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The Imitation of Christ (1418)

by Thomas à Kempis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7,68654790 (4.11)67
The world's most widely read devotional book which is described as the chief companion piece of the Bible.



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English (45)  Dutch (4)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
One of the best, easiest-to-read/absorb and visually impressive Christian books I've come across in a long time. It's not a long book by any means -- less than one hundred pages ... but each turn of the page is exciting because of the very detailed artwork accompanying snippets of the much larger/expansive "Imitation of Christ" by Thomas Kempis. The only thing I wished for was that it was about 2 times longer at least. At less than a hundred pages it feels awfully short and leaves you begging for more, but a page length double or more would have made this a must-have for any Christian young/old, so-so reader/expert reader and short/long attention span. Even non-Catholics will enjoy this book, if only for the detailed artwork. ( )
  scottcc | Jul 12, 2020 |
Thomas ὰ Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ was presented in Four Books concerning how Christian believers should act, and the rules they ought to follow in the eyes of God.
Book One – Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
Book One covered many topics including the doctrine of truth, prudence in action, reading the holy Scripture, obedience and subjection, the value of adversity, avoiding rash judgment, thoughts on the misery of man, thoughts on death, and judgment and the punishment of sin. But a 14th century approach about the judgment and punishment of sin was quite lurid.
Book Two – The Interior Life
Ὰ Kempis wrote about how to build one’s interior life through the dedication to Jesus Christ. In this book there was a great deal of emphasis on taking up Christ’s cross. In these meditations suffering like Christ was key requirement. This was how a believer would claim victory. It was stated that those who suffered should expect to do so. They were considered the followers of the risen Christ in the truest sense of the word. It was even explained that if a believer came to the point of enjoying such suffering he or she would be experiencing heaven on earth.
Book Three – Internal Consolation
This book was itself as a conversation between Christ and a disciple. It was clear that the disciple’s attitude had to be humble and unassuming. He or she shouldn’t think much of their life in the eyes of God. They should realize that all blessings come from his Divine Providence. So no one should endeavor to be puffed up, think highly about themselves, or act as though they are happy by the things of this world. From the dialogue it was clear that all earthly gifts would soon pass away, and that believers would be disappointed if their faith wasn’t in God alone.
Book Four – An Invitation to Holy Communion
In Book Four the conversation between the voice of Christ and the disciple continued. The disciple is told how to prepare for Holy Communion. It was good to receive this sacrament in the right frame of mind, and with a clear conscience. Communicants have to make sure that they were on good terms with other believers. They should ask for forgiveness of all their sins, and approach the altar with repentant hearts. It was the Lord who knows their hearts and is always willing to forgive them. This voice of Christ stated was the correct way before communicants should partake of the bread and wine. ( )
  erwinkennythomas | Apr 28, 2020 |
A modernized version of the late Middle English version ( )
  ME_Dictionary | Mar 19, 2020 |
The Imitation is perhaps the most widely read devotional work next to the Bible, and is regarded as a devotional and religious classic. Apart from the Bible, no book has been translated into more languages than the Imitation of Christ. The text is divided into four books, which provide detailed spiritual instructions: "Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life", "Directives for the Interior Life", "On Interior Consolation" and "On the Blessed Sacrament". The approach taken in the Imitation is characterized by its emphasis on the interior life and withdrawal from the world, as opposed to an active imitation of Christ by other friars. The book places a high level of emphasis on the devotion to the Eucharist as key element of spiritual life.
  StFrancisofAssisi | May 17, 2019 |
Logos Library
  birdsnare | May 16, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (134 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas à Kempisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Beeching, H. C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bigg, CharlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bouman, RutgerusPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Challoner, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chalmers, ThomasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Croft, AloysiusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gardiner, Harold C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gonnelieu, R.P. deContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorp, Joseph vanContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hallez, L.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kepler, Thomas S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klein, Edward J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, Ronald ArbuthnottTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamennais, F. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lelen, J. M.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Little, W. J. Knoxsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malcolm, HowardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merkx, P.A.H.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulder, Lucas BernardusForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oakley, Michaelsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pavert, R. A. van deIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Payne, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sherley-Price, LeoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ullman, C.Prefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitford, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zolla, ElemireIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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'He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness,' says Our Lord.
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‘The Imitation of Christ’ first appeared 1418. It was published anonymously but spread quickly around Europe. A Latin manuscript from 1441 exists, but there was a German translation as early as 1434. A French translation appeared in 1447, a Spanish edition in 1482, and an Italian one in 1488. The first English translation appeared in 1503, which was just Book 4, but the other three books followed in the same year and a complete translation appeared in 1556. In 1663, an Arabic edition was printed in Rome, and in 1837, a Hebrew version printed in Frankfurt. 

It has since been translated into many languages, and has won for itself a variety of celebrity admirers. John Wesley and John Newton were men of the Evangelical wing of the Church yet both named this Catholic manual as important in their conversion, while General Gordon took it into battle with him. Thomas More, St Francis Xavier and Dr Johnson were other famous devotees.
 The work is comprised of four books, though they are not all found in all manuscripts, and neither are they always in the same order. This makes little practical difference to the reader, however. This manual of devotion is pitched at a challenging level of Christian experience, but does not offer an ordered journey. Like a merry-go-round, the same themes are visited again and again throughout the books; Thomas is a teacher who believes in repetition. Book 4 is unique in that it has a specific subject, the Eucharist, and explores our attitudes towards the bread and wine. But even here, the author weaves in themes familiar from the other three books: human worthlessness, the need for humility, advice on temptation and adversity, disdain for the attractions of the world, contempt for scholarship, sorrow for sin, forgiveness of perceived injustice, submission to God in all things and ardour for union with the life of Jesus in his death and resurrection.

There is a manic-depressive feel to much of the writing, which can be disturbing for the modern reader. Although Thomas calls Christians to an equanimity that is neither too happy when things go well or too sad when things go badly, the author’s own mood tends to be either one of extreme despair and self-hate or an ecstatic happiness at the sweetness of God and the joy to be found in him. To an extent, this mirrors the character of the God he describes who both loves us unendingly whilst also preparing eternal punishment for the unfaithful. Kempis offers no resolution to this paradox; but sensed in all he writes is the fire of personal dismantlement through which humans must walk in the cause of their spiritual development. Here is a radical and disturbing self-help book, penned for the 14th century monk.

Thomas writes as a monk for monks, but clearly his passion and insights spill well beyond the cloistered world of the monastery. One writer called it ‘The diary of a soul on its way to perfection,’ which captures well the author’s spiritual ambition both for himself and others. As he himself says in the second book, ‘Disdain that which is superficial, dedicate yourself to your inner being and you shall see that the Kingdom of God grows inside you.’ St Augustine was patron of Thomas’ monastery and it was he who famously said, ‘Oh God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their place in you.’ The restless Thomas a Kempis could not have agreed more.
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