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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

O ALL ye that pass by the way: attend and see if there be any sorrow like to My sorrow. Now the memory of Our Lord’s Passion is celebrated in holy Church: and it is befitting that the children of the Church compassionate their Lord: Who for them deigned to die in the body: that they might live in both body and soul for all eternity. Let them then not be ungrateful, or regard themselves as strangers; but lovingly remember that they themselves are the Church and Spouse of Christ, who are called her children: if however they have cleaved to Christ with filial love and the single devotion of faith. O how great a charity of the sovereign Father; how great a love of the only-begotten Son of God: how great a benignity of the Holy Ghost hath overflowed on the whole human race. What shalt thou say to this, my soul? Wilt thou be ungrateful; or canst thou be unmindful of so great a love? How canst thou neglect Him; by Whom thou wast so diligently sought out? How couldst thou not love Him in turn; Who has so ardently loved thee? Love Him Who loves thee and loves thee so strongly; that He chose to endure death: rather than thou shouldst be lost. This is the love greater than which no man has had: and so He fully satisfied for all.

But what shalt thou do; and what shalt thou render to the Lord for His death? It behoves thee to do something: although thou canst not repay Him a worthy recompense. For every creature and all the saints suffice not to thank God worthily for His death: which He willingly underwent for thee. Recall to mind then His holy Passion, and according to thy measure strive to imitate it; for this is to render Him great thanks: cheerfully to desire to suffer tribulations for Him. Draw then thy mind away from outward things: and turn thy whole thought to the image of thy crucified Lord. For by this thou wilt be able the easier to shut out other images from thy mind: and also, by the impression of this holy image, the more patiently to endure all bodily pains. And since now according to the season it beseems the Church to think of the Lord’s Passion: therefore to it thou shouldst more intently direct thy exercises. If the preceding days of fast have passed heedlessly: at least now, in this fortnight, let fresh devotion inflame thee, because of the Passion of Christ. And if thou rememberest that thou hast done anything well: add still better to what is passed. Be now more earnest and fervent; for so the memory of Our Lord’s Passion demands: and the compassion taken up by the whole Church for the death of her Saviour. Let it not be burdensome or wearisome to think over the bitter Passion of Christ: which He was ready to endure for thee. Each of these days gather and carry away a bunch of myrrh from the vine of the Lord of Sabaoth, which place between thy breasts for the custody of thy heart: for thence breathes the odour of life: and if thou chew it well, thou shalt receive wondrous strength amidst trials and reproaches. Indeed it has been proved by many and experienced, that, exercising themselves oft in the Passion of the Saviour, His holy stripes and blessed wounds have savoured so sweetly to them, that they have overflowed with tears from vehement sorrow: and by an exceeding great affection of love and compassion, they have been strongly inflamed to endure even insults and sufferings for the love of Christ. What shall I say, that some led beyond themselves, and wholly changed from self-love, longed to enter the interior of Jesus, to experience His utter emptying-out, even to the death of the Cross; heartily desiring to be humbled and despised by all creatures: that Christ alone might be glorified in their hearts, and they themselves only contemned. So burning is it, the blood of Christ poured out through love; that it mightily inflames him that deeply meditates thereon, and makes him so forgetful of self, as to deem contempt joy: and to regard as nothing the things that are painful to the body. For thus the ardent lover commences to be made like his dear beloved through sufferings: while he wholly and freely abandons himself to Him: Who for his redemption spared Himself in nought. Hence springs a very strong love, most grateful comfort is received, a singular devotion grows; carnal affection dies, the spirit is raised in God: the understanding is enlightened: and the word of the prophet is realized, saying: “And my chalice which inebriateth me, how goodly is it.” But because this is very great and difficult, nor attainable to any man of himself: therefore, my soul, beg, seek, and knock; that the most kind Jesus, full of the Holy Ghost and power, rich unto all that call upon Him, may mercifully open unto thee this excellent treasure, which He hath hidden in Himself: and make the most precious unction of devotion flow from His sacred wounds to thee; so that thou also mayest learn to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the hardest stone: which is concealed from the proud, but shown to humble and devout hearts; veiled from the carnal and them that savour earthly things: but oft granted to be tasted by the pure and simple. This is the wondrous disposition of God; that the meek and humble take: what the elated and curious cannot take. Thou seest how many read much, examine the sublime, and seek the subtle; but have little or almost no devotion to the Passion of Christ; because they pour themselves out on exterior things, and seek to be comforted in things of earth; therefore is their heart within made dry and tasteless: and they cannot experience the things that are Jesus Christ’s. They are engaged in many things: and edified in few. They overlook the profitable, omit the necessary: love the subtle, despise the simple; are carried away to divers matters, and examine everything that is new: and not even thus find rest, or are satiated with what they hear; for as long as they seek not Jesus by His Passion and Cross: they will assuredly not attain true interior sweetness and the knowledge of His Godhead. For Jesus alone opens the way to His Divinity, by His most sacred humanity. Which blessed Paul knew well when he said: that in Him are hid all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. And therefore, leaving aside words of earthly wisdom: he exercised himself in the life and Passion of Christ. “For I judged not myself to know anything among you: but Jesus and Him crucified.”

