Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Being Led by the Spirit: Sacrament of the Present Moment by de Caussade

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

In Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s classic, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, we are challenged to see God at work around us moment-by-moment. Although we seldom comprehend what the Lord is doing in our lives—and through our lives—we trust that he is indeed present with us. God works, not only through circumstances, but also through his gentle leading in our lives, like the “still, small voice” through which the Lord spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12).

Following the Spirit’s Impulses
God often leads us in ways that we do not understand. We sense that we should speak to someone in the store, and we discover that this was an urging of the Holy Spirit in our heart. We are prompted to intercede for a friend and later find that it was at a moment of great need.

“God uses his creatures in two ways. Either he makes them act on their own initiative or he himself acts through them. The first requires a faithful fulfillment of his manifest wishes; the second, a meek and humble submission to his inspiration,” asserts de Caussade. “Surrender of self achieves them both, being nothing more than a total commitment to the word of God within the present moment. It is not important for his creatures to know how they must do this or what the nature of the present moment is.” (49)

When we are willing to follow the Lord’s leadings, we become an instrument in God’s hands. “The only condition necessary for this state of self-surrender is the present moment in which the soul, light as a feather, fluid as water, innocent as a child, responds to every movement of grace like a floating balloon,” affirms de Caussade. “Such souls are like molten metal filling whatever vessel God chooses to pour them into” (22).

Unseen Chain of Events
When we allow ourselves to be used by God in a small way, we open the door for him to use us further in the future. We, of course, seldom see that larger plan that God has in mind. All we know is the immediate prompting of the Spirit.

However, as we follow God’s leading—which, at times, is almost imperceptible—God sets in motion a chain of events. De Caussade concludes, “We must therefore allow each moment to be the cause of the next; the reason for what precedes being revealed in what follows, so that everything is linked firmly and solidly together in a divine chain of events” (21).

Sacrament of the Present Moment
All we need for going deeper in God has been provided for us in the seemingly mundane of daily life. If we but make ourselves present to the Lord’s presence in the moment—each and every event that comes our way—we will be used by God and transformed by him.

“So we leave God to act in everything,” states de Caussade, “reserving for ourselves only love and obedience to the present moment. For this is our eternal duty. This compelling love, steeped in silence, is required of every soul. They must foster it unceasingly and always be prepared to meet any demands it may make” (11).

Invitation to All Christians
“Everything connected with surrender of self, devotion to duty or purity is attainable by every Christian. . . . All [God] expects is the fulfilment of his will, as signified by our duty to the present moment to be as faithful as we can to our obligations. . . . For this is all that God requires of us for the accomplishment of our sanctification whether we are strong or weak, great or small.” (54)

The Sacrament of the Present Moment is a must-read Christian classic. What an encouragement de Caussade offers Christians today, especially when we do not understand our present situation! What a challenge he presents to those of us who tend to spend all our time planning, always living in the future! Instead of being anxious about tomorrow, we are called to watch the hand of God in the present moment, seeing him move in hidden ways—shaping our character and using us, often when we get but a glimpse of the final results.

*All quotes are from Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989).

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jean-Pierre de Caussade: Sacrament of the Present Moment

Crown College Campus

Actively working in and through our daily lives, God’s presence surrounds us—veiled in ordinary events, responsibilities and trials we face. Our greatest spiritual growth takes place as we embrace those challenges that present themselves moment-by-moment.

This is the simple, but powerful, message of Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a spiritual leader in eighteenth-century France. Listeners took notes on his conferences regarding the spiritual life; however, it was more than a century before these notes plus excerpts from his letters were compiled and published under the title, Abandonment to Divine Providence.

Various editions have been released over the past 150 years. Quotes in this article come from the beautiful translation by Kitty Muggeridge entitled The Sacrament of the Present Moment. Another readable modern translation is published as The Joy of Full Surrender. All of these, though, are simply different editions of the same book.

God’s Hidden Hand
God reveals himself each moment of the day. Yet he does so in hidden ways—often in the mundane events of life. Through difficulties and humble service to which he calls us, the Lord is at work in our lives. Often we do not recognize the hand of God, however, because it is cloaked in the ordinariness of everyday life.

Yet God’s hand is indeed working, shaping our character and making us more like Christ. De Caussade asserts, “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love” (62).

How do we live out this faith and love? De Caussade tells us that we do so by embracing the responsibilities and challenges that come our way each moment throughout the day and by following the impulses and leadings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Obeying in the Moment
“The present moment is like an ambassador announcing the policy of God,” states de Caussade, and “the heart declares ‘Thy will be done’” (77). No matter our station in life, we all have responsibilities. Some of these are interesting to us. Others seem mundane and even pointless. Masked beneath all of them, however, are God’s presence and his purpose for us.

No matter what we may think of our obligations in life, spiritual growth consists of faithfulness to what God has placed before us. Obedience to the present moment is essential. “What he ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best and most divine for us. All we need to know is how to recognize his will in the present moment.” (42-43)

Such immediate obedience requires surrender. We must yield our wills to the Lord’s if we hope to obey in each situation that arises during the day. “God’s order and his divine will, humbly obeyed by the faithful,” affirms de Caussade, “accomplishes his divine purpose in them without their knowledge, in the same way as medicine obediently swallowed cures invalids who neither know nor care how.” (42)

Embracing Difficulties and Trials
God’s hand is also concealed in life’s trials. Some days we seem to experience one difficulty after another. Exhausted, we do not get a moment’s rest. Although we cannot see what God is building in our lives, he is indeed at work. De Caussade asserts: “He knows, too, that you don’t know what is good for you and makes it his business to provide it, little caring whether you like it or not. You are going East, he will turn you to the West. You are set fair on a course, he turns the rudder and steers you back into harbour.” (34)

We can all identify with times of weakness in bearing our cross or distaste for some of our duties. Yet de Caussade assures us that God is present in these moments. Moreover, Scripture commands us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

If we embrace these trials as from the Lord, they will transform us. God moves in unexpected but powerful ways through things that we do not necessarily enjoy. “To live by faith, then, is to live in joy, confidence, certainty and trust in all there is to do and suffer each moment as ordained by God. However mysterious it may seem, it is in order to awaken and maintain this living faith that God drags the soul through tumultuous floods of so much suffering, trouble, perplexity, weariness and ruin” (22).

The first time I read de Caussade I understood his message—at least intellectually. Over the past four years I’ve sought to live it out in my day-to-day existence, and I’ve found that, while this message is simple, it is not easy! Although I have begun to live in the light of God’s hidden presence more and more each day, I believe it will take a lifetime to fully realize this truth in my life!

*All quotes are from Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989).

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers