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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

(Second Sermon)

GO ye into the village, which is over against you: and immediately you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. What is this, most sweet Jesus, my King and my God, that Thou sendest Thy disciples for an ass; and not for a horse to serve Thee on this road, which Thou hast often walked bare-foot? Why dost Thou show Thyself poor and needy in everything: Whose are all things in Heaven and on earth, both men and brutes? When Thou wast born in Bethlehem of Juda, Thou didst not seek a grand palace; but a vile stable for Thy dwelling, and a narrow manger for Thy repose: and now, going into Jerusalem, Thou sendest for an ass to be loaned Thee for a short while. I wonder much and sympathize with Thy poverty, that, King of all the earth, Thou dost act so simply: and goest in procession without any royal raiment. O God, was there not one of all Thy friends in Bethany, or Bethphage, to make ready for Thee a carriage, or give Thee one horse: that at least thus thou couldst ride more honourably into Jerusalem, and leave this ass behind? Which of the kings acted thus? It is read in the Book of Kings, that many horses were brought out of Egypt to Solomon, purchased at a great price: and how does it befall that not even one horse remains for use at Thy coming? A rare and new sight, unheard of from all time: that the King of ages has not in His whole army one horse to ride a brief space: but only the colt of an ass, on which no man had sat: which had neither a saddle for sitting, nor a bridle to hold it. O wondrous clemency of God, the Maker of the world has deigned to be the rider of an ass: when He progressed towards glorious Jerusalem. But there are many motives, and very reasonable and full of virtue: wherefore He mounted an ass and not a horse. Christ, the wisdom of the Father, did this, that the prophecy of His coming might not only be fulfilled in mystic words: but also proved to men in some outward fact as a testimony to them. A very great example of true humility also and of holy poverty He gave herein: to repress the pride and avarice of men: who delight in honours and wealth and a great family: seeking temporal glory, and the ease of luxury. For if our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, had had a beautiful horse in His train: who would be so poor as not to desire to ride horseback, and say that “Christ did the like? Why therefore is it not permitted me”? For the senses of men are prone to evil: and nearly all aspire to a high state. But now Christ, the King, lowly and meek, was content to come on an ass, as the Holy Ghost had foretold of Him, and He treads on the neck of the proud and haughty by His power: Who overthrows the back of kings: and brings to naught perverse and guileful minds. Therefore our King, God before the ages, and man born at the end of time, willed to show Himself such to men in every word, deed and gesture from His birth to the hour of His death, as to be an example of virtue and holiness to all, both subjects and prelates. He showed the way of true humility in the guise of great poverty; whereby any poor man may go up to the heavenly Jerusalem by a straight path without horse, without chariot, without ass, without mule: without scrip, without money, without dignity, without fine linen, without purple. In sooth of this holy way He Himself is the leader, companion, and forerunner: He is the warden and guide; Who, sent by the Father, came into the world: to make smooth and easy the path of humility, whereby Heaven is reached in safety. Let the poor give heed to this and be glad: let the meek hear and be comforted; because for the consolation of the poor our King, the Lord Christ Jesus, when He was rich and the prince of all: became for us poor and patient: that by His poverty He might make us rich in grace: and of mean, great in glory. He Himself therefore came to men in the guise of a poor man; poor He lived among men: poor He died for men. He had not a city or castle, or house of His own, as a noble inheritance; and yet to-day He was honoured by the poor and simple: and proclaimed aloud the King of Israel. Finally, that He might make known and acceptable the grandeur of His poverty to all the princes of the world: for the horse of pride He had the colt of an ass: for captains and soldiers, poor disciples, unlettered fishermen: for armourers and shield-bearers, the simple people, tailors and weavers: for singers and buglers, innocent children, crying, Hosanna: for swords and clubs, palm and olive branches: which were the tokens of joy and peace, not of war or strife. Christ therefore came, the noble and peaceful King, only and beloved Son of the eternal Father, wishing to make peace again between God and men: between angels and sinners: between Jews and gentiles. Be not afraid, therefore, daughter of Sion: but be glad and rejoice, holy city Jerusalem; for He has come, not to punish thee, but to pray for thy sins: not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it; not to ruin thy dwelling, but to deliver it from the power of the devil: not to