So often we take breathing for granted. It is natural. It is an automatic reflex…involuntary. The first breath of air we take thrusts us into what we call life. Without that first breath we have no life, at least not outside of the womb. We do not think about our breathing very much unless we have a breathing related problem like asthma.
I invite you to take a few moments now…sit back relax and focus on the wonder of your own breathing. Breathing in all that is good in creation and breathing out all that troubles or stresses you. Take deep breaths allowing your lungs to completely fill with fresh air. Hold each breath for a moment before gently exhaling. Breathing in and out notice the rhythm of your own breathing. Continue taking about five deep cleansing breaths in a row. Following this brief exercise you should feel refreshed.
There is a popular Christmas song called Breath of Heaven. I like the arrangement sung by Amy Grant. This song suggests that the birth of Jesus was a breath from heaven. The image of the Nativity we have accepted for many years depicts the infant Jesus surrounded by barn animals. All present waiting for the birthing process to commence. Mary and Joseph’s breath mingles with that of the animals. The breath of Mary intensifies as the head of Jesus crowns. All are breathing in the very air created by God the Father. When the baby, Jesus, is finally born the focus turns to his breathing. Suddenly what matters most is only the breathing of this tiny newborn…Jesus. Mary’s breathing is now combined with her tears of joy at the birth of her Lord.
I remember during labor for our children having to be reminded to breath. In birthing classes you actually practice a panting type of breathing to help ease the stress of the labor. Mary had no such detailed mentoring, although she most likely was aided by stories and advice from other women in her family. During labor you do not take breathing for granted.
I have had another time in my life when my breathing seemed suspended in longer than normal intervals. Several years ago I had ‘frozen shoulder’; during the physical therapy sessions I had to be told to remember to breathe. When in pain you have a tendency to focus your attention on the pain causing you to hold your breath.
At the Annunciation God spoke Jesus into being in cooperation with Mary’s consent. At the birth of Jesus the Word truly became flesh. The Word became a living breathing human….A man that would need to breathe the air to sustain his earthly life…A man that would need to breathe the air created by his heavenly father. This is the same air we breathe today.
The animals came to the birth of Jesus breathing in the same air. The shepherds came to the birth of Jesus also breathing in the very same air. The rhythm of the breathing encircling Jesus was like a symphony of praise for the creation of air.
The first breath we take at our own birth is like the first word of a sentence. I would like to emphasize the initial capital letter because it truly depicts the attention given to a newborn’s breathing. As we grow, learn, and progress through life the sentence of our life becomes complex. The diagram of our life would have many lines diverging from the subject. I used to be fascinated with diagramming sentences as a teen.
Just as all sentences come to an end so does one’s life eventually come to an end. The last breath we take before the period at the end of the sentence of our life is just as profound as our first breath at birth. Mary waited at the foot of the cross for her beloved son to take his final breath that would end his earthly life.
I was so blessed to be present when my dear friend took her final breath and the period was placed at the end of her life’s sentence.
I often return to the ‘diagram’ of her life in my thoughts and swing awhile with her on a dangling participle…as we smile and breathe in love’s sweet air together.
This exercise is a very real and comforting ‘breath of heaven’ for me.