“For in God we live and move and have our being.”
In the play Our Town, Emily longs to live “every, every moment” and to unlock its wonder. But Jean-Pierre de Caussade longs for even more: to experience God in everyone of those moments. While Emily would awaken us from sleepwalk, Caussade would awaken us to the God who gives Himself to us in each moment.
Caussade (1675-1751) was a deeply spiritual man who preached and practiced the possibility of experiencing God in every moment of every day. He was a French Jesuit who served as a college rector and director of theological studies, but is only remembered for letters he wrote to people seeking spiritual counsel. Some years after Caussade’s death these letters were collected and published under the title Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence.
On page after page Caussade writes about the present moment as a “sacrament” given from God’s hand. He believed that receiving the present moment and giving ourselves wholly to it constitute life’s highest and holiest calling.
Whatever one’s church or denominational stripe, Christians regard a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and visible grace”(St. Augustine). We believe that in the bread and wine of Communion, and in the waters of Baptism, God is giving Himself to us. Caussade broadens our understanding of the sacraments to include God giving Himself to us in each moment.
Caussade taught a Christian spirituality similar to his older contemporary Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) in The Practice of the Presence of God. A poor, uneducated monastery cook, Brother Lawrence, learned to experience the very presence of God “in the noise and clatter” of the kitchen. Caussade believed that each moment takes on a sacramental significance, as Christ comes to us each day, in every moment. He is mediated through this present moment and task. This moment is God’s will for me.
Consider these words of Caussade and allow the Holy Spirit to apply them to your life:
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.”
In today’s Scripture the Apostle Paul tells the Athenians that God’s gracious activity permeates all things, even the most trivial. There is nothing that is secular as it is in God that “we live and move and have our being”. Every moment, every person, and every place holds possibility of communion with God, and is to be received and celebrated. God’s grace flows to us through this holy sacrament of the present moment. When we give ourselves to the present moment we find that anxiety about the future and guilt about the past melt away.
Finally, consider these words of Caussade:
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,
P. S. Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s letters of spiritual counsel have been gathered into two outstanding volumes of instruction and encouragement:
- The Sacrament of the Present Moment – 103 pages of warm, devotional reading that will inspire and enlighten.
- Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence – 449 pages of profound, comforting, and challenging words. Well worth the time and effort.