The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis | 9780060634001 | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Imitation of Christ: How Jesus Wants Us to Live

Imitation of Christ: How Jesus Wants Us to Live

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by Thomas à Kempis, a. Kempis Thomas, William Griffin
     
 

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The Imitation of Christ is the work of at least three men: Gerard Groote, Florent Radewijns, and Thomas a Kempis. The first two were founders of the Brethren of the Common Life, a lay religious society that flourished in the Netherlands from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. Working on their manuscripts, first as a compiler and editor and then as

Overview

The Imitation of Christ is the work of at least three men: Gerard Groote, Florent Radewijns, and Thomas a Kempis. The first two were founders of the Brethren of the Common Life, a lay religious society that flourished in the Netherlands from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. Working on their manuscripts, first as a compiler and editor and then as a coauthor, was Kempis.

So successful were Kempis's efforts that the work became the golden treasury not only of their community but also of the contemporary spirituality movement known as the Modern Devotion. Its prescriptions might very well be known as the Perennial Devotion for its continual appeal through the centuries.

In its fifteenth century Latin original the Imitation was not a silken cord of consecutive prose. Rather it was a series of scratchings, the sort that a spiritual director would note down in preparation for sermons and addresses. What wasn't always in the original was exactly how Kempis developed each topic sentence or wisdom quotation as he delivered it.

In this new rendition William Griffin recovers the original experience of listening to Kempis as he taught and preached to his spiritual charges. Using a variety of literary and historical means, Griffin enhances the original, making the insights of this seminal exposition of Christian life more accessible.

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A Fresh Translation That Is the Real Thing
"Embrace me as a seeker of the Truth!" This prayer in The Imitation of Christ continues to be echoed today in the thoughts of travelers on the spiritual path. After the Bible, it is the second most popular Christian writing, and in this rejuvenated translation by William Griffin, the 500-year-old classic attributed to Thomas à Kempis (A.D. 1380-1471) comes alive in sometimes ribald language. Griffin polishes the wry gloss dulled by previous translators' images of piety that precluded the possibility that religious thought could include humor. Restored is the attitude of thoughtful encouragement, showing how a clever wit proves more successful than badgering or a rap on the knuckles. What shines in this marvelous translation is an ageless text of humility, faith, devotion, and surrender.

This "how-to" for following the pilgrim's way reminds us to focus on spiritual matters rather than materialistic goals, affirming that the solace that results from putting God in the center of one's life is the richest reward one can find. Quoting freely from the Bible, including the Apocryphal books of Tobit, Wisdom, and Sirach, the essential message of the Imitation is representative of the Devotio Moderna, a movement of spiritual reform centered in the Netherlands that stressed the moral example of how to live, as demonstrated by Jesus Christ. "If you want to rule with Christ, then you're going to have to suck it in and wade through the same muck as Christ," Kempis tells us.

At its core, The Imitation of Christ is an example of sober piety and love of the divine. However, Griffin's new translation is anything but a model of solemnity and somber mood where laughter is forbidden. This new version puts perennial ideas into new clothes, using a tone that reflects the author's intelligence, wit, and understanding. Thomas à Kempis urges the reader to follow the example of surrendering to the will of God demonstrated through Jesus Christ. By uncovering a monk's sense of humor that had been lost in previous translations, Griffin renders the message in a rich and ironic voice that is right for our time and good for our souls. Although Kempis tells us to "look for Truth, not style," Griffin makes the search easier by providing a refreshing and satisfying read of this wonderful classic of spiritual thought. It will be a delight and reward for anyone who encounters it along the Way.

--Royce Froehlich

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060634001
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/28/2000
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
433,841
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.37(h) x 1.09(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Imitating Christ & Condemning the World

"Whoever shadows my every move won't lose me in the dark." At least that's what Christ says, or what the Evangelist John heard Him say (8:12). He tells us to walk on, through the darkness, with Christ as our only torch. That way, when morning comes, we mayn't have gained a step, but we won't have lost one either. And on into the day we must pursue with doggéd tread the life of Jesus Christ.

We Devouts know more about Christ than we do about the Saints. For example, whoever finds the spirit of Christ discovers in the process many "unexpected delights," if I may use an expression of the Apostle John's from the Last Book of the New Testament (2:17).

But that isn't often the case. Many who've heard the Gospel over and over again think they know it all. They've little desire to discover if there's more to the story. That's because, as the Apostle Paul diagnosed it in his Letter to the Romans (8:9), "they don't have the spirit of Christ."

On the other hand, whoever wants to understand the words of Christ and fully and slowly savor their sweetness has to work hard at making himself another Christ.

