The Embrace of the Present

We cannot go back to the past nor forward to the future: the present is all we have; but often we are reluctant to admit as much, or see the present as some sort of interruption, more or less unwelcome, to what we really want — which is always unattainable, something ‘out there’ that is perfect in the way that we conceive perfection. To recognise the perfection of the present we have to be willing to let go of our own ideas, slow down a moment, be silent and still. We have to allow the present to embrace us. If we do, we realise that much of what we strive after is rather ridiculous. Israel worshipped a golden calf because it wanted a tangible sign of God’s presence but failed to see the promise written in the stars and grains of sand. We can be like that. Perhaps today we could spend a little while thinking about the idols in our own lives, the ones that keep us from living fully in the present and allowing God to embrace us with his love and forgiveness.

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5 thoughts on “The Embrace of the Present”

  1. Dear D. Catherine, I usually read your blog just before toddling off to bed, due to the time difference with me in California. Today I have struggled with the effects of just what you have written of today- not living in the present. Thank you for the reminder. The older I get, the more key to the spiritual life I find it to be. When will I learn? Sigh. Your blog, however, sends me off to a peaceful sleep and hope for tomorrow!

  2. Time that has passed thou never canst recall,
    Of time to come thou art not sure at all;
    Only the present is within thy power –
    Therefore now improve the shining hour!

  3. When much younger, wondering what exactly was meant by the contemplative life, I was told to read the “Sacrament of the Present Moment” by the 18th century Jesuit, Jean Pierre de Caussade. He described people who lived the spiritual life having their whole attention “concentrated consecutively like a hand that marks the hours which, at each moment, traverses the space allotted to it. Their minds, incessantly animated by the impulsion of divine grace, turned imperceptibly to each new duty that presented itself by the permission of God at different hours of the day.” He placed great emphasis on the fact that this life was open to all, not just the elite few.

    His book made a big impression on me, though I don’t expect many people read it these days. I think it would be better described by your title, the Embrace of the Present. I am struck by his emphasis on the creative impulse of God’s grace in each moment. We embrace it, the word of God, and follow the impulse wherever it leads. When we listen to that impulse with our heart and mind, it can bring the word of God to us in a new way that can be something of a shock: “Do not consider the former things. I am doing a new thing. It is springing forth now. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18). As Gerry Hughes said in his last book, we need to rediscover “the God who delights in our being”. No looking back.

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