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

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