Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Book review time! This is the book you need to read to start the new year.  It's very understandable, easy to read, and is about 100 pages. (I now rate the shortness of a book as a quality not to be underestimated.) The Sacrament of the Present Moment (also translated as Abandonment to Divine Providence) written by a French Jesuit priest, Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), is a compilation of notes that Caussade wrote to the Nuns of the Visitation of whom he was the spiritual director. When reading this type of book I read slowly, trying to soak it in. There were times when I just put the book down because my mind and heart were full and I needed to meditate on what I'd read before going on. That's a sign of a good book!

Along with some of my other ideas, my view of time was challenged for within the pages of this short book we are reminded that the Scriptures are still being written, that God is working in every moment, and that we ought to have no concern but for the present moment.

To find contentment in the present moment is to relish and adore the divine will in the succession of all the things to be done and suffered which make up the duty of the present moment. p64

If what God has ordained especially for us does not satisfy us, where else shall we turn? If we do not relish what the Holy Spirit prepares for us, what food would not be tasteless to so depraved a palate? Our souls can only be truly nourished, strengthened, enriched and sanctified by the bounty of the present moment. p81

Is not all time a succession of the consequences of that divine action which pervades and fills and transfigures everything? p70

...time is but the history of divine action! p100

Caussade reminds us that we have nothing to fear, to fret over, to regret. All that is required is faith. There is a potent reminder of C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces in this book as Caussade discusses faith and fear, especially Lewis' Die before you die. There's no chance after.

The Love of God, submission to his divine action; that is what is necessary to sanctify souls, that is all that is required of them; and their faithfulness in responding to it is what gives them grace. p25

The more confused their situation, the better the charm works and the heart says, 'All will be well!' All is in God's hands, there is nothing to fear. Fear itself, suspense, desolation, are verses in the hymns of the night. We rejoice in not omitting a single syllable, for we know they all end in 'Glory be to God!' Thus we find our way by losing it. p95

Psyche was brought to mind as I read,  

Everything in the present moment tends to draw us away from the path of love and passive obedience. It requires heroic courage and self-surrender to hold firmly to a simple faith and to keep singing the same tune confidently while grace itself seems to be singing a different one in another key, giving us the impression that we have been misled and are lost. But if only we have the courage to let the thunder, lightning and storm rage, and to walk unfaltering in the path of love and obedience to the duty and demands of the present moment, we are emulating Jesus himself. p53

Faith is the light of time, it alone recognizes truth without seeing it, touches what it cannot feel, looks upon the world as though it did not exist, sees what is not apparent. p103

Orual was also in my thoughts as the contrast between her and Psyche is so stark.

How is it that, being continually reminded that everything that happens in the world is but a shadow, an image, the mystery of faith, we persist in relying only on our human faculties, and continue to interpret the merely temporal aspect of the unanswerable enigma of our existence? p102

Lewis' story is so powerful because it reminds us of the fantastical tale that God is writing. A tale mysterious, strange, unpredictable in which we are the characters. God loves mystery, our only option is to trust Him completely. Caussade says

 All are the subject of mystical tales far more beautiful and amazing than any invented by the crude imagination of mortal men... The terrifying objects put in our way are nothing. They are only summoned in order to embellish our lives with glorious adventures. p24

What perfection comes from this mysterious influence whose subject and instrument we are, and of whose existence we are not even conscious so much it does it seems to be part of what we do of our own accord!...Never knowing what is urging them on, the most divine impulses trouble them. Despising all they do, they admire what is done by others and feel themselves to be far inferior. To rely on their own efforts to overcome these apparent faults is futile, for they are God's admirable plan to force them to depend entirely on his help. p40

Follow your path without a map, not knowing the way, and all with be revealed to you. Seek only God's kingdom and his justice through love and obedience, and all will be granted to you....Remain at peace, united to God in love, and continue blindly along the straight and narrow path of duty. The angels are beside you in this dark night, their arms around you. Should God require more of you he will make it known. p57

In Jane Austen's Persuasion Anne's friend, Mrs Smith is described thus, A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more, here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from nature alone. This description has been a goal for me and Caussade's book takes the idea and expands it in an accessible way.

The first duty required of souls is self-discipline; the second is self-surrender and complete passivity; the third requires great humility, a humble and willing disposition and a readiness to follow the movement of grace which motivates everything if they simply respond willingly to all its guidance. p59

Do what you are doing, suffer what you are suffering, only your heart need be changed. It will cost you nothing, for this change only consists in desiring everything that God ordains. Yes, holiness is a will disposed to conform to God's. And what can be easier? Since who can resist adoring a will so loving and so good? This love alone makes everything divine. p61

In fact, he believes ...there is nothing easier, more ordinary, more available to all than saintliness. p6

HERE is the link to the book. If you find New Year's resolutions unattractive, then consider a "present moment" resolution to Let God's will be done; obey him in everything, each one according to his capacity. Nothing is easier in the spiritual life, nothing more available to all. p100 
 

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