Monday, March 16, 2009

Lenten Reading: Imitation of God

Over the past few years, I have joined the Father Acker and the Anglicans in Alpine in Lenten readings. Three years ago, I read Frederica Mathewes-Green's First Fruits, a book laying out the Canon of Saint Andrew over forty days. Last year I joined the Anglicans each Wednesday night as we discussed The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis following a vegetarian soup, salad, and bread dinner together.

This Lent I can't make it down to Alpine every Wednesday night for discussion with the Anglicans, but I am reading along with Father Acker's schedule of the classic medieval work by Thomas a`Kempis, Imitation of Christ which besides the Bible is the world's bestselling book. I fell behind last week with our Disneyland trip and busy-ness when we returned home, so I'll be reading double this week to catch up.

Here are a few excerpts from yesterday's readings of Kempis' masterwork:

You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make peace between other people. Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.... But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good and are suspicious of no one. (Book 2, Chapter 3)
Humble people are always at peace, even when they are put to shame, because they trust in God and not in the world. So, if you wish to reach the height of perfection, never think of yourself as being virtuous until you know sincerely in your heart that you are the least of all. (Book 2, Chapter 2)
If all goes well with you on earth, how can you expect to be crowned in heaven for a patience you never practiced? How can you be Christ's friend if you will not be opposed? Therefore, you must suffer with Christ and for Christ, if you want to reign with him. (Book 2, Chapter 1)

If you have Christ, you are rich indeed, for only He can fill all your needs. He will be your provider and defender and your faithful helper in every need, so that you need not trust in any other. How quickly people change and fail us; but Christ abides forever and remains at our side until the end.... What are you but an alien and a pilgrim! Only if you are united to Christ will you have rest. (Book 2, Chapter 1)

I feel as if I am underlining the entire book as I read it. It's just one of those little wise books that reveals a gem in every sentence ... one that needs to be read slowly, thoughtfully, meditatively, searchingly. It can take quite some time to reach through the short three chapters each day, chewing on the ideas, attempting not to choke when the words and phrases become too complex to understand on a first, second, or even a third reading. I can easily see why it's the next bestselling book of all time behind the Bible itself. I'm only a third of the way through it at present, and I can't exactly say I'm "enjoying" it, for it is not a book to read quickly or "enjoy." It's a book to be pondered and prayed over as each sentence is read a first time, a second, a third before moving on to the next sentence.

Last spring at Lake Murray's women's retreat, Terry borrowed my copy of Imitation of Christ to read as a devotional book. She haded it back to me just after Easter, claiming that it was one of the best books she had ever read. I have a strong conviction that I will finish the book on Holy Saturday, the final day of Lent. with much the same opinion. if you haven't read it, I encourage you to locate a copy and prayerfully study it, searching your own heart and motivations as well as the will of God.

Wishing you all a Holy Lent....

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