Monday Devotion: Thomas à Kempis on Solitude


Thomas à Kempis  (c.1379 – 1471)

Background and Context

Thomas à Kempis, a classic devotion contributor to Christian world in fourteenth century was a member of the Brethren of the Common life. It was a religious community found in Holland to provide education and care for the poor. Kempis was a well educated intellectual icon of his time who was a spiritual director in a branch of the Augustinians. In other words, Kempis was a spiritual leader to lead young men into spirituality who wanted to learn under the order of Augustinian.

Kempis devoted his life in recreating the copies from original manuscripts of both sacred and secular texts. He published his book, The Imitation of Christ, in A.D. 1441. The first imprint impressed the inner and outer Christian circle and left tremendous impact on lives of people for several centuries. Now the Christian world accredited The Imitation of Christ as the perfect expression of spiritual movement known as devotion moderna or modern devotion because it flourished Roman Catholicism through fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.

Kempis stresses in spirituality and devotion in his widely known book, The Imitation. Among various chapters and topics, this specific selection emphasizes on the significance of solitude and silence in a Christian life. The author also presents ideas and more advantages of living life inside monastery rather than living life outside monastery. Nevertheless, his ideas also profit people through experiencing monastic singleness of hearty by placing ourselves in the cloister yet they are not living monastic life style.

Major Themes

Kempis suggests us to hold back from busyness of our life and set time for reviewing what God has done in our life. The idea of spending time in solitude and in silence is the main theme in this particular selection of Kempis. He also recommends us to withdraw from casual conversation and leisurely pursuit; then utilize that time in meditation in solitude and silence. He stresses how most of the godly people spent their private time with God in solitude rather than engaging in ungodly conversations and practices.

Further, the author says that the person who wants to grow spiritually and feel secure in the spirit should avoid crowd and spend some quality time with God. The best and easier idea to avoid crowd is to stay home and enjoy in solitude. As a result of being in solitude, people might feel secure in the spirit and posses pure conscience. According to Kempis, virtue and grace shone from faces of saints in the past, but fear of God ran in their very veins, as they had private time with God in solitude.

Beyond result of solitude, Kempis talks about effectiveness of solitude. He adds that people who do not have extended their self-confidence beyond its natural limit place their whole hope in God alone during temptation. Besides, he asks us to cultivate the habit of solitude in our small room where we spend time with God. Then, we shall be able to guard our peacefulness; we shall find comfortable.

With objective appraisals to solitude and quietness, Kempis sheds light on the consequences of hiding ourselves in our small room in solitude and quietness. God reveals himself to us and discloses the depth of his words. They draw us close to God and keep us far away from the commotion of the world. He states that God and his holy angels visit us in the solitude. Finally, Kempis concludes that there is nothing that can give us satisfaction, but only God who is just to vindicate our sins can give us peace which cannot be found elsewhere apart from him. Therefore, we should remain with him in our cell – a small room in solitude.

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