Take heed to this, my soul; and, leaving aside curious things and all vanities: direct the interior eye of the heart to Jesus crucified. For the present watch diligently, and with Jesus on Mount Olivet pray to the Father; that as He was given the chalice of His blessed Passion to drink: so to thee also be granted an ardent affection to compassionate Him lovingly. For thou shalt find more in the wounds of Jesus Christ: than in the possession of the whole world. And the Passion of Christ alone will bring thee greater wonder of mind: than the contemplation of all created things. This I say then, that thou mayest have greater fervour towards the Passion of Christ; meditate thereon more intently: yea, pass not a single hour or day without the memory thereof. For whatever thou dost read or hear in other words or deeds of the saints, this thou shalt find much more fully and deliciously in the life and Passion of Christ. Indeed the venerable Passion of Christ surpasses the sufferings of all the saints in many ways: since all the sufferings of all the saints are sanctified by the Passion of Christ alone: and are made acceptable to God and meritorious by His death. For He is the Saint of Saints, Who has power to forgive men their sins; Who renders all their works pleasing: and delivered Himself as a holy sacrifice to God, unto the remission of all sins.

But three ways in particular the Passion of Christ far surpasses the sufferings of His elect, namely in dignity, and bitterness: and fruit or profit. In dignity excels the person of the sufferer: since He was the Son of God. In bitterness is considered the dreadful rending of His body: for it was of a most exquisite and tender complexion. And in the fruit is seen the redemption of the human race; since by His death, which He underwent without guilt, He freed us from eternal death: and merited for us the entry to heavenly blessedness and glory. And so by the prophet He thus invites all the faithful to consider the greatness of His suffering, saying, “O all ye that pass by the way: attend and see if there be any sorrow like to My sorrow.”

Alas, alas, O Lord, how many pass before Thee heedlessly; with dry eyes and unmoved heart they pass by Thy image: barely do they look on the cross from afar; without reverence or genuflexion they hurry through the churches: they haste rather to go out than to come in; it gives them more pleasure to chatter than to pray: the world draws more agreeably to the market-place, than the divine and heavenly chanting to the choir; scarcely can they bide a short while in Thy praise: although Thou didst hang upon the cross, filled with many sorrows and reproaches, a long space of hours for their salvation. Where are our eyes, O Lord; and whither have we sent away our ears, that we give no heed to Thee? Convert us to Thee: for very soon are we turned away from Thee. Speedily we forget Thy great love: which Thou hast shown us in Thy blessed Passion. Thou hast suffered so much, things so grievous and shameful, and without any guilt, for men, from men, whom Thou Thyself didst create; from Thy own race and people, on whom of old and in the present time Thou hast bestowed so many benefits: and still we remain hard and ungrateful. The insensible elements indeed were in commotion at Thy death: and the hearts of the children of men are unmoved. Alas for me, wretched and unhappy, for the sterility and insensibility of my heart; that I am so soon moved by a slight injury: and am nowise touched by such insults of my Lord Jesus Christ. I feel a small hurt of my body: and I ponder not the most terrible pains of my Lord. How little a love is made manifest: since the Head is grievously wounded, and the heart feels no grief thereat. If we are members one of another; why have I no compassion, and why is not my heart broken with sorrow? O my Lord, what shall I say to this; and what shall I do, wretch that I am? Why am I sometimes more speedily moved for a mortal man; than for Thee, my Creator and immortal Spouse? Why does the curiosity of vain things excite me more; than Thy hanging for me on the cross? For this I deeply grieve, that these things pass not more to my heart: nor wholly wound me, as they justly should. For shame, that I am so easily ready to laughter; so sensible to my own loss: and so slow and dry to weep the most bitter Passion of my Lord. And if sometimes I put on compunction: too speedily again I drop it: therefore I do not progress, and do not perfectly attain interior savour. Ah my God, that I should hear such good things of Thee, and do nothing worthy: I read that Thou didst endure such heavy torments: and still I find myself rather hard than softened. This is not a sign of perfect love: nor a token of loving compassion. How long shall I be insensible; and without sympathy with the Sufferer?

