The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
Uniform Title: Imitatio Christi. English
Note: Translation of Imitatio Christi
The Imitation of Christ (Latin: De Imitatione Christi) by Thomas à Kempis is a Christian devotional book. It was first composed in Latin ca. 1418–1427. It is a handbook for spiritual life arising from the Devotio Moderna movement, of which Kempis was a member.
The Imitation is perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional work next to the Bible, and is regarded as a devotional and religious classic. Its popularity was immediate, and it was printed 745 times before 1650. Apart from the Bible, no book had been translated into more languages than the Imitation of Christ at the time.
The text is divided into four books, which provide detailed spiritual instructions: “Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life”, “Directives for the Interior Life”, “On Interior Consolation” and “On the Blessed Sacrament”.
The approach taken in the Imitation is characterized by its emphasis on the interior life and withdrawal from the world, as opposed to an active imitation of Christ by other friars. The book places a high level of emphasis on the devotion to the Eucharist as key element of spiritual life.
The ideal of the imitation of Christ has been an important element of Christian theology, ethics and spirituality. References to this concept and its practice are found in the earliest Christian documents, such as the Pauline Epistles.
The Imitation of Christ is regarded as the most important devotional work in Catholic Christianity and is the most widely read devotional work next to the Bible. Apart from the Bible no book has been translated into more languages than the Imitation of Christ.
The book was admired by the following individuals: Saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England and renowned humanist who was executed by King Henry VIII of England; Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus; and twentieth century American Catholic author and monk, Thomas Merton. It also has been admired by many others, both Catholic and Protestant. The Jesuits give it an official place among their “exercises”. Kempis’ Imitatio Christi was in close parentage with Ignatius of Loyola of the Devotio moderna movement, and also it was affirmed and practiced by St. Francis de Sales, profoundly influencing his Introduction to the Devout Life.