It’s the day to take a Big Breath: PENTECOST!
Jesus breathed on them and said to them,”Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22
I am ready for fresh breathing, new winds, brisk energy. The practices and disciplines of Lent and Eastertide have made demands on my awareness and behavior. Although those practices have kept me close to the Source of All Being, I am ready for a fresh infusion of Grace and Power to fill me. I am not sure I even want pyrotechnics, if only I can breathe more deeply, purely, truly.
Hildegard of Bingen seems to have lived with this Breath as her lifeline, her mainstay. She described herself as being a “feather on the Breath of God.” (See post for Lent 3-Spirit Walking). The Spirit self-discloses the Holy One as she floats on its jet stream:
I am the breeze that nurtures all things green. I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits. I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams. I am the rain coming from the the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.
Those are the sensations for which my soul longs this Pentecost! Greenness, ripeness, purity. laughter and joy! Fruit of the Spirit’s breath! And Jesus offered it as a gift in perpetuity.
I receive the Spirit. Now how do I open myself to its beauty and refreshment this Pentecost? I need first to be still enough to notice where the Spirit is blowing. What is greening in my world? what is greening in me? what sensations are in my body and soul and mind? I need to use the gifts that come from Breath Prayer, sitting quietly enough to receive the breath I am being given. As I sit, I notice how much clutter has accrued in the passageways, swirling, flurrying, and there is a hitch in my constricted breath, prompted by grief, weariness, bafflement. So I breathe, “Come, Holy Spirit, blow away the blockages, cleanse the passageways, loosen the debris of memory, regret and judgement.” A cleansing, healing breath is needed, like the ones in learned to activate while preparing for my child to be born.
As the Breath of God claims my lungs and breath, I feel energy begin to flow. I notice that in the absence of clutter, ideas and possibilities begin to glimmer. New openings are sparkling: “Come, Holy Spirit, in your creative Wisdom. Show me what you have for me to do, who you have for me to love, how I can get from Point A to Point B and beyond. Show me the way where I do not see a way.”
Then the Breath brings energy, energy that lifts me out of the amber in which I feel stuck, into the flow of activity that touches, changes, liberates and challenges. “Come. Spirit,” I breathe; “propel me to that phone call, that visit, that letter of concern, that stretching to be present, that will be be the hands, feet and voice of the Holy One for good in this world.”
I have had an amazing experience of receiving Breath this week. Having expended great gusts of gale force winds in the past weeks, I needed to sit still. Like Elijah of old, in exhaustion I am tempted to gloom and despair even as I know in my intellect that rest will bring restoration. But, as I sat and breathed, the Spirit began to make Herself known in my body and soul again, first swooshing away the flotsam and jetsam that are no longer useful, then appearing like prickles of excitement as new ideas, promptings, hope make themselves palpable; and finally, the thrust that has taken me out of my place of restoration back into the dance again.
O teacher of those who know,
a joy to the wise
is the breath of Sophia.
you are the song of praise,
the delight of life,
a hope and a potent honor
granting garlands of light.
Sequence for the Holy Spirit, Hildegard of Bingen, Barbara Newman, trans.