If you're not humble, you make the Trinity nervous, and in that wretched state what possible good do you get out of standing up in public and disputing to high heaven about the Trinity as an intellectual entity? The real truth, if only you'd learn it, is that highfalutin words don't make us Saints. Only a virtuous life can do that, and only that can make God care for us.

"Compunction" is a good example. The Schoolmen at the University -- that's to say, the Philosophers andthe Theologians -- could produce lengthy, perhaps even lacy, definitions of this holy word, but that wouldn't move them one inch closer to the Gate of Heaven. The humble Devout, on the other hand, who can neither read nor write, might very well have experienced compunction every day of his life; he's the one, whether he knows it or not, who'll find himself already waiting at that very gate when the Final Day comes.

By the way, I do know what compunction means, and so should you: a prickling or stinging of the conscience.

Are you any the richer, if I may put it the way Paul did in his First Letter to the Corinthians (13:3), for knowing all the proverbs of the Bible and all the axioms of the Philosophers, when you're really all the poorer for not knowing the charity and the grace of God?

"Vanity of vanities, and everything is vanity," says the Ancient Hebrew Preacher in Ecclesiastes (1:2). The only thing that isn't vanity is loving God and, as Moses preached to the Israelites in Deuteronomy, serving him alone (6:13). That's the highest wisdom, to navigate one's course, using the contempt of the World as a chart, toward that Heavenly Port.

Just what is vanity? Well, it's many things. A portfolio of assets that are bound to crash. A bird breast of medals and decorations. A brassy solo before an unhearing crowd. Alley-catting one's "carnal desires," as Paul so lustily put it to the Galatians (5:16), only to discover that punishment awaits further up and farther in. Pining for a long life and at the same time paying no attention to the good life. Focusing both eyes on the present without casting an eye toward the future. Marching smartly in the passing parade instead of falling all over oneself trying to get back to that reviewing stand where Eternal Joy is queen.

Don't forget the hoary wisdom of the Ancient Hebrew Preacher: "The eye is never satisfied by what it sees; nor the ears, by what they hear" (1:8). With that in mind, try to transfer your holdings from the visible market into the invisible one. The reason? Those who trade intheir own sensualities only muck up their own account and in the process muddy up God's Final Account.

What People are saying about this

Richard J. Foster
I love Mr. Griffin's translation, scholarly and urbane.
—(Richard J. Foster, bestselling author of Celebration of Discipline)

Meet the Author

Thomas à Kempis (1379/80-1471) was a member of the Brethren, priest, Augustinian monk, author of a dozen books, and copyist extraordinaire. He lived at and was a member of the Windesheim congregation at Agneitenberg monastery in the Netherlands for more than seventy years.

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The Imitation of Christ 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
JulieBulie More than 1 year ago
This book has over a hundred chapters by topic but this particular edition doesn't include the table of contents! Your nook will only list the "go to" chapters by number and you'll have no idea what the topics are. I'm sharing this so that others don't waste their money. It's unfortunate this information isn't available until you purchase a non-refundable ebook.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Simply put, this book changed my life.
1_Mystical_Rose More than 1 year ago
A beautiful and inspiring guide to living in the Image of Christ. This book is simply structured by specific topics, short entries and scriptural citations. A "must have read" for enriching your prayer life and deepening your relationship with God.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I prefer this translation because it is the most penetrating, thought provoking, and most to the point. Comments on the book listed under various translations are not exaggerations. The book is applicable to all ages to all people, even non-Christians. The truths are basic, self-evident, and universal. You have already read or heard much content in other forms, but it is simply much better than anything you have ever read or heard on the myriad of ethical and moral issues. It is founded on basic Christian morality and theology, true, but non-Christians will appreciate and love the words as well. They may be surprised to find that they cherish every word as much (maybe in some cases more) than most Christians, regardless of some theology they do not agree with. I have also reviewed the other most recent translations. The one edited and translated by Joseph N. Tylenda is also well written, and I recommend you purchase both books and compare the two to one another. Keep the Tylenda book for its preface and introduction, and keep this one for the clearer, easier-to-understand content (a matter of taste, which is why you should buy both). This book is small, durable, compact in size and content, and has excellent quality paper. It is also among the least expensive, which has no relationship to its quality; paying more does not necessarily equate to being superior in quality. In my opinion, after comparing, you will buy multiple copies of this compact, maroon book for all your close friends as gifts.
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
A Classic. An essential read for any devout Christian wanting to enhance their devotion to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A must for daily reflection and spiritual growth. Creasy divides A'Kempis 13th century guide into sections dealing with contemporary issues. Most unique is the dialogue between Jesus and the reader. It is the type of book one picks up, reads a passage, closes the book and reflects on the contents of the passage. I highly recommend it.