“‘Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this
place—and I did not know it!’”
I love this marvelous scene in Genesis as Jacob is on the run and awakens to a dawn to discover that God is always and everywhere with him. That can be a marvelous day for us too when we awaken to the God who is with us in every nook and cranny of our lives. Yes, God is always present with us, but are we always present to Him?
That’s why I love the writings of Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675 – 1751), who teaches about experiencing God in every moment of our lives. Caussade was a deeply spiritual man who practiced and preached living moment-by-moment in God’s loving presence. He was a French Jesuit who served as college rector and director of theological studies, but is only remembered for letters he wrote to people seeking spiritual counsel.
Some year’s after Caussade’s death his letters were collected and published under the title Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence. On page after page you can read Caussade’s teaching about the present moment given as a “sacrament” from God’s hand. He believed that receiving the present moment and giving ourselves fully to it is life’s highest and holiest calling. In doing this we “abandon” ourselves to God’s providence over the world and over our lives.
Whatever one’s church affiliation or denominational stripe, Christians regard a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” We believe that in the bread and wine of Communion, as well as in the waters of Baptism, God gives Himself to us and works graciously in ways beyond our imagining. Caussade enlarges our understanding of sacraments to include God giving Himself to us in this present moment.
You might notice a similarity in Caussade’s teaching with his older contemporary, Brother Lawrence (1614-1691), in The Practice of the Presence of God. A poor, uneducated monastery cook, Brother Lawrence also learned to discover God “in the noise and clatter” of the kitchen. In like manner Caussade believed that every moment takes on sacramental significance as God is in it, giving Himself to us. God is mediated through this present moment and its task. This very moment is God’s will for me.
Take a few moments to consider the following words by Caussade and how they might speak to you:
- “God speaks to every individual through what happens to them moment by moment.”
- “There is no moment when God is not manifest in the form of some affliction, obligation, or duty.”
- “No moment is trivial since each one contains a divine kingdom, and heavenly sustenance.”
- “The present moment holds riches beyond your wildest dreams.”
This is heavy, heady stuff! But the apostle Paul told the Athenians that God’s gracious activity permeates all things, even the most trivial, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Every moment, every person, and every place hold the possibility for communion with God, and are to be received and celebrated. God’s grace flows to us through the holy sacrament of this present moment. If we would but receive and give ourselves to this present moment, we would experience freedom from anxiety about the future and guilt about the past.
Finally, please consider these words of Caussade and take them into your day;
“Present moment, how small in the eyes of my head and how great in those of my heart, the means whereby I receive small things from the Father who reigns in the heavens! Everything that falls from there is very excellent; everything bears the mark of its Maker.”
Grace and peace in the sacrament of the present moment!