Notes on The Imitation of Christ, Book One, Chapter One05 Jan 2017
Book One: Useful Reminders for the Spiritual Life
Chapter One: Of the Imitation of Christ
“Anyone who follows me shall not walk in darkness,” says the Lord.1
From the Introduction: To imitate Christ means to meditate on his life and to walk in his footsteps so that we can come to a deep personal knowledge of the divine.2
The quote is from John 8:12: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” (NRSV)
These are the words of Christ, and by them we are reminded that we must imitate his life and his ways if we are to be truly enlightened and set free from the darkness of our own hearts. Let it be the most important thing we do, then, to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.1
The most important thing that we can do is to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ. To know how to imitate him, we must become intimate with the details of his conduct and the nature of his Spirit. It is by this imitation that we are truly enlightened.
The imitation of Christ produces enlightenment.
Christ’s teaching surpasses all the teachings of the saints, and the person who has his spirit will find hidden nourishment in his words. Yet, many people, even after hearing scripture read so often, lack a deep longing for it, for they do not have the spirit of Christ. Anyone who wishes to understand Christ’s words and to savor them fully should strive to become like him in every way.1
The words of Christ produce nourishment for the one who has his Spirit.
The imitation of Christ provides understanding of the words of Christ and enthusiasm for them.
To possess the Spirit of Christ is to gain understanding of his words and his works with the aim of imitating him.
What good does it do, then, to debate about the Trinity, if by a lack of humility you are displeasing to the Trinity? In truth, lofty words do not make a person holy and just, but a virtuous life makes one dear to God. I would much rather feel profound sorrow for my sins than be able to define the theological term for it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart and the sayings of all the philosophers, what good would it all be without God’s love and grace? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and to serve only him. This is the highest wisdom: to see the world as it truly is, fallen and fleeting; to love the world not for its own sake, but for God’s; and to direct all your effort toward achieving the kingdom of heaven.1
Humility is pleasing to the Trinity.
A virtuous life makes one dear to God.
We should feel profound sorrow for our sins.
The only thing that is not vanity is to love God and to serve only him.
The highest wisdom:
- See the world as it truly is.
- Love the world, but for God’s sake.
- Direct all effort toward the achievement of the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, it is vanity to seek material wealth that cannot last and to place your trust in it. It is also vanity to seek recognition and status. It is vanity to chase after what the world says you should want and to long for things you should not have, things that you will pay a high price for later on if you get them. It is vanity to wish for a long life and to care little about a good life. It is vanity to focus only on your present life and not to look ahead to your future life. It is vanity to live for the joys of the moment and not to seek eagerly the lasting joys that await you.1
Things that are vanity:
- To seek material wealth.
- To put trust in material wealth.
- To seek recognition.
- To seek status.
- To chase after what the world says you should want.
- To long for things that you should not have.
- To wish for a long life while caring little about its goodness.
- To focus on the present life without looking ahead to our future life.
- The live for the joys of the moment without eagerly seeking the lasting joys that await us in the future.
Often remember that saying: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing.” Make every effort, then, to shift your affections from the things that you can see to the things you cannot see, for people who live in the world on its terms instead of on God’s stain their conscience and lose God’s grace.1
The quote is from Ecclesiastes 1:8: “All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing.” (NRSV)
Make every effort to shift affection from visible things to invisible things.
Live in the world on God’s terms; the world’s terms stain the conscience and cause God’s grace to be lost.
- What matters to you? What do you live for? What do you place your trust in? How would you prioritize the various values in your life? Where does Christ fit in among them?
- Do you have a strong desire to know and to love God personally? Has that desire increased or decreased over the years? What strengthens that desire? What weakens it?
- What holds you back from loving and serving the Lord? What helps you? What can you do to free yourself from these difficulties? What can you do to be more attentive to the Lord in your daily life?2
Dennis J. Billy C.Ss.R.. The Imitation of Christ: A Spiritual Commentary and Reader’s Guide. Kindle Edition. ↩ ↩2