The Sacrament of Now

I know that I am veering into dangerous territory spiritually when I am more worried about what is “next” than I am with what is now right in front of my face.  The “next” task instead of the present one… the “next” conversation instead of the present one… the “next” moment in our church’s life instead of the present one… as a result, I wind up being not-fully-present in whatever it is that I am doing… out of sync, as it were, with what is happening around me right now.

And it is very destructive for me.  It is destructive of my soul, my mind, my relationships, my work.  It robs me of noticing and participating in the peculiar glory of the now.

If I understand the philosophers and metaphysicians rightly, the “Finite” is a subset of the “Infinite”.  And Christians believe that only God is infinite.  Which means that everything that exists, in some way, exists “in” God.  Paul said (quoting a pagan philosopher), “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  The Psalmist said, “Where can I go from your Spirit, where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:6).  The question is a rhetorical one and the answer, of course, is “nowhere.”  He is everywhere.  The Infinite, Eternal God… there is nowhere to hide from Him, nowhere that He is “not”… for, again, in Him we live and move and have our being.

The question then is how we, bound by our finitude, experience Him, this Infinite God… how we touch and taste His presence.  The answer I think, has something to do with slowing down enough to recognize just how his infinite presence is “lighting up” this present, finite moment.  That is to say, it has to do with embracing the sort of sacramental quality of the “now.”  To put it another way, NOW, if we have eyes to see it, is being transfigured, is shot through, lit up with, carried in the womb of, ETERNITY.

This is why it is so destructive for me to live in what is “next”… having my life dictated and determined by the pressure of the coming moment rather than the glory of the current one leaves me feeling spiritually and existentially displaced.  I miss what God is doing RIGHT NOW in my haste to move more hurriedly into the future.

It is for this reason that the Christian tradition, at its profoundest, has always called saints to a reflective, contemplative, meditative, prayer-filled life… for it is those disciplines suffused into our ordinary tasks that keep us engaged and alive to how the Infinite God is pervading our Finite Now.  And so we sense him as we drink our coffee, and walk the dog, and do our work, and engage in conversation, and embrace interruption as a gift, and listen to people’s pains and struggles, and exercise, and prepare meals, and pay the bills, and change dirty diapers, etc etc., “all to the glory of God.”

There’s a great prayer I read one time that captures the spirit of this perfectly:

Brother Jesus, you have reminded me of my need to anchor my soul in a place of prayer, a place where we can come together to worship the Father.  Free me from my restless activity, my slavery to the clock, my habit of bobbing along on the open sea when you have called me to be still.  When I consider how you consented to enclosure in Mary’s womb, in a narrow manger, in a carpenter’s home, on the wooden cross, in the bread of Eucharist, my heart is moved to seek enclosure with you. (From Richard Foster’s “Prayers from the Heart“)

Christianity teaches us that the Infinite God bound himself up in the Finite by becoming Flesh in Jesus (John 1).  As such, our finitude – this present moment – is not an enemy to our participation in the Divine life.  All the contrary, it is our ally.  Indeed, it is the only way we CAN participate in it.  Baptismal waters become a portal into New Life, bread and wine become Body and Blood, “now” gets caught up in eternity.

So in all that you do today… whether you eat or drink or sleep or work or play or study… do it all to the glory of God, leaning on the ever-present Spirit to help you participate in the sacrament of the now.

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