The Sacrament of Filing One’s Nails

The Sacrament of Filing One’s Nails January 24, 2019

The ordinary motions of morning in my house found their stride.

It’s interesting to watch my wife, daughter, and I navigate the house in the pre-demand hours. We prepare food, tea, and coffee. Bags are packed and placed by the door. Lunch items fly out of the fridge. It is like choreographed chaos, and it is so common that we execute many of the steps without thinking.

This morning, something different happened. My daughter had a rough looking fingernail and therefore a discussion began about an item I’m only marginally familiar with: the nail file.

Also known as an “emery board” (apparently), our morning dance deviated slightly for this one thin device.

Ordinary Sacraments

I believe much of our culture and marketing would have us believe that the miraculous things of a day must be, well, miraculous. They must be the unexplainable and unexpected that uproots the day and puts any and all negativity aside.

I wonder, is it possible that something as ordinary as an emery board and the discussion about filing nails constitutes a miracle? Perhaps that word goes too far. Yet as I watched my wife carefully instruct my daughter on the finer points of filing one’s nails, something else occurred to me.

The ordinary moments in the flow of life are better seen as sacraments, rather than miracles.

Sacraments are acts, rites, and happenings that point to the reality of God. Grace flows through sacraments regardless of whether they are simple or complex. Simple sacraments, in my mind, are the days in which we live.

There is something sacred and profound about the passage of simple wisdom from one generation to another. Divinity also flows in a smile shared between commuters who, instead of ignoring each other, acknowledge their shared journey. In so doing, they acknowledge their greater war for the day.

Hope comes in food that sustains. Regardless of how it matches the fare of our favorite food blogger or Instagram chef, the bowl and utensil and sustenance are indeed daily graces.

Do French Priests File Their Nails? 

Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a French Jesuit priest and writer talked about the “sacrament of the moment.” He insisted that whatever comes to us in a moment, space, and time is a place that God has cultivated for our good. It is a gymnasium within our day, training us to see what is beyond us.

De Caussade says,

“My dear souls, you are seeking for secret ways of belonging to God, but there is only one: making use of whatever he offers you…Uninterruptedly your life will flow through this unfathomed abyss where you have nothing to do but love and cherish what each moment brings, considering it as the best possible thing for you and having perfect confidence in God’s activities, which cannot do anything but good.”*

Our Daily Sacraments

Today, God offers us the energy to get out of bed. A job that we often hate is given the sign of the cross and is spoken of as a grace. Teaching our children about truth, charity, forgiveness, and gratitude becomes instruction in discipleship to Jesus. Even the simplicity of a conversation about filing one’s nails is saturated with the sacred.

These ordinary sacraments are the pedagogy of the particular that points out the universal grace of God to everyone.

What ordinary sacrament is the present moment giving you? Look at the next hour of your life: what sacraments do you see, moments that could easily go unnoticed? Where in the normal flow of your life are you learning the inconceivable largeness of God?

May you know that whatever is in front of you is good, somehow. Yet you must know know that the mystery will not unfold on its own. Therefore, may you fully enter this present moment and see it for what it is. Eternity is at full volume in the present, because the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matt. 3:2, ESV).

(Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash)

*quoted from Albert Haase, Living the Lord’s Prayer: The Way of the Disciple, p. 107)
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