To Worship is to Copy| Daily Devotional by J. Stephen Lang
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children". Ephesians 5:1
1471: Thomas Haemmerlin, who probably died on this date, wrote one of the most popular books of all time, although no copy of it has his name on the cover.
He is better known as Thomas à Kempis, his hometown being the German town of Kempen.
It is likely, although not certain, that he wrote the amazing book The Imitation of Christ which has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible.
We are fairly certain Thomas died in 1471 sometime in late July or early August, though the exact day is in doubt.
He was born around 1380 and was a member of a group of lay Christians known as the Brethren of the Common Life, devoted to prayer and study of the Scriptures.
Thomas had the duty of instructing novices in the spiritual life, and Imitation was probably a collection of books he wrote for that purpose. We know little else about the man. That is as it should be, because the book is more important than the author.
“In all things have regard for the end, and in what fashion you will stand before a strict Judge, to whom nothing is hidden.”
This is one of the key themes of the book and also of the New Testament: this world is a preparation for the next and less important than the next.
“Keep yourself as a pilgrim and stranger upon earth.” Another key theme is: don’t trust people. This sounds a bit cynical, but it has a positive flip side: trust God.
One chapter is titled “On Inner Fellowship” and offers the consolation that whatever humans do to us, we are never alone.
Self-control is another key theme, and the book makes it clear that if we control our own bad impulses, we have less time to focus on the failings of others.
Perhaps the book’s classic status is due to its being clear and simple. Like the Bible, alas, it is probably purchased more than it is read. And that is a pity.
Prayer: Father, in a world where people model themselves after sinners, teach us to model ourselves on your Son. Amen.