The Real Presence in the Eucharist Part 4: Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ”

    “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like
    the most High.”—Isaiah 14:14

    “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ;
    or, lo, he is there; believe him not:

    “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall
    shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible,
    even the elect.”—Mark 13:21, 22

    “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”—2 Timothy 4:3

    “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight
    of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”—Ephesians 4:14

Meister Eckhart, Gerard Groote and Brothers of the Common Life
“Simply defined, mysticism is the immediate experience of oneness with God. It is this experience that characterized the teaching of Meister Eckhart (1260–1327), who sparked a mystical movement in western Germany.

“Eckhart was a well-educated Dominican theologian…whose message on the union of the soul with God was typical of mysticism. According to Eckhart, such a union was attainable by all who pursued it wholeheartedly. Eckhart’s movement spread from Germany into the Low Countries, where it took on a new form called the Modern Devotion, founded by Gerard Groote (1340–1384).

“After a religious conversion, Groote entered a monastery for several years of contemplation before reentering the world. His messages were typical of a practical mysticism. To achieve true spiritual communion with God, people
must imitate Jesus and lead lives dedicated to serving the needs of their fellow
human beings…

“Eventually, Groote attracted a group of followers who came to be known as
the Brothers of the Common Life…They also established schools throughout Germany and the Netherlands in which they stressed their message of imitating
the life of Jesus by serving others…”
—Western Civilization: Volume I: To 1715, by Jackson J. Spielvogel, p. 303

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
At age 15, Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471) went to a school conducted by the Brethren of the Common Life. Thomas, thought to be the the author of the
short devotional book, The Imitation of Christ, was a follower of Geert Groote mentioned above, and Florentius Radewijns, the founders of the Brethren
of the Common Life.

The Imitation of Christ, first published anonymously, in Latin, ca. 1418,
is a short manual of devotion, named for the title of the first of four books.
TIOC was heavily influenced by the mystic goal of oneness with God and the
Modern devotion of Gerard Groote and the Brothers of the Common Life.

Thomas was apparently (accidentally) buried alive, in that splinters were later found embedded under the fingernails of his corpse. He was denied canonization on the grounds that a saint would not fight death in this way.
—Wilkins, R.: A History of Man’s Obsession and Fears, 1990

A couple sources claim that The Imitation of Christ is second to the Bible in
being widely read. The Imitation of Christ is praised by Protestants and Roman Catholics; the Jesuits give it an official place among their “exercises;” and it is in full conformity with the Catholic faith both of the time it was written and with the Catholic faith today.

The teaching in The Imitation of Christ is 180-out (the complete opposite) of what is taught in God’s Word. TIOC with its major wresting of scripture, is a very contemplative book, focused on suffering, doing good works to appease God and be holy, guilt trips from the Voice of Christ who was unkind and demanding to the Disciple, and references a number of Roman Catholic doctrines such as purgatory, as well as other unbiblical thinking.

But mostly, TIOC promotes the actual eating of Jesus’ body in the Eucharist
(in a very sensual manner, alluding to a physical marriage relationship to God)
as the way to be holy and become Jesus (have oneness/union/divinity with god). One can apparently eat “Jesus” and achieve holiness and divinity, but never be completely forgiven of sins.

God’s WORD

    “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Romans 6:23

    “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
    —John 17:17

I have included a few quotes (PG-13) from the 18 short chapters in An Invitation to the Holy Communion, one of the four short books in TIOC. In these few chapters, a harsh, condescending Voice of Christ instructs a Disciple on how to have oneness with God through the Holy Communion (Eucharist) by eating the real body and the real blood of Jesus, doing good works, and what sounds like eucharistic adoration.

This is not the Jesus of the Bible, but another Jesus and another gospel. To me, the book destroys confidence in the goodness and kindness of the Lord and His Word, presenting Man’s Word and experience as an alternative—isn’t that what the serpent did in the garden?

excerpts: An Invitation to the Holy Communion from
Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

Chapter 3. It Is Profitable To Receive Communion Often
The Disciple
“…my heart desires to be united with You. Give me Yourself…You Who have
left Yourself in this Sacrament for the consolation of the faithful…

Chapter 7. The Examination of Conscience and the Resolution
to Amend

The Voice of Christ
“…For there is no more worthy offering, no greater satisfaction for washing away sin than to offer yourself purely and entirely to God with the offering
of the Body of Christ in Mass and Communion.

Chapter 8. The Offering of Christ on the Cross; Our Offering
The Voice of Christ
Offer yourself to Me, therefore, and give yourself entirely for God…I even
gave My whole Body and Blood for food that I might be all yours, and you
Mine forever.

Chapter 12. The Communicant Should Prepare Himself for Christ with Great Care
The Voice of Christ
“…You have need of Me. I do not need you…You come to be sanctified and united with Me…

Chapter 13. With All Her Heart the Devout Soul Should Desire Union with Christ in the Sacrament
The Disciple
“…Surely there is no other people so fortunate as to have their god near them, as You, our God, are present everywhere to the faithful, to whom You give Yourself to be eaten and enjoyed for their daily solace…

Chapter 14. The Ardent Longing of Devout Men for the Body
of Christ

Chapter 15. The Grace of Devotion is Acquired Through Humility and Self-Denial

Chapter 17. The Burning Love and Strong Desire to Receive Christ
The Disciple
Let all people, races, and tongues praise You and with the greatest joy and most ardent devotion…And when they have received the longed-for devotion and blissful union, and…have retired from Your holy, Your celestial table…

God’s WORD

    “For all those things hath mine hand made…saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”—Isaiah 66:2

    “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”—Psalm 51:17

    “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;

    “How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.

    “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.”—Jude 17–19

    “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.”—James 3:15

    “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power
    of God.”—1 Corinthians 1:18

Next Post: The Real Presence in the Eucharist Part 5 A: The Council of Trent Anathemas—then

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