Thomas à Kempis: The Wonderful Effect of Divine Love

Bless You, O heavenly Father, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, for that You have vouchsafed to remember me that am poor. "Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3), thanks be unto You who sometimes with Your comfort refreshest me, unworthy as I am of all comfort. I will always bless and glorify You, with Your only begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, forever and ever. Ah, Lord God, Holy One who lovest me; when You comest into my heart, all that is within me shall rejoice. You are my glory and the exultation of my heart; You are my Hope and "refuge in the day of my trouble" (Ps. 59:16; see also Psalm 32:7).

But because I am as yet weak in love, and imperfect in virtue, I have need to be strengthened and comforted by You. Visit me therefore often, and instruct me with all holy discipline. Set me free from evil passions, and heal my heart of all inordinate affections; that being inwardly healed and thoroughly cleansed, I may be made ready to love, strong to suffer, steady to persevere.

Love is a great thing, yes, altogether a great good; it makes light everything that is heavy, and it bears evenly all that is uneven. For it carries a burden which is no burden (Matt. 11:30) and makes every bitter thing sweet and tasteful. The noble love of Jesus drives a man to do great things and stirs him to always long for what is more perfect. Love wills to be on high and not to be kept back by anything low and mean. Love wills to be free and estranged from all worldly affection so its inward sight may not be hindered, that it may not be entangled by any temporal prosperity or by any adversity subdued.

Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven and earth; because love is born of God (1 John 4:7) and cannot rest but in God, above all created things. A lover flies, runs, and rejoices; he is free and is not bound. He gives all for all and has all in all, because he rests in One highest above all things, from whom all that is good flows. He respects not the gifts but turns himself above all goods unto the Giver.

Love often knows no measure but is fervent beyond all measure. Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of labors, attempts what is above its strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility; for it thinks all things possible for itself and all things lawful. It is therefore strong for all things, and it completes many things, and brings them to effect, where he who does not love faints and lies down.



Love is watchful, and sleeping slumbers not. Though wearied, it is not tired; though pressed, it is not in straits; though alarmed, it is not confounded; but as a lively flame and burning torch, it forces its way upward and securely passes through all. If any man love, he knows what is the cry of this voice. For it is a loud cry in the ears of God, that ardent affection of the soul, when it says, "My God, object of my love, You are all mine, and I am all Yours."

Enlarge me in love that with the inward palate of my heart I may learn to taste how sweet it is to love and in love to be dissolved and to bathe [cleanse] myself [in and with love]. Let me be bound by love, mounting above myself, through excessive fervor and wonder. Let me sing the song of love. Let me follow You, my Beloved, on high. Let my soul spend itself in Your praise, rejoicing through love. Let me love You more than myself, nor love myself but for You; and in You all that truly love You, as the law of love commands, shining out from Yourself.

Love is swift, sincere, kindly affectioned, pleasant, and delightsome; brave, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, strong, and never seeking itself (1 Cor. 13:5). For where a person seeks himself, there he falls from love (1 Cor. 10:33; Phil. 2:21). Love is circumspect, humble, and upright; not yielding to softness, or to lightness, nor attending to vain things. it is sober, chaste, firm, quiet, and guarded in all the senses.

Love is subject and obedient to its superiors, to itself mean and despised, unto God devout and thankful, trusting and hoping always in Him, even when God is not sweet unto it; for without sorrow none lives in love. He that is not prepared to suffer all things, and to do the will of his Beloved, is not worthy to be called a lover (Rom. 8:35). A lover ought to embrace willingly all that is hard and bitter, for the sake of his Beloved, nor to turn away from Him for things that fall out against one.

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[God, our Beloved, responds to us in our many failings.] All is not therefore lost, if sometimes you have less feeling for Me than you would. That good and sweet affection that you sometimes feel is the effect of grace present, and a sort of foretaste of your native land of heaven; but hereon you must not lean too much, for it comes and goes. But to strive against evil motions of the mind, and to reject (Matt. 4:10) with scorn a suggestion of the Devil, is a notable sign of virtue and shall have great reward.

Let not strange fancies therefore trouble you; on whatever matter they may be, which are forced into your mind. Bravely keep your purpose, and an upright intention toward God. Neither is it an illusion that sometimes you are suddenly rapt into ecstasy, and presently return again to the wonted [habitual] follies of your [depraved] heart. For these you rather unwillingly suffer than commit; and so long as they displease you, and you strive against them, it is a matter of reward and no loss.

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 Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ (New Kensington: Whitaker House, 2005), 92-95.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.