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The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | 5/8/2019

“Even as I draw the freshly laundered clothes

from the basin, may the sight and the scent

of a new cleanness remind me

of the righteousness that is now mine,

of the ongoing forgiveness that you extend,

of your work on my behalf

which is both finished, and forever

ongoing and necessary in this life.”[1]

-A Liturgy for Laundering

I recently came across the book Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey, which is filled with liturgies and prayers for all sorts of ordinary and mundane tasks we do day in and day out. Besides the prayer above for doing laundry, McKelvey has a liturgy for: planting flowers, beginning a book, consuming media, changing diapers (two actually, because “there are many diapers that must be changed”), the morning of a yard sale, for those who cannot sleep, and even for those experiencing road rage, among many others.

That may strike some of us as odd, but McKelvey is actually drawing on a Christian practice with ancient roots: to pay attention to the presence of God in every moment and every task, and as a result, to begin to see every moment and task as sacred. The French priest Jean-Pierre de Caussade called it the “Sacrament of the Present Moment.” Brother Lawrence instructed others to “train yourself to dwell in God’s presence all day long.”[2] Or, more recently, Tish Harrison Warren wrote a book called The Liturgy of the Ordinary about precisely this discipline.

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of practice as something only for the “super spiritual”—monks, nuns, priests and saints, but the point is actually quite the opposite. It’s an invitation for those of us who are rushing about, frantic and frenetic, anxious and exhausted, to begin to see the sanctity of each moment, to see how we are invited to reflect God’s glory, even in something so mundane as doing laundry. It won’t come naturally or even easily, which is precisely why it’s called a “discipline” or “practice.”

This discipline does not bring God closer to us. Rather, it enables us to become more fully aware of God’s ever-steadfast presence in our lives. It will inevitably begin to reshape how we view certain relationships and people. It will reform our priorities, and it will change how we approach certain tasks—tasks we too quickly dismiss as insignificant or as mere drudgery.

“Why doesn’t God feel closer?”

That’s never a simple question to answer, but perhaps we would be well-suited to stop expecting God to show up only in the extraordinary, earth-shatteringly miraculous moments. Maybe we need to practice the discipline of paying closer to attention to where God is showing up in the really, really ordinary ones. Maybe that’s what Paul meant when he encouraged the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing.”

[1] McKelvey, Douglas Kaine. Every Moment Holy. Nashville, TN: Rabbit Room Press, 2017. 22.

[2] Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1982. 47.

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1 comment

  1. Gwen Dewey says:

    Love this – God showing up in the ordinary!

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