Book Club – The Imitation of Christ Week 3 of 10
The Imitation of Christ Week 3 of 10
My Dearest Reading Friends,
Welcome Back!!! I hope each of you enjoyed a beautiful and Christ-filled Christmas season full of family and friends. I took a little break from The Imitation over the holidays to read brief meditations on Christmas here and there, and I finally refocused and finished the reading assignment by reading the final chapter in Book II last night. Sometimes I think Jesus is a real “party pooper.” (I don’t like the term any more than you do, but I’m lacking something more apropos at the moment.) If you read the last chapter recently, you know what I mean. If not, you’ll know soon enough. Below is a quote from Chapter 12:
…Plan as you will and arrange everything as seems best to you, still you will find some suffering in your life. Whether you wish it or not, you will always find the cross, for you will either experience some pain in your body or perhaps have to endure some affliction of spirit in your soul.
Sometimes God may leave you to yourself and sometimes you neighbor will try you; but worse, you will often be a burden to yourself. There is no remedy to free you from this nor is there any ointment to ease the pain, but you must bear it as long as God wills.
God wants you to learn to endure affliction without relief, wholly to submit yourself to Him and to become more humble by passing through adversity.
No man’s heart can experience what Christ endured in His passion except the man who suffers as He did. – Imitation of Christ, pg. 65-66.
We just finished our Christmas celebrations last night on the Feast of the Epiphany, and after retrieving everyone’s coat from the bedroom, saying our long but festive goodbyes and tucking the kids into bed late one last time, I sat down to this, the final chapter in Book II: Directives for the Interior Life. Not exactly the period at the end of a beautiful season – if felt more like a blaring alarm that goes off too early in the morning – neither pleasant nor appreciated.
In all fairness, it wasn’t just last night. There have been other glimpses into the “darker” side of life throughout this Christmas season. Take the Feast of the Holy Innocents, for example. Or even the readings leading up to it – Herod and his evil intentions. The angel warning the wise men not to return the way they’d come. Then we’ll have Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt with their precious Infant in their arms. The entire story is fraught with danger and high drama.
In all the glory of God we celebrate on Christmas, there is always the reminder that evil does exist in the world. That crosses are real, cannot be avoided and even the most innocent endure them every day. But as Thomas à Kempis points out, “Christ’s entire life was a cross and a martyrdom, and you look for rest and pleasure?”
Even before His birth, we learn that there was no room for Him in the inn. Our Lord and Savior entered this world as a sort of castaway – without fanfare or celebration – in the humblest of circumstances. And yet I have the audacity to want more?
Actually, YES, I do want more. I want to live a peaceful life without the crosses I am destined to bear. I don’t want the ones thrust upon me by circumstance, and I certainly disdain those that I bring about myself! I want a nice, cozy home filled with a loving family. I want to reenact Little House on the Prairie each day in our home, with a loving father, understanding and generous mother, and children who both obey their parents and serve one another on a daily basis. I want extended family members to remain healthy and stay with us forever. I want to be a great wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I want the perfect family with the perfect home and the perfect life that I imagine of the people I see on Hallmark commercials.
But God has willed none of those things for me. After much reflection, I must admit that I am thankful for His providence. The above referenced chapter is aptly entitled “The Royal Road of the Holy Cross.” Without the cross, there can be no crown. In fact, the cross is the key to the joy we find on Christmas. Without the cross, Christmas would be, well, just another birthday. We rejoice on Christmas precisely because we rejoice in the cross.
As Archbishop Fulton Sheen tells us in The Moral Universe,
If a man is ever to enjoy communion with Christ, so as to have the blood of God running in his veins and the spirit of God throbbing in his soul, he must die to the lower life of the flesh. He must be born again…And hence the law of Calvary is the law of every Christian: unless there is the Cross there will never be the resurrection, unless there is the defeat of Calvary there will never be the glorious wounds, unless there is the garment of scorn, there will never be the halo of light…for the law laid down at the beginning of time which shall be effective until time shall be no more, is that no one shall be crowned unless he has struggled and overcome.
1. Please share how these readings affected your celebration of Christmas this season.
2. Do you fear the cross? If so, what most helps you in your efforts to carry it with courage?
Week 4: Book 3 Ch. 1-11
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