Imitation of Christ – Book 4, Ch.1-4, pt.1

Today is Maundy Thursday when we celebrate Jesus’ institution of the Last Supper.  For Eastertide, we will be reading through Book 4 of Thomas á Kempis’s Imitation of Christ. These readings are a series of eighteen short meditations on the spiritual benefits of our participation in this same Last Supper.  These writings represent the apex of medieval spirituality on the Holy Eucharist. Within medieval Europe, there were two broad approaches to God – Scholasticism and Mysticism. The Scholastics, such as Anselm of Canterbury or Thomas Aquinas, employed Aristotelian philosophy to reason through the nature of God.  This was a faith seeking a logical, reasonable understanding of God.  Alternatively, the Mystics, such as Bernard of Clairvaux or Theresa of Avila, sought an intimate, ecstatic knowledge of God, like a bride seeking out her husband (cf. Songs of Songs).  This type of knowledge was gained through contemplation and a spiritual reading of the Scriptures called Lectio Divina, leading to a personal experiential encounter with the Risen Christ. Within this tradition, the purpose of Scripture isn’t to transmit facts but to guide us into a deeper relationship with Jesus.  It is within this Mystical tradition that á Kempis writes.

The Scholastics gave us the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, which attempts to logically deduce how, why, and what is the Real Presence of Christ within the Eucharist. As the alternative, á Kempis simply gives us a series of five Bible verses to contemplate as a guide into a spiritual knowledge of the Eucharist and thereby into a relationship with Jesus that passes all understanding.  Therefore, for Tuesday night, the only homework is to read the five verses:

·         Matt. 11:28 (Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.)

·         John 6:52 (The bread which I will give is My Flesh, for the life of the world.)

·         1 Cor. 11:23-26 (Take and eat: This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.)

·         John 6:57 (He that eats of My flesh, and drinks of My blood, abides in Me, and I in him.)

·         John 6:63 (The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.)

Engage these five verses and the surrounding passages using Lectio Divina:

·         READ the scripture, slowly and reflectively, allowing it to sink in.

·         REFLECT on the text or only part of the text or simply one word. Chew it over. And then chew it over again.  Take from it all that God desires to give to you.

·         RESPOND to the text. Allow your heart to simply respond to what God has given you.

·         REST in the Word of God.  Listen to the still small voice of God.  Encounter God’s response to you.

Remember, the goal is not to “get through” the readings but to allow the readings to guide you into a deeper understanding of the Eucharist and of Christ.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is hot dogs. Discussion about 6:45. We will read through the first few meditations as the Spirit allows. Compline at 8.  Hope to see you here.  

“Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:31-35.

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