to imitate the examples of the so holy humility and obedience of Jesus Christ and to submit themselves to the divine will. For Christ, a Child of twelve years and a Teacher from Heaven, set an example of each in Himself: while after the manner of little ones He gave ear to the masters, and reverently bowed His head: and, when most gently reproached by His most blessed Mother, at once willingly obeyed His parents, and went with them: as docile in His ways, so also subject to laws both human and divine: as it behoved and befitted in doing and forbearing.

Would, O Lord Jesus, Thou wouldst grant me more diligently to contemplate the history of this Thy action. For I often find myself turning over in my mind; Thy action once when present in the flesh towards Thy mother: when Thou wert lost and found again by her. Alas, how often I lose Thee by the force of my sins; how sad I walk, when I have been abandoned by Thy grace: and left without comfort to my own poverty. What wonder if then I grieve and heavily groan, deprived of Thy saving sweetness; and destitute almost of all hope of recovering consolation? O how long the delay, and wearisome the hour seems to me, to be without divine consolation; because Jesus, my comforter, is away: and I know not when He will come again. What shall I do; or whither shall I go to seek Jesus, Whom my soul loveth? Where is He now; Who is wont to gladden me with great joy? I know, I know that if He will conceal Himself, no man shall find Him; no man touch Him, no man take Him: because His hour hath not yet come. And if He deign to reveal Himself, at once He is at the door; He enters, the doors being shut: He visits the dwelling of the mind, and shows Himself by SIGNS SO CERTAIN; that there is no need to ask, “Who art Thou?” because the fire of love, infused into the soul, proclaims that Jesus is come, and He Himself has done all this. In this moment of trial, I am often troubled and afflicted within myself: and wonder much over Thy secret dispensation, most sweet Jesus. Why, I ask, dost Thou thus try me in strife so often and suddenly; when nevertheless Thou art wholly sweet and without bitterness? What I have said, the experienced know: they shall soon experience, whoever desire to be Thy disciples. This comes not from guile; nor from want of knowledge: but from good zeal, for our secret profit. Therefore what I do not fully grasp, I trust it all rather to Thy wisdom: which does nothing without an assured motive: although the reason be unknown to me. I have however in this turn of things a no slight comfort of my misery: that my sweet Lady Mary also once lost Jesus, and greatly sorrowed to have lost her Son; nor was content to return home: until she had found Jesus, her only joy. Whom when she had not found where she thought: she found where she guessed not. For if she had known that He was seated with such admiration in the midst of the doctors; either she would have grieved less for such a happening: or she would have rejoiced over so grand an act: in the answers of her most blessed Son. And so Jesus is not always found where He is sought: but often He is there where He is least expected. Let no man therefore presume of himself, as if he alone had Jesus: let no man despise another; for HE KNOWS NOT HOW PLEASING HE MAY BE TO GOD IN SECRET: although he be unknown to men, and appear outwardly of no account. For Jesus also was Himself unknown to many then: and few suspected what or how great He was. He showed Himself to whom He would; and when He would, He concealed Himself: but He did all with order and to our profit. When therefore I shall lose Jesus, it is nothing strange or new; I feel however that it will be harmful to me: and very grievous to my heart. But I acknowledge myself guilty, and worthy of heavy scourging: for I have not sufficiently guarded my heart, but have walked too lukewarmly and carelessly; therefore have I lost the grace of Jesus: and I know not who will restore Him to me, unless He Himself deign again to have compassion on His poor servant. Bring aid to this my misfortune, most pitiful Mother of God; succour me, my Lady: be nigh, most dear Virgin Mary, entrance to life, gate of mercy. I seek comfort, I beg help from thee; thou knowest too well what a sorrow it is to have lost Jesus: and what joy to have found Jesus. If thus it was with thee, O most blessed Virgin, who wast without fault: what wonder if His grace be not always present as desired to me a sinner, who offend in so many points? What therefore shall I do: that I may find Him again? For if there be any hope of finding Him: it will certainly be by thy counsel; it will also be by thy merits: who art nearer, and dearer than all others. Teach me then the way to recover my beloved: and accompany me until I find Him. And when I have seen and found Him: I will sing with thee in exultation. Rejoice with me all, for I have found Him Whom my soul loveth: for it is He Himself Whom thou didst bring forth, most chaste Virgin Mary.

To this she answers: “Listen to a good counsel; follow my example: and thy soul shall be comforted. If ever thou losest Jesus, do not be downcast, or too much disturbed: do not grow slothful, do not cease from prayer, do not go forth in pursuit of exterior consolations; but seek privacy, bemoan thyself, and thou shalt find Jesus in the temple of thy heart: Whom thou hast lost by thy sins, taking pleasure in vain things. For Jesus is not found in the streets of the city; nor in the company of pleasure-seekers, nor of them that live at their ease on earth: but in the assembly of the just, and in the gathering of the saints. With groaning is He to be sought: Who was lost through dissipation. With great care is He to be kept: Who slipped away though want of watchfulness. With fear and reverence is He to be besought: Who HATES THE SLOTHFUL AND UNGRATEFUL. With DEEPEST HUMILITY IS HE TO BE RECALLED, Who was driven away by pride. With frequent and earnest prayer is He to be appeased: Who because of their wandering mind hears not them that mumble. With GREAT THANKSGIVING is He to be praised: Who is ready to bestow His grace. With MOST BURNING LOVE is He to be embraced: Who spares all, compassionates all; Who grants His gifts freely: and is proved to be wanting to no man that seeks Him. And if sometimes He delays: He does not however forsake him that perseveres in prayer; but even while he knows it not, revisits him, more fully enlightens, and INSTRUCTS TO GREATER PRUDENCE: THAT HE NEVER PRESUME OF HIMSELF, BUT ALWAYS HUMBLY AND DEVOUTLY TRUST IN HIM. If then thou dost attend to these things well, thou shalt speedily appease Jesus; thou shalt find Jesus in Jerusalem: for His place is established in peace. Jesus in the temple of thy heart shall preach the sacred words of His mouth; Jesus shall tarry the whole day WITH THEE AS IN A BRIDAL CHAMBER: JESUS SHALL TEACH THEE CONCERNING ALL THINGS THAT TOUCH SALVATION: of Whom certainly is all whatever there be of grace and virtue in angels and men: whatever also of good shines forth in creatures. Jesus therefore is always to be invoked, always sought: ever to be desired, ever to be remembered, ever to be praised: ever to be venerated, ever to be loved, NOR TO BE OFFENDED IN AUGHT; BUT IN ALL holiness and purity to be served and worshipped: Who is above all God blessed for ever. Amen.”

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