You have here no lasting city…not even a lasting nation.

In today’s Office of Readings (my favorite Office, go figure) comes this marvelously relevant, important and instructive excerpt from Thomas a’Kempis’ classic, The Imitation of Christ:

Turn to the Lord with your whole heart and leave behind this wretched world. Then your soul shall find rest. For the kingdom of God is the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. If you prepare within your heart a fitting dwelling place, Christ will come to you and console you.

His glory and beauty are within you, and he delights in dwelling there. The Lord frequently visits the heart of man. There he shares with man pleasant conversations, welcome consolation, abundant peace and a wonderful intimacy.

So come, faithful soul. Prepare your heart for your spouse to dwell within you. For he says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and we shall come to him and make our dwelling within him.

Make room for Christ. When you possess Christ you are a rich man, for he is sufficient for you. He himself, shall provide for you and faithfully administer all your cares. You will not have to place your hope in men. Put all your trust in God; let him be both your fear and your love. He will respond on your behalf and will do whatever is in your best interest.

You have here no lasting city. For wherever you find yourself, you will always be a pilgrim from another city. Until you are united intimately with Christ, you will never find your true rest.

Let your thoughts be with the Most High and direct your prayers continually to Christ. If you do not know how to contemplate the glory of heaven, take comfort in the passion of Christ, and dwell willingly in his sacred wounds. Endure with Christ, suffer for him, if you wish to reign with him.

Once you have entered completely into the depths of Jesus, and have a taste of his powerful love, then you will not care about your own convenience or inconvenience. Rather you will rejoice all the more in insults and injuries, for the love of Jesus makes a man scorn his own needs.

While praying over this I was struck by the exhortation: you have here no lasting city, and found myself once again praying for my fellow citizens, who sometimes take the idea of citizenship and nation into a place that Lincoln might have called “passionate enthrallment” and forget simple truths — that we are exiles, to start with; that nations are worldly constructs that survive by God’s grace until they perish, but the faith survives because it is linked to what is Eternal; that even love of country, taken to a worldly extreme, becomes an idol placed before God, which can only foment chaos between our fellows:

…the sort of ideological tribalism that informed my blue-collar, union-member parents –and inspired them to vote mostly Democrat (their aberrational support of Dwight D. Eisenhower notwithstanding) — has been supplanted by a move toward an idolatry that will brook no dissent and keeps party members prostrated in the proper [ideological] direction.

We see it in those whose political passions lead them to voicing only politically-correct hosannas and making what is ghastly into something ‘holy’. We see it in those who believe America is God’s Own Country and its constitution and flag a kind of sacramental. Both extremes relegate the will of God into a different tier, in service to human ideas. But we have no lasting city.

Make room for Christ. When you possess Christ you are a rich man, for he is sufficient for you. He himself, shall provide for you and faithfully administer all your cares. You will not have to place your hope in men. Put all your trust in God; let him be both your fear and your love. He will respond on your behalf and will do whatever is in your best interest.

If we could only keep that in our heads and write it in our hearts, so much that makes us crazy and fretful and divided would simply fall by the wayside.

Related:
A little bleg: I wish I knew what translation the church uses in the Liturgy of the Hours, because I like that one a lot, and I rarely find modern translations that fully suit my tastes. If anyone knows, please share! I’d like to get my hands on it.

My very favorite translation of the Imitation is still this one, which has been published out of Brooklyn, by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood from 1954 until today, and looks/reads like this:

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Victor

    (((Because we possess this ministry through God’s mercy, we do not give in to discouragement. Rather, we repudiate shameful, underhanded practices. We do not resort to trickery or falsify the word of God. We proclaim the truth openly and commend ourselves to every man’s conscience before God. If our gospel can be called “veiled” in any sense, it is such only for those who are headed toward destruction. Their unbelieving minds have been blinded by the god of the present age so that they do not see the splendor of the gospel showing forth the glory of Christ, the image of God.)))

    GOD’ WILL is easier said than done!

    You can say that again sinner vic!

    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=18142394&postID=6390450904403056172

    Go Figure brothers and sisters in Christ :)

    Peace

  • carrdexter3

    Definitely, Agreed with you @disqus_yU97cRLk6W:disqus. http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/96732.Frank_Viola

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Yes, of course I agree with the general thrust of what you say (we are exiles in this life and we have higher priorities) but does that mean we are not to be citizens? At every mass our church offers prayers for our nation and leaders. Can we be passionately enthralled” with issues and other interests while still prioritizing God first? Was not St.Thomas More “passionately enthralled” with very important issues of his day while still prioritizing God? If I may, the fallacy in your argument is that just because one is passionately engaged with the issues of the nation that they have prioritized it above the sacred. I have lots of interests that I am passionate about, such as baseball for one, or literature for another, all way above politics, but none above God. Some people just passionately engage life. Some people, like Thomas a’Kempis, on the other hand prefer a monastic life.

