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:

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