Read an Excerpt
How God Speaks to Us
How We Must Listen to Him
God's Unchanging Word
God still speaks today as he spoke to our forefathers in days gone by, before there were either spiritual directors or methods of direction. The spiritual life was then a matter of immediate communication with God. It had not been reduced to a fine art nor was lofty and detailed guidance to it provided with a wealth of rules, instructions and maxims. These may very well be necessary today. But it was not so in those early days, when people were more direct and unsophisticated. All they knew was that each moment brought its appointed- task, faithfully to be accomplished. This was enough for the spiritually-minded of those days. All their attention was focused on the present, minute by minute; like the hand of a clock that marks the minutes of each hour covering the distance along which it has to travel. Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned towards the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.
Such were the hidden motives behind all Mary's behaviour lowliest and most obedient of creatures. Her reply to the angel, when she was content to say 'Be it unto me according to thy word' (Luke 1: 38), summed up the whole mystical teaching of her ancestors. Everything was reduced, as it is now, to the purest and simplest commitment to the will of God in whatever form it might present itself. That exalted and beautiful disposition which was the essence of Mary's soul shines out wonderfully in those simple words.How perfectly it accords with what our saviour wishes us to have unceasingly on our lips and in our hearts -'Thy will be done'. It is true that what was asked of Mary on this momentous occasion was a supreme glory for her, but all that glory would have made no impression on her had not the will of God, which was her only concern, awakened her attention. It was this divine will that ruled her life. Whether her occupations were exalted or lowly, in her eyes they were but shadows, more or less luminous, in which she found it possible both to worship God and to recognize the works of the Almighty. Her spirit, ravished with joy, looked upon everything that she was called upon to do or suffer each moment as the gift of God, who always fills with blessings a heart that is nourished neither by the world nor by fantasy, but by him alone.
The grace of the Most High cast his shadow over Mary. A shadow which was nothing less than the duties, the demands and the suffering of each moment. Which is, in fact, merely a mist similar to that in nature which hangs over tangible objects like a shroud hiding them from our view, and which in the moral and transcendental order, conceals in its obscurity the truth of the Divine Will which alone deserves our attention. And this mist shrouding her faculties, far from deluding Mary, replenished her faith in him who never changes. And so when the Archangel came to her she was ready to receive him. He vanished as he had come and she never saw him again, but the Holy Spirit, accomplishing his earthly mission, entered Mary never to abandon her.
There is little about this amazing happening apparent in the Blessed Virgin; at least the gospels make no comment on it. Outwardly Mary's life is represented as simple and ordinary. She does and suffers what others in her situation do and suffer; she visits her cousin Elizabeth as other relations do; she goes to Bethlehem for the census as others do; she lodges in a stable in consequence of her poverty; she returns to Nazareth having been forced to leave on account of Herod's persecution. She lives quietly with Jesus and Joseph who work for their living. Such is the daily bread of the Holy Family. But by what bread do Mary and Joseph nourish their faith? How is what happens moment by moment a sacrament for them? What do they discern beneath the seemingly everyday events which occupy them? What is seen is similar to what happens to the rest of mankind. But what is unseen, that which faith discovers and unravels, is nothing less than God fulfilling his mighty purpose. 0 bread of angels, celestial manna, precious Evangel, sacrament of the present moment, you bring God to the mean surroundings of a lowly stable in a manger among straw and hay. But to whom do you give yourself? God reveals himself to the humble in small things 'He has filled the hungry with good things' (Luke 1:53) but the proud, who only attach importance to outward appearances, cannot see him even in big ones.
But what is the secret of how to find this treasure this minute grain of mustard seed? There is none. It is available to us always, everywhere. Like God, every creature, whether friend or foe, pours it out generously, making it flow through every part of our bodies and souls to the very centre of our being. Divine action cleanses the universe, pervading and flowing over all creatures. Wherever they are it pursues them. It precedes them, accompanies them, follows them. We have only to allow ourselves to be borne along on its tide. Would that it might please God that kings, and their ministers, princes of the Church and of the world, priests, soldiers, commoners, in one word all men, might know how easy it is for them to achieve a sublime holiness! They have only to carry out faithfully the simple duties of a Christian and of their condition, humbly to accept the suffering involved and to submit without' question to the demands of Providence in everything that is to be done and suffered. This is that spirituality which sanctified the Patriarchs and the Prophets before the introduction of so many methods of direction and so many masters to teach them. This is the spirituality of all ages and all conditions which surely could not be sanctified more highly or more wonderfully and, at the same time, more easily than by the simple practice of what God, the only director of souls, gives them at each moment to do and suffer, whether it be obedience to the laws of the Church or of princes. If this were so priests would scarcely be required except for the sacraments. For the rest, we could do without them. And those simple souls who are always seeking advice about how to reach God, would be relieved of the heavy and dangerous burdens needlessly imposed on them by those who take pleasure in exercising control over them.Sacrament of the Present Moment. Copyright © by Jean-P De Caussade. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.