The sacrament of the present moment

by Steve

Park and a big sky

I’m not necessarily religious. I’m one of those very vague, very flaky nearly-/sort of-religious types. I have my beliefs, but I generally keep them to myself and I’m not exactly practicing either. 

On my walk from the station to work I pass a church that over the past few months has been running weekly morning services. They are only 10-15 minutes long, and you are encouraged to come and go as you please. The service is repeated every 15 minutes. It is a chance to contemplate, reflect and just escape the wider world for a little while.

I’ve popped in from time to time. It is good to have a space to think. It is nice to sit in a beautiful church. And my terrible attention span finds a 10-15 minute service appealing. The minister has covered a fair few themes. Sometimes it is clear he is trying to appeal to us working masses. Other times he talks about something broader.

He recently covered The Sacrament of the Present Moment. This is a belief, and a book, from a French Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre de Caussade. The idea, and I’m paraphrasing wildly here and may well get it very wrong, is that God is in everything we do, and we can find grace through the everyday. We don’t have to wait for major events or ceremonies to experience joy or articulate our faith. It is there in the mundane, the routine, in the small things. We can find contentment in today, as we are only ever truly in the now, not the past or the future.

I think it is an interesting and worthwhile concept, no matter what your religious/spiritual/otherwise beliefs. It is easy to get lost in the yearning or regret of the past, or the hope or fear of the future. We live in a pretty grim, scary world, and perhaps the best way to cling on to something more hopeful is to see the wonder in the ordinary, to appreciate what is around us here and now, no matter how small or insignificant.

That is easier said than done. This has been a funny year. Work has been crappy and unsettling and I know what has kept my head straight is appreciating little moments with my family, or small achievements, or just looking up and enjoying the view.

We recently gutted and refitted my kitchen. Not a glamorous task. Not a spiritual task. But I genuinely felt something pretty special and life-affirming doing it. It wasn’t just preparing a room where I can provide for my loved ones. It was seeing the amazing job my wife did cutting an extremely tricky hole in our new worktop, for our sink. Or working with my dad, plumbing that sink, and learning from him. Or laying a new floor. I treasured those moments. I treasure them now.

We then went on holiday camping. And just having a little kickabout in a park, with the rolling hills behind us, I felt something really special. I felt this was just as meaningful as any grand gesture. Perhaps more.

I think I even felt something similar washing up, or pegging out the tent. It was a weird feeling, but not unwelcome.

I love to moan and whine and all that, but I think I need to balance that out. It is too easy to get dragged down by all the unfairness and general shittiness of the world. I’m not suggesting I’m ignoring all that, more that I’m now really trying to appreciate everything that is worth appreciating, savouring the moments worth savouring. It might be a passage in a book. Or a beautiful building I pass. Or an exchange with someone I meet. Maybe just a fantastic pint of beer.

That’s the plan, anyway.

I often lose sight of what is important in life, let the daft stuff get me down. But there is something immensely comforting in knowing there are these small moments of wonder all around. They just need a little time, and a little attention, to yield so much more. I’m not sure it is even religious, spiritual or whatever. But I keep coming back to the word grace. There is grace all around. I just need to remember it is there. And remember I am very lucky that it is there.