Monday, January 01, 2018

Spirituality as Resistance: Sacrament

New Year’s Day
January 1, 2018
Sacrament as Resistance

God is always coming to you in 
the Sacrament of the Present Moment.
Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament.
— Evelyn Underhill

When I outlined these reflections for Advent to Epiphany I wasn’t sure what to say on New Year’s Day. Sure, I could ramble about new beginnings, learning from the past and moving on, working with a clean slate, making resolutions, keeping (!) resolutions, etc. None of it felt right so I kept it open until about 10 days ago when I came across the quote above from one of the great spiritual writers of the 20th Century, Evelyn Underhill. Suddenly the talk of past and future paled in comparison to the “Present Moment.” But it is not just any present moment, it is THIS Present Moment when we have the opportunity to welcome God into our lives- and our lives into God’s presence.

This is a sacrament:
  • a visible sign of an inward grace,
  • a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a means by which God enacts his grace,
  • Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.

Jean Pierre de Caussade introduced the idea of the Sacrament of the Present Moment in the late 17th, early 18th Century. It is in abandonment to the Divine Providence that union with God becomes real. It is when grace grows within us. It wasn't published for many years after his death, but has come to be a classic of spiritual guidance.

Notice that grace is a common theme here! When God is present, so is God’s grace. The sacrament of the Present Moment opens that possibility no matter where we are.

Talk about rebellion and resistance to the ways of he world!
    • Abandonment? Forget it. Unless you are talking about blindly obeying the words and dictates of the nation state, of course!
    • Grace? A free, unearned gift? Not for me. I’m no freeloader- even on God. I’ll earn my way, thank you!

Today is not a day, then, to look back in pain or nostalgia. It is better a time to remember when God’s grace flowed into my life in the past year; or maybe the times that grace pushed me out of the door of my own self-imposed box and helped others find grace. It is also a time to inventory the times when I closed the door and windows of my spiritual house so that I wouldn’t be disturbed by the cries from those in pain or terror, need or healing. Then it becomes a time of confession and making amends.

Today is neither a time to look ahead in some dim sense of a nebulous hope, filled with resolutions of what I want to do in the next 12 months. Instead maybe it is a day to just welcome the presence of grace into my life; to abandon me soul into God’s presence and seek the power to live it- today- so that I can be stronger tomorrow.

All sacraments are rebellious; all sacraments challenge the powers that be. Even in my tradition of two sacraments, they cover the gamut of life with grace.

At baptism:
  • Therefore live! Yet, not you, but Christ live in you. And the life you live, live by faith in the Son of God who gave himself for you.
At the Eucharist:
  • As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death, until he comes!
  • The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which the heart only fathoms in so far as it overflows with faith, trust, and love.
    -Jean Pierre de Caussade

That truly makes for a Happy New Year as well as the promise of each new day. Resist the nostalgia of “the good old days” and the promise of some time when all will be “great again.” It is today, as each day, that the grace of God is alive.

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