I have just found my recently misplaced 1889 copy of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, the 14th century Catholic mystic, and one of the world’s most read books. It can be bought from any decent bookshop, but also downloaded as a PDF here, something I’m sure Thomas would have approved!
In the translator’s preface, Kempis is quoted, though I’m unsure where it is quoted from, but it is certainly worth making available here. Please read it slowly, thoughtfully, prayerfully…..
“I will hear what the Lord God may say to me.
Blest is the soul that hears its Lord’s voice speaking within it,
And takes the word of comfort from His lips.
Blest are the ears that catch the throbbing whisper of the Lord,
And turn not to the buzzings of this passing world;
That listen not to voices from without,
But to the truth that teaches from within.
Blest are the eyes
That, shut to outer things,
Are busied with the inner life.
Blest are they who penetrate within,
And more and more by daily use
Strive to prepare themselves
To take the heavenly mysteries.
And blest are they who try to give their time to God,
And shake them free from all the burden of the world.
So, all is vanity,
Save loving God and serving Him alone.”
For myself, I originally entitled the post ‘The Buzzings of this Passing World’ because I felt it relevant to the season of buzzing we are in, Christmas. But the focus of the prayer/poem is all about God not about me; it is all about Kingdom reality not man-made strategies to avoid Kingdom realities – which is what Christmas has become.
With that in my mind, I changed the title to ‘The Throbbing Whisper of the Lord’. A much more apt, God-centred title. This is not a promotion of escapism from the world, but an entering into the world proper, because a real engaging with God inevitably is an engaging with self and the world at deeper, more profound levels.
To hear God is to hear the world and the universe and everything at the God-level. To block out the voice of God is the escapism, it is the trap, it is the idolatry – is this not what Christmas has become? Even the notion of New Years resolutions are but the fact that we recognise, even if it is on a superficial level, that some things in our life are out-of-kilter, and we are going to be deliberate and determined to put it right.
For many, including myself, real life is suspended until after Christmas, after the New Year, and then we set to putting the wheels back on the broken cart of our life. Only, without the listening to God, we engage in cultural legerdemain, fooling ourselves and the world, and all the while contributing to the next time we resolve to put the wheels on the cart of our lives.
The first three words and the last two are apt: “I will hear….Him alone.” And in this one sublime act, we hear everything, we see more clearly, we live more deeply, we love more God-ly.
Listening to God is the hardest thing in the world to do. Why do you think our society, our lives, our heads and hearts are so full of distractions, attractions and abstractions? We don’t want to listen.
Listening to God is also the easiest thing in the world, even His whisper throbs with life and promise, salvation and joy.