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Chapter 3: What is the Present Moment?

A short but profound chapter.

“Despondency is the most temporal of the passions. It severs our relationship to time; rather than a mode of transformation and ongoing resurrection, time becomes our enemy, a prison that holds us captive to our own self-destruction. When time drags on slowly, our life’s activities –especially prayer—stagnate…Soon we are exhausted by the mere idea of seeing tasks to completion.”

Is this why I never get anything done? Or never finish a book? Or even give up on blogging numerous times where I don’t post for weeks or months? How many times have I said, “I’m back”?

“At the epicenter of our splintered relationship to time lies a rejection of the present moment.”

So, what is the “present moment”?

“Christ, the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil asserts, descended ‘into Hades through the Cross, that He might fill all things with Himself,’ even hell itself. The Resurrection of Christ was also the resurrection and filling of all things. Time is no longer the harbinger of earth—it has been conquered, or rather resurrected, to its prototype: eternity. To ‘live in the present,’ for the Christian, is to dwell in this fullness. From such a vantage point, the present is less a duration of time and more a state of being—one that is not measured by clocks or ascertained by the mind but experienced by the heart.”

I guess I never noticed that part of St. Basil’s Liturgy where the Priest says, “That He might fill all things with Himself.” Wow! How incredibly beautiful! No wonder I feel so full when I work at seeing Him in all of creation. We will have plenty of opportunity very soon, to listen for that part in St. Basil’s Liturgy when Lent starts.

This reminds me of the hymn sung/chanted at the beginning of nearly every service, prayers, event, everything. It has a line that says, “Who art everywhere present and fillest all things.”

I truly love this description of living in the present, “to dwell in this fullness”, the fullness of Christ.

Nicole goes on to describe what nepsis is, a term that comes out of the Philokalia. It describes nepsis as a prayerful, inner watchfulness. “Nepsis fuels a mindful, peaceful, yet alert stance toward one’s immediate experiences.” It is a prayerful inner attentiveness.

And this brings us to the most important part of this chapter, in my opinion.

“…the present moment is the only time in which we can encounter the Resurrection and Christ Himself. We cannot meet Him in the past or future; the only time we have is now.”

After I read this a few times I made a connection with the feast of Pascha itself. The moment at which I realized, several years ago, that the pure joy that I felt on that blessed night, could be mine, should be mine any day of the year, not just on Pascha. You see, on that night, we are fully engaged in the present moment.

When we are fully engaged in the present moment we feel so much more, of all the feelings.

Nicole goes on to explain to us why it is so hard to stay in the present moment.

“…the first departure from the present moment—is numbing ourselves to care and all the pain it can bring.”

“Ultimately, we find ourselves disdainful of the present, consumed by thoughts that combine ‘an undercurrent of negativity or dissatisfaction with a sense that the reality of God’s world is not good enough.’ We desire to be ‘anywhere but here; any moment but now’.” (Nicole is quoting Meletios Weber from Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God—I think I need to read this book.)

Can you relate to that? I certainly can.

“If we are to overcome this dissatisfaction, we must find our way back to whatever it means to be present. The Person of Christ…is our guide.”

The present moment is filled with so much but yet, often nothing. It is the nothing that I struggle with the most. Or the presumably nothing. I might view it as nothing, but is it?

“Most often, though, the present appears to consist of nothing—nothing particularly immediate to accomplish, nothing that entices our attention, nothing that seems meaningful or significant. […] The ability to face the Bermuda-triangle moments of our existence—to acknowledge the pain of disorienting pointlessness and endeavor to find fullness in the vacant margins of life—is as important as how we respond to an abundance of monumental tasks.”

And who didn’t love the little story her psychologist friend told about the bus route and stops and the terrible planning?!

Her friend “tells the story when he wants to help people remember how much of life is lived in the margins of time…”

Basically, everything you do not plan for. All the little interruptions that drive me crazy. It is this time where I am certainly far from the present moment. Not seeing God, not hearing God, not in the fullness of Christ. I let all the nothingness sweep me away, swiftly away from Christ.

We need to learn to live in the margins of time, learn to see Christ Himself in each moment of nothingness. For me, this has been the goal of Kindler of Joy. The reason I created it.

I will be working on this for the rest of my life. And I am so grateful for those who will help me along the way. Those that will help peel the layers off my eyes to bring the focus back to where it needs to be, this present moment and into the fullness of Christ. Those that help me learn more about myself and who I want to become.

What, in chapter 3, have you discovered to be revealing to you? What was peeled off of your eyes to bring more fullness?

I know I need to be present in the margins of my life more, especially those moments when the unexpected arises. Those times when possibly God is bringing to me something needful.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this incredibly chapter.

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