Arm yourself like a man against the devil’s assaults. Curb your appetite and you will more easily curb every inclination of the flesh. Never be completely unoccupied, but read or write or pray or meditate or do something for the common good. Bodily discipline, however, must be undertaken with discretion and is not to be practiced indiscriminately by everyone.
Devotions not common to all are not to be displayed in public, for such personal things are better performed in private. Furthermore, beware of indifference to community prayer through love of your own devotions. If, however, after doing completely and faithfully all you are bound and commanded to do, you then have leisure, use it as personal piety suggests.
Not everyone can have the same devotion. One exactly suits this person, another that. Different exercises, likewise, are suitable for different times, some for feast days and some again for weekdays. In time of temptation we need certain devotions. For days of rest and peace we need others. Some are suitable when we are sad, others when we are joyful in the Lord.
About the time of the principal feasts good devotions ought to be renewed and the intercession of the saints more fervently implored. From one feast day to the next we ought to fix our purpose as though we were then to pass from this world and come to the eternal holyday.
During holy seasons, finally, we ought to prepare ourselves carefully, to live holier lives, and to observe each rule more strictly, as though we were soon to receive from God the reward of our labors. If this end be deferred, let us believe that we are not well prepared and that we are not yet worthy of the great glory that shall in due time be revealed to us. Let us try, meanwhile, to prepare ourselves better for death.
“Blessed is the servant,” says Christ, “whom his master, when he cometh, shall find watching. Amen I say to you: he shall make him ruler over all his goods.” – Luke 12:43-44 (KJV).
The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, is a Christian devotional book first composed in Medieval Latin as De Imitatione Christi (c. 1418–1427). The devotional text is divided into four books of detailed spiritual instructions. The devotional approach of The Imitation of Christ emphasizes the interior life and withdrawal from the mundanities of the world, as opposed to the active imitation of Christ practiced by other friars. The Imitation is perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional work after the Bible, and is regarded as a devotional and religious classic. The book was written anonymously in Latin in the Netherlands c. 1418–1427. Its popularity was immediate, and after the first printed edition in 1471-72, it was printed in 745 editions before 1650. Apart from the Bible, no book had been translated into more languages than the Imitation of Christ at the time.