The Imitation of Christ with a Commentary
and Audio Files
by Father Thomas
of the Canons Regular of
Mount St. Agnes
(1380 - 1471)
following pages are dedicated to the Little Hearts entrusted by
to Cloistered Poor Clare Colettine Nuns
READING THE HOLY SCRIPTURE
not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures;
and every part must be read in the spirit in which it
was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek
profit rather than polished diction.
Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as
willingly as learned and profound ones. We ought not
to be swayed by the authority of the writer, whether
he be a great literary light or an insignificant person,
but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask
who is speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away,
but the truth of the Lord remains forever. God speaks
to us in many ways without regard for persons.
Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures,
when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought
simply to read and
If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility,
simplicity, and faith, and never seek a reputation for
being learned. Seek willingly and listen attentively
to the words of the saints; do not be displeased with
the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made
here to listen to this chapter
is undoubtedly true that translations of the Bible vary, and that
not all equally attract us. Each translation, however, has something
to offer to someone. What one translation offers poetically, another
may offer in the way of clarity. Words written in one edition we
may fail to grasp, where in another it may be far clearer to us.
Perhaps in light of this multiplicity of translations, or even the
footnotes accompanying the same translation, we can easily find
ourselves distracted from the very text to which we apply ourselves.
There is great danger when we are pulled aside from an otherwise
clear message by allowing ourselves to be distracted by non-essentials
and falling into unprofitable disagreements and arguments about
words particular to one translation that are not of themselves important,
except inasmuch as we use them as the opportunity to display our
“learnedness”. Thomas is very clear that what we should seek in
our reading is spiritual profit, not the vain veneer of literary
We can miss the message, miss the touch of the Holy Ghost, entirely
by becoming involved in vain and petty quarrels over words, as though
by substituting a single brick we can change the entire edifice.
What matters is what God is saying to us — and our response to it!
The Imitation also invites us to appreciate, to explore, and to
acquire some familiarity with the great writings of the Church Fathers,
her Saints, and her spiritual writers in our seeking the “Pearl
of Great Price”, the truth of Jesus Christ within them.
Thomas also warns us against the crippling mentality of being quick
to follow certain literary writers who have become contemporary
names and celebrities. This is vanity, in both senses of the word.
Such people often endeavor to obtain and read their material, not
so much for its content or inherent value (if indeed it has more
than passing value), but because in doing so they endeavor to impress
others with their having read “so and so” who is popular for the
moment, often despite the insipid or trite nature of his work that
lends itself to the imagination of many and the edification of none.
We must have the humility to recognize our literary limitations
— and we all have them — and to exercise both discretion and self-discipline
in our spiritual reading. We cannot, and in very deed should not,
attempt to read everything indiscriminately advertised and promoted.
Authors and publishing houses are very adept at piquing our curiosity
— always for a profit … their profit — and at the expense of a promiscuous
reader who cares little for sorting fact from fiction, and as a
result falls into the most absurd beliefs. New Age literature is
only one such venue, and it panders to whatever we wish it to be,
regardless of the truth and most often at the cost of it. To read
much is not to learn much.
Studying the Bible from an historical point of view can be very
interesting and it can enhance our understanding and acquaintance
with the culture and background of the time, but arguing about how
many bricks of what size and composition were laid at the building
of the temple, or why the River Jordan was three feet deep in one
place and six in another, is quite beside the point. Indeed, numbingly
Many spiritual books could, in truth, be succinctly summarized on
a single page. This is true. But it is not profitable. Extrapolate
a point endlessly until it attains the minimum pagination of a book,
and sell it. That may be “Good copy”, so to speak, but ultimately
poor literature and of no value. Instead, determine to read Holy
Scripture which is, after all, the source and inspiration of all
genuine spiritual literature!
Holy Scripture is not simply, or even largely, “literature”; it
is life-giving! It brings us Jesus Christ Who IS the
Life, the Truth, and the Way. Any given passage is either a warning,
a correction, a consolation, or a course of action exemplified for
It is not the amount we read but how we read and whether it leads
to inner conversion and subsequent good choices. This is the ultimate
in “good” reading. Little wonder that Holy Scripture, the Sacred
Bible, remains the best-selling book on Earth for all time.
Sisters in Christ
PDF Version of Commentary
Totally Faithful to the
Deposit of Faith
entrusted to the Holy See in Rome
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti
verbum Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum”
know your works ... that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My
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