Monday, April 12, 2010

Living the sacrament of right now

I read something yesterday that made mention of the Jean Marie de Caussade's lovely book Abandonment to Divine Providence. I became familiar with this work when I was still a fairly new Catholic. It was brought to my attention by a Lebanese Maronite friend. Caussade was a French Jesuit priest who lived the eighteenth century.

For those who know me well, who have sat through many sessions on spiritual formation with me, you know that I am a bit disparging of the use of time-worn texts for spiritual formation. For example, personally I do not find either St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life or Br. Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God particularly relevant to the lives of contemporary Christian women and men. This is not to say these classic works are useless, it is just to say that their usefulness is limited and in need of some adaptation. Going out on a limb, I believe that the Carmelite spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, in order to be useful to most Christians, needs to be very carefully adapated. After all, there is a difference between living a cloistered existence and one in the world that does not permit hours of prayer and contemplation. I would say that the other Carmelite spirituality, that of the Little Flower, her little way is beatiful and very relevant to anyone. At the end of the day, the way of living written about in Br. Lawrence's little book is much like the little way of the Little Flower. De Caussade's book is of a different order and remains quite contemporary. The reason the Jesuit spirituality is translatable into lay spirituality, diaconal spirituality, is because the Jesuit life is a life of active apostolate.

It is in Abandonment that Caussade writes about "the sacrament of the present moment." This means that each moment of my life bears God's will for me. Hence, it is truly a waste of time to look for, to try to "discern" (scare quotes fully intended to capture the inauthentic nature of such a move), God's will for me over, above, or around what I am experiencing. Now, this differs from being fatalistic, just how it differs may be the subject of a later post.

The best description of a sacrament is a visible and tangible sign of Christ's presence in and for the world. What is more visible or tangible than what is right in front you right now? Of course, this is both the thrust and the vector of Giussani's method, though his language, thankfully, is a little less exalted.

Christos Anesti

1 comment:

  1. I find it intriguing that you have positioned the idea of the present moment bearing God's will with the definition of sacrament.

    Augustine thought that sacraments were signs perceptible by the senses in the moment coupled with an interpretive word. Thus, he thought sacraments were "visible words" effecting God's will in the present.

    The sacramental nature of Christian spirituality becomes something translatable for all. It is, thus, inherently incarnational and Christocentric.


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