In the seclusion of a Jesuit 18th century retreat house, Jean-Pierre de Caussade mentored a group of nuns in the ways of seeing God in every day moments. The notes of his teachings from ages past were preserved and compiled into what would become a devotional classic, The Sacrament of the Present Moment.
“The present moment,” de Caussaude instructed, “is like a desert in which simple souls see and rejoice only in God.”
Fitting words for this gaudate week, the week Advent observers behold the joy candle. I’m thankful for those quiet times of candle lighting coupled with one word reminders of the Christ child to come.
Hmmm…. Somehow the image of a desert, barren with the fullness of only God doesn’t quite match up with 20th century Advent activities. Is there even time for joy? Do we strain to hear God’s people rejoicing?
Not that activity is bad, but it’s so easy to lose balance. It wasn’t that long ago that we lit the peace candle, the light of shalom, the flame of well-being. I’m still working on that. But ready or not, the joy candle is here.
Rejoice! God’s imperative shouts. And again, I say, rejoice!
Almost three hundred years after the spiritual guidance of de Cassaude, a teacher from the same Jesuit stream describes joy as a time of a deep inner work. I appreciate the simplicity in his guidance.
“Each morning this week, in that brief moment we are becoming accustomed to, we want to light a third inner candle. Three candles, going from expectation, to longing, to joy. They represent our inner preparation, or inner perspective. In this world of “conflict and division,” “greed and lust for power,” we begin each day this week with a sense of liberating joy. Perhaps we can pause, breathe deeply and say, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.'”
For the Jesuits, joy is a present moment experience as we anticipate the birth of Jesus. Light the joy candle, pause in the activity of the season, and rejoice in the gift God is bringing.
Ah, can it be that simple?
(The Jesuit quote on the third inner candle is from Creighton University Online Ministries.)