O now, most beloved and faithful Jesus, pallid and hanging on the cross: only hope of the desolate soul; grant me at this sacred season, worthily to celebrate the memory of Thy holy Passion: and by loving compassion to pass into Thy open wounds; where forgetful of myself, and mindful only of Thy sorrow, I may no longer faint in any tribulation: but freely resign myself to Thy will. How can I know or think that I love Thee; except by the suffering of afflictions for Thy name? For willingly to suffer from love, and to be able to bear every burden without complaint: is the sweetest recompense that a man can offer Thee. For herein are known THE TRUE LOVERS of the cross: namely in the WILLING endurance of every grief. And although Thou art now impassible, and open to no suffering, but crowned with glory and honour, and raised above all the heavens: to me however it is profitable and a great help, to be mindful in my sufferings of Thy blessed Passion: to look on Thee, as if still passible in the flesh: namely, taken prisoner and bound, stripped of Thy garments, derided, spat upon, struck, whipped with scourges, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross; given to drink of vinegar and gall, pierced with the lance, condemned with robbers, insulted, blasphemed, despised, abandoned, reprobate of all: and finally dead upon the cross, and tearfully buried. I must not pass over even one point: but from the grove of the gospel I will faithfully gather all Thy words and actions; and not only will I consider Thy wonderful works, but much more fondly will I embrace in meditation Thy sufferings and reproaches: for these are more needful to me unto salvation. Thy signs, glorious Jesus, instruct me in the faith and veneration of Thy holy name: but Thy reproaches and hard blows, received for me, incite and inflame me more to loving endurance, to humility and perfect charity. But he, who reverences only Thy signs, and considers solely Thy greatness, must be very careful: lest he be scandalized by the contemplation of Thy shameful death. Thou art to be admired indeed in the works wrought by divine power, and for these to be praised above all; but nevertheless Thou hast not disdained patiently to bear insults and curses: and so much the more Thou shouldst be loved.

Note this therefore, faithful soul: AND BE GRATEFUL TO GOD FOR ALL THESE THINGS. The poor and HUMBLE JESUS ought to comfort thee in every strait and tribulation: Who in His greatest need was forsaken of GOD and men. Thou art not greater than thy Master, slothful and unprofitable servant: nor more innocent than Christ, O Christian. If He bore so much for thee; what shalt thou do for thyself, and what shalt thou worthily render Him? If also He was thus forsaken and given over to contempt, Who was the dearly beloved Son: why art thou saddened, if sometimes thou art abandoned and despised, who art so unworthy a servant? Look upon thy heavenly pattern, thy constant memorial. O beautiful and most dear Jesus, Son of God; which shall I the more admire in Thee, the sublime or the lowly? And which shall I remark rather; the worthy or the unworthy? But better and with greater truth both together. I see Thee beauteous and noble in the divine nature: but disfigured and despised in the form of man. The former Thou remainest for ever: the latter Thou didst suffer for a time. Moreover to my spirit also within Thou art beautiful and lovable, pure and inviolable: because a stranger to all sin: although outwardly Thou appearest defaced and wounded. Because of my sins Thou wast begrimed, and stricken, and crucified. Perchance the bodily eyes of the foolish and the proud are scandalized: not however of the loving and pious; but rather they compassionate and weep: who love Thee in truth. With such I desire to live: who, loving Thee with their whole heart, follow even to the shame of the cross. Thou art not a stumbling-block to me: but the greatest honour and joy. For Thy disfigurement is my comeliness; Thy stripes and every wound, the healing of my soul: and Thy death, my life. In these I live and in such the life of my spirit; Thou shalt reprove me, if I be not mindful of Thee: if I set not THY PASSION AS THE COMMENCEMENT OF MY JOY. For I know that Thou art the Holy One of God, Who hast willed to suffer these things: and I believe that for my sins Thou hast cheerfully borne them.