strive in word, but to teach by conduct; not to oppress any by power: but to save by mercy: not to seek vengeance of the wrong done Him: but He came to suffer the cross and death for wickedness committed. Understand from His miracles how far He is above all the holy patriarchs and prophets: and believe that He is truly the Son of God, coequal with the Father: born of a virgin for the salvation of the world, to die for the redemption of all. Consider from the works of His human nature that He is meek and humble; spurning the glory of the world, enduring insults: returning good for evil. Behold such as He is: such also are His servants. He chose, as His soldiers and barons, men adorned with virtues, not with costly garments; men, who know how to fight against the devil by prayer: to subdue the flesh by fasting; and to overcome, by despising the wealth and honours of the world: as they learnt from Him, and taught many others to wage the spiritual warfare. With these were united the good children, strangers to malice and strife: singing and praising the name of the Lord, because great is the glory of the Lord. For, from the greater even to the less, all engage in praise and thanksgiving; and rejoice in their heart in the presence and coming of their King, clap with their hands, chant aloud with joy: blessing God for all the virtues and signs, which they had seen and heard of Christ, the King, in their boundaries. O how wonderful and praiseworthy was this devotion: how pleasant the exultation of their mind when the humble Jesus, the Son of the eternal King, is led by innocent children into the temple of Solomon and into the place of the admirable tabernacle: where in type of His blessed Passion were offered the sheep victims, by the priests of the Mosaic law; who nevertheless were unable perfectly to cleanse anyone from sins according to the justice of the flesh: but according to the faith of the offerers, in the hope of salvation to be granted in Christ, complete remission and the comfort of the salvation of man was awaited. For, when a few days had passed, after that procession and manifestation of great honour: He was overwhelmed with confusion and sufferings more abundant: than ever before He had been honoured by the crowd. Finally, loaded with many insults and wounds, He was hanged on the cross; that the reality of the flesh, which He had assumed, might be made manifest: and the symbol of the legal victim in the sacrifice of the paschal lamb be fulfilled. These two works of Christ then, to wit, the procession and the Passion, are everywhere celebrated in Holy Church to-day: and they possess in them great mysteries, well explained by saintly doctors. For the state of holy Church is figured in these two: which is wont to be frequently exercised by God through prosperity and adversity. The procession, which brings joy, is made and solemnized with palm branches, to the end: that the hearts of the faithful may be aroused to the love of heavenly joys. But this procession will then be perfectly accomplished, when all the saints, raised from the dead, will go to meet Christ in the air with glorified bodies. Then while angels sing, the elect shall enter the holy of holies: holding palms in their hands and lighted lamps full of oil. Then shall each receive eternal rewards according to his labours and merits: made joyful exceedingly in the dwellings prepared for him by God. But the Passion, which follows the procession, signifies this: that by the cross and Passion of Christ, and by many tribulations for Christ, the way is shown us: whereby after death the kingdom of God is reached. Wherein with Christ for ever they shall rejoice: who now devoutly celebrate His Passion; and mourn for pity; shed tears for love; mortify their flesh in imitation, offer prayers in thanksgiving: willingly hear Masses, with fear and reverence celebrate; refrain from things vain and idle: prepare themselves for divine grace by watchfulness over their heart; and in the commemoration of the Passion of Christ earnestly and sadly meditating, reading, toiling, enduring, so direct their whole purpose: that, utterly conformed to the sufferings of Christ here, they may be the more fully glorified hereafter. For when Christ shall come to reward the labours of all His elect: then shall He wipe away all tears from their eyes. The present procession contains a short-lived joy: but the future procession of the saints shall possess everlasting praise. There is in sooth no festival more solemn, no fellowship more pleasant, no delight greater: no contemplation more excellent, no happiness more worthy, than to see Christ in His heavenly glory with the holy angels; when all the elect have been gathered in the most blessed city of the Jerusalem above, to reign with Christ for ever and ever: while the wicked and faithless have been given over and justly condemned with the devil to eternal flames. From which evils may He guard and save us; but rather gather us with His elect and place us at His right hand in His kingdom: Who by His Passion and cross deigned to redeem us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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