From Ludolphe le Chartreux, Vita Christi
French translation by Guillaume Le Menand
440 × 310 mm
The Vita Jesu Christi is a meditation on the life of Jesus in the form of a detailed commentary on the Gospels.
One of the main themes of the Book is that the imitation of Christ is the only means to salvation.
This theme was strongly emphasised from the eleventh century onwards
In Ludolph`s Proemium he wrote:
"In all virtues and good character, therefore, always keep before yourself that brightest mirror and exemplar of complete sanctity, the life and customs of the son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who moreover was sent to us from heaven in order to go before us in the way of virtues and to give us by example the law of life and instruction and to teach us as himself; that just as by nature we were created in his image, so we might as much as possible be remade according to his character by imitating his virtues, we who have sullied him image in us through sin.
Moreover, to the extent that anyone tries to pattern himself after him in the imitation of his virtues, so in heaven he will be closer in the brightness of his glory, and more shining."
Ludolphus, Vita Jesu Christi, 1:2 (Proemium, §4); translation from Charles Abbott Conway, The “Vita Christi” of Ludolph of Saxony and Late Medieval Devotion Centered on the Incarnation: A Descriptive Analysis, Analecta Cartusiana 34, at 123.
Again in the Proemium he wrote:
"Come and be present at his birth, and his circumcision, like a good foster parent with Joseph. Likewise come with the magi to Bethlehem, and worship the young King with them. ... Be present at his death with his blessed mother and John and share in their suffering and consolation"
Each chapter of the Vita concludes with an oratio, or prayer. These prayers are short, especially in comparison with the work as a whole, and typically refer to the specific incidents covered in the preceding reading.
As in the Spiritual Exercises, the prayer at each step of the pilgrimage is fundamental to the use of the work
Here are two of the prayers from the work (from Bodenstedt, Praying the Life of Christ):
"II, 28: Lord Jesus Christ, by word and example thou didst teach us to weep rather than to laugh. I beseech thee through thy most blessed tears and all thy sympathy teach me to see and know my sins and the dangers that threaten lest my enemies, that is, temptations of evil spirits, pomp of temporal things, and carnal pleasures, surround and hem me in on every side, and dash me to the ground; lest my children, namely, my senses, thoughts, and acts, ruin the harmony of the virtues (Luke 19:43f). Then, Most High, may I praise thee and confess thy name"
"II, 35: Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to discern, and to be cautious of, the wiles of seducers, to guard at all times the truth of life, of doctrine, and of justice. Grant me to be signed with thine image (Matt. 22:20), not with the enemy's, that, by forsaking worldly things and adhering to thee alone., .to renounce the sensual and worldly way of life.. .to merit to enjoy in heaven with the angels of God immortality and the everlasting vision of thee. Amen."