Weeping therefore, I will weep day and night; and my tears shall be on my cheeks: for the sorrow and bitter Passion of my Lord. David lamented with great lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan; and shall I not lament the death of my Lord, my King? Jacob, seeing the coat of Joseph his son, rent his garment with weeping: and can I cease weeping, contemplating the dolorous death of my Lord? Joseph also seeing Benjamin, his brother by the same mother, standing before him: immediately his heart was moved, and he made haste and wept, and could not refrain himself from tears; and shall I, hearing of the cruel death of my Lord, be without tears? Let no man urge me to this; let no man forbid me grief and mourning: otherwise he will but torment me more. My Lord shed for me His precious blood; and shall I not shed for Him a little weeping? Would that I could so lament: as to be able to move all men also together with me. It is not given to all to weep: but it is a gift of the devout mind to mourn from inner compassion for her Lord; not for the sake of her own satisfaction: but to merit His greater favour.

O most dearly beloved Jesus, brightness of eternal glory; how dost Thou thus set, Sun of Justice? may my soul compassionate Thee; and from great affection of pity may the hardness of my heart be broken: and may it be intimately occupied to-day with the memory of Thy Passion. In the spirit of humility and in a contrite soul, may it faithfully stand before thee: and in every place of Thy Passion go with Thee, and sorrowfully give heed to all that Thou dost suffer; ardently long also to suffer and to die with Thee: considering what David said of his son Absalom, “Who would grant me,” he said, “to die for thee my son Absalom, Absalom my son?” Loving affection at the death of his son, in arms against him, was strong in David: so that he vehemently lamented his death, and desired to die for him, who attempted to take his life: how much stronger should the grief of deep compassion be in me: over Thy guiltless death, consummated for me upon the cross. It ought to touch me more that Thou wast crucified and didst die for me: than if the whole world had been given me and spent for me. MAY MY SOUL THEREFORE DIE A BLESSED DEATH: and may my last end be like that of my Lord. Grant, O Lord, a happy hour of death: and to find blissful repose in Thee. It will be better for me to die now with Thee: than to live one hour longer without Thee. If this be denied: I will do what devout affection is wont to do. I will seek privacy: and chiefly for this end that I may lament the more freely. I will be mindful, O Lord, of Thy death: and with the inner lips of the heart I will kiss again and again the scars of all Thy wounds. Let no man speak to me this day: let no man trouble me with any solace, nor suggest any relaxation; for I will not receive comfort from any creature: lest I be hindered from mourning the most bitter Passion of my Lord. Depart, depart, friends and strangers; leave me to sit desolate and alone: that I may lament a while my Beloved, crucified for me. Let tears in my head fail for sorrow: and let there be none to wipe them, or to console me, save Him, Whom I mourn. Weep with me, sun and moon, and lament with me, all ye creatures: for our Lord is slain this day. And it is befitting that all things should be plunged in grief, while the Author of nature suffers: and that all should put on sadness: while the Son of God endures such anguish. I can speak no more, but I find relief only in weeping: for my God, crying out with a loud voice, gives up the ghost. Go forth, go forth, most abundant tears: and gush out even to exhaustion. Fall upon the slain body of my beloved Lord: and merit for me the inner sight of the heart: that I may sometime deserve to see Him in joy: Whom now with loving lament I mourn crucified. Let His tomb be to me a place of peace and repose: so that His glorious resurrection may be the end of all sorrow and sadness. Amen.

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