  • Joe

    That’s my favorite addition too!! The art work maybe kind of dated but still awesome!

  • Joe

    My favorite passage is book2 ch 3 On the peaceful man. I think it’s relavent for conquering ideological idolatry.

  • terentiaj63

    Which Liturgy of the Hours? I have several on my phone. Universalis uses the Jerusalem Bible with the Grail Psalter, Breviarum Meum uses the Douay-Rheims, I think. iBreviary and the 4 volume books use the ICEL translation, specifically translated for the Liturgy of the Hours. And, lest anyone think I’m boasting of my holiness, I am miserably unfaithful in praying the office.

  • KyPerson

    I have that edition and a more modern translation too. I like the old one better. The Imitation of Christ has been such an influential work. I really need to get back to reading it more.

  • Brian English

    “If we could only keep that in our heads and write it in our hearts, so much that makes us crazy and fretful and divided would simply fall by the wayside.”

    The “crazy and fretful” part I agree with. As I tell my kids all the time, “No matter what happens, or how bad things look, remember that we win in the end, because Jesus wins in the end.” Recognizing that evil will not have the last word clears away a lot of the anger and frustration at the lunacy we see going on around us.

    On the other hand, I don’t think this approach gets us past the “divided” aspect. I noticed in the comments to your post yesterday that someone was actually arguing that a child’s life should only be protected once he or she is born, and that an unborn child is only a person when others consider him or her a person. Recognizing that this isn’t our permanent home does not mean we should not feel divided from someone who believes that. The fact that these types of issues are not permanent does not mean they are not important.

  • MeanLizzie

    Where did I say we are not to be citizens? Of course we are to be citizens, and good ones. But we’re not to make an idol out of this earthly construct of “nation” or to fool ourselves into thinking that we are in particular more beloved of God than any other nation — there’s only one chosen people. We’re not to make an idol of our nationalism.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Kempis says, “Turn to the Lord with your whole heart and leave behind this wretched world.”
    You didn’t say it, but he does. I assumed you were endorsing it. Monastic life, which is from where Kempis is speaking from, is reclusive from societal issues.

  • MeanLizzie

    Yes, but this isn’t really about getting past the “divided parts”. We’re going to be divided, what nation isn’t? The whole point is that while we certainly must work for the best, we can’t get caught up in the idea that somehow this nation, unlike any nation before, can’t possibly go down.

  • MeanLizzie

    I wasn’t talking about monasticism and while Kempis was addressing religious, we’re all — within our stations in life — called to turn away from “the wretched world” (and that would be its distractions, illusions and constructs” to turn to the Lord with our whole hearts. No?

  • Brian English

    “we can’t get caught up in the idea that somehow this nation, unlike any nation before, can’t possibly go down.”

    Catholics should love America because it recognizes and protects our right to worship God and spread his Word in accordance with the teachings of our Church. Someday it will (not might, will) cease to do that. I think our job is to fight against the dawning of that day for as long as possible, but people are deluding themselves if they think that day is never going to come.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Yes. I understand you’re not saying it, but I do think Kempis (and I would have to check the context) is literally saying to turn away from the world. When it came to your post, perhaps I was getting paranoid based on Rebecca Hamilton harping on me for being political over religious. ;)
    By the way, do I get more down arrows than most on Patheos? LOL.
    Second by the way, a couple of posts back you said you keep your comments open for 72 hours. I have not found that to be the case. By my estimation (I haven’t timed them) they seem to be open for about 24 hours.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Oh I just noticed something. The number of comments listed at the top of the blog disappears after 24 hours but apparently one can still comment. So perhaps it is 72 hours.

  • MeanLizzie

    There is no perhaps about it. I have it set for 72 hours.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    That the number of comments listed at the top of the blog disappears after 24 hours confused me. Thanks.

  • Gail Finke

    It’s difficult, isn’t it? Because as Chesterton pointed out, loving one’s country is natural and human. Americans especially love the flag, etc. But it’s easy to go overboard, especially when one faction loves to say how bad the country is. That’s where one needs the virtue of prudence, which I have come to appreciate more each day. Love your country, but not too much. Distance yourself, but not too much. Keep love in its proper bounds. We seem to have a lot of trouble with that as a culture, don’t we?

  • Victor

    Thank You for the comment carrdexter! I think?

    Time permitting, I must also drop you a line someday.


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