I have given up on the forty verse song, “The Forty Days of Lent.” Maybe someone else can use the idea to make their millions, but if you do, I hope you will tithe on the income.However, on this fourth day of Lent, we can consider the a theme on the “Songs of Lent.” One of the “old hymns” comes to us from the pen of Thomas a Kempis. Or, should I say it is attributed to Thomas. The hymn “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High,” is one that we often sing during Lent. The hymn in the Latin text has twenty-three stanzas; so much for the Presbyterian idea that we should sing every verse of every hymn.
Thomas was born around 1380 in Kempen (thus the name Kempis), which is close to Dusseldorf. His family was poor. John, his father was a blacksmith and his mother Gertude was a school-mistress. Maybe it was due to their mother working for a school that Thomas and his brother Jan were allowed the privilege to study Latin and both ended up in the monetary at St. Agnes where Jan served as prior.
Thomas lived the quiet and contemplative life of a copyist. He copied the Bible no fewer than four times; one of these is preserved at Darmstadt, Germany. Thomas’ greatest work was The Imitation of Christ, which is one of the best known books of devotions in history.
Take a little time to consider some of his quotes:
“If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.”
“At the day of judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done.”
“Love flies, runs, and rejoices; it is free and nothing can hold it back.”
“Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying or meditating or endeavoring something for the public good.”
“Remember that lost time does not return.”
As we journey through Lent, remember the words he wrote in that old hymn:
O love, how deep, how broad, how high,How passing thought and fantasy,
That God, the Son of God should take
Our mortal form for mortals’ sake.
For us baptized, for us He boreHis holy fast and hungered sore;
For us temptations sharp he knew,
For us the tempter overthrew.
For us to evil power betrayed,Scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death,
For us he gave his dying breath.