Without You, We Sink–Thomas a Kempis

Without You, We Sink

Thomas a Kempis (from the Imitation of Christ)

This poignant excerpt from the writings of Thomas a Kempis reveals why his little book, The Imitation of Christ (Lib 3, 14) is the greatest spiritual classic of Western Christianity from the 15th century. It emphasizes our utter dependence upon the power of God. These words appear in the Roman Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 22nd week in Ordinary Time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Jeremiah 20.

You thunder your judgments upon me, O Lord; you shake all my bones with fear and dread, and my soul becomes severely frightened. I am bewildered when I realize thateven the heavens are not pure in your sight.

If you discovered iniquity in the angels and did not spare them, what will become of me? The stars fell from heaven, and I, mere dust, what should I expect? Those whose works seemed praiseworthy fell to the depths, and I have seen those who once were fed with the bread of angels take comfort in the husks of swine.

There is no holiness where you have withdrawn your hand, O Lord; no profitable wisdom if you cease to rule over it; no helpful strength if you cease to preserve it. If you forsake us, we sink and perish; but if you visit us, we rise up and live again. We are unstable, but you make us firm; we grow cool, but you inflame us.

All superficial glory has been swallowed up in the depths of your judgement upon me.
What is all flesh in your sight? Can the clay be glorified in opposition to its Maker?

How can anyone be stirred by empty talk if his heart is subject in the truth to God?

If a man is subject to truth, possession of the whole world cannot swell him with pride; nor will he be swayed by the flattery of his admirers, if he has established all his trust in God.

For those who do nothing but talk amount to nothing; they fail with their din of words, but‘the truth of the Lord endures for ever.’

Thomas Kempis

Thomas Hemerken was born at Kempen, near Cologne Germany around the year 1380. Though born into a poor family, he received a Catholic Education at the school of the Brethren of the Common Life and entered the Canons Regular in the year 1399 where he took the habit in 1406. For the rest of his life he was widely sought after as a spiritual director. His best known writing is the great devotional classic of the late middle ages, The Imitation of Christ. He died in 1471.