The Sacrament of the Present


Have you met God today in the moments that have passed? Have you noticed the presence of the Divine in your conversations and in the midst of your relationships? I have been doing some reading today on the nature of God’s work at all times. Primarily, I have been taken with the 20th century Anglican writer/poet/mystic Evelyn Underhill. She was a great witness in the church and was a great teacher of faith and practice.

Underhill taught that, “God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament.” I am quite taken by the idea of “the Present Moment” being a sacrament. We place significant emphasis on sacraments in the church. We talk a lot about Baptism and Eucharist. In the Anglican Church we also recognize Confirmation, Marriage, Reconciliation, Unction for Healing, and Ordination. Underhill had in mind an eighth – The Present Moment. This is significant especially in today’s world. We all know how very distracted, disjointed and disenfranchised we often are. We all realize that we can feel distant from the Divine, the Sacred, and the Holy in the daily whirling dervish that we call life. We are easily convinced that God is found in Cathedrals, Chapels, and Churches. We have no problem swallowing the syrupy sedative that God is delivered to us by preachers or made handy by a Holy Joe. This is compounded of course when we have moments of desperation or we cannot seem to “get it together.” We all feel, from time to time, that if life is not affording us the extravagance of solitude we cannot possible find God. Less inclined, are we, to accept the notion of God’s presence in the midst of confusion and conflict, pain and paranoia, suffering and sadness. Underhill debunks that insecurity of ours and reminds us that “God is as much in the difficult home problems as in the times of quiet and prayer.” This is an important departure from conventional pulpit pabulum. Not that there are not many preachers who have stepped outside of that box to remind us all of the transcendent nature of God and God’s presence but let’s be honest; often we are lead to believe that finding God is about avoiding the natural order (or should I say disorder) of our lives.

A web page that I was reading the other day began with these words; “Every Day can be an Exciting Adventure for the Christian who knows the reality of being filled with the Holy Spirit and who lives constantly, moment by moment, under His gracious direction.” That really felt like a lot of pressure to me. What does it mean to you and I, who walk this faith journey, when we hear the words “living constantly, moment by moment…?”  I mean, I guess as I keep digging deeper into my own faith and practice on my Lenten discipline I fear that I cannot boast moment by moment devotion to God. By the definition of ‘being filled with the Holy Spirit’ given above I think I have to admit that I do not always “feel” the Spirit of God. In the meantime Evelyn Underhill reminds us that it is not that simplistic. “If by losing the spirit of prayer, you mean losing the heavenly sensations of deep devotion, I am afraid that does not matter a scrap.” You see, for me I have every confidence that God is with me on this journey. That is to say, even when I fail to see or feel or understand how God is working, I TRUST that God is indeed at work. Underhill asserts that “God is acting on your soul all the time, whether you have spiritual sensations or not.” God is in each moment. God has divined “the Sacrament of the Present Moment.”

I have known God in the midst of quiet and of prayer and in Lent that has become increasingly more important to me. Yet, I have also known God in the midst of the daily struggles of life. There is no doubt for me that we have a loving and tender God who is devoted to us. We need to seek ways to live our devotion to God. I have resolved that Evelyn Underhill offers a tremendous guide to finding that devotion. Our devotion to God will not be assisted by searching to find a way to escape the reality of our lives. Instead we have to have more respect for the “Sacrament of the Present Moment.” God is in the midst of all things. Even when it does not seems obvious. God is at work – so I continue to strive to trust that the God we follow is not about mere feelings of spiritual presence, but that God is far more present in a deep, profound and mystical sense. Evelyn sums it up best – “There is no place in my soul, no corner of my character, where God is not.”

[On a different note…the music playing is Don Williiams – one of my favourite artist. Another of his great tunes is found in this video. You can play it when the music finishes or simply stop the media player up top before you play this video. I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do!]

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