Silent Sunday Service:
Every breath is grace

By Sharon Grussendorff

Continue with this  breath-prayer practice that was introduced in the video, or with your usual quiet prayer practice (you can choose between a 10 minute timer and a 20 minute timer below, which each have a gong at the beginning and three gongs at the end). 

Ten minute silence timerSilence
00:00 / 10:25
Twenty minute meditationSilence
00:00 / 20:28

The following song is a collaboration between James Finley and the musician Alana Levandoski. Spend some time reflecting on this song using the guidance given below.

Every Breath is GraceAlana Levandoski
00:00 / 04:21

Song lyrics:

Every breath is grace

 

James Finley narration:

"To be a seeker is to be someone for whom grace has engendered a riddle. The riddle is "I know not what to make of it", and the grace is what floods over me in the midst of what I don't know what to make of. It's the parable of the prodigal son, where the son's coming back, and he has this story memorised, to talk his father into welcoming him back, and the father doesn't even want to hear the story. The son's trying to stammer out his memorised lines and it's all infinitely irrelevant. Every breath is grace. From whence does it arise? It arises as a pure gift of love. In a way, the breath becomes home base. When you panic or get scared, just take a deep breath, get regrounded in "I'm being sustained by love right here as I inhale; God's breathing into me; God's very life is my life, and fear has no foundations."

"There's that in me that sees it, and there's that in me that doesn't see it yet. The willingness to be tender-hearted with what doesn't see it yet becomes the next wave of experiential salvation. I'm always circling back."

Reflection:

Take some time to reflect on these words. Notice any phrase that stood out for you, and allow the Spirit to breathe life into this phrase for you. 

You could spend some time in free writing, expressing your response. Allow your writing to flow in the form of a prayer, psalm, poem or prose, giving honest expression to your heart response. You can listen to the following beautiful instrumental tune as you do this:

Gabriel's OboeHenrik Chaim Goldschmidt
00:00 / 03:34

These are some writings of the Christian mystics about the breath of God in us:

Theophilus of Antioch: “God has given to the earth the breath which feeds it. It is his breath that gives life to all things. And if he were to withhold his breath, everything would be annihilated. His breath vibrates in yours, in your voice. It is the breath of God that you breathe – and you are unaware of it.”

St John of the Cross: “The soul that is united and transformed in God breathes God in God with the same divine breathing with which God, while in her, breathes her in himself.”

The following audio file will guide you in a time of offering your breath in compassionate prayer for others: 

Breathing as compassionate prayer
00:00 / 05:01

There is a way of breathing

That’s a shame and a suffocation

And there’s another way of exhaling,

A love breath,

That lets you open infinitely.

     - Rumi

For further reflection:

In his book “The Hidden Gospel", Neil Douglas-Klotz explains many of the layers of meaning that emerge from the Hebrew language that we miss in our biblical texts.  He writes that in Hebrew there are four different “h” sounds, all of which link with breathing in some way:

  • The letter “hey” has a very refined, soft sound, like the sound of “h” in “hear”. This refers to the breath that is free and unrestrained, not yet inside of any body.

  • The letter “heth”, pronounced like the “ch in “loch”, describes the breath as it enters and enlivens the body

  • The letter “kaph”, pronounced like the “ch” in “Bach”, describes the breath that is fully embodied

  • The letter “tsere”, which sounds like the “e” in “they”, refers to a breath that has become overly involved in a body, and has got trapped there. It cannot feel its connection to other forms of breath.

 

He describes that this last sound is used to form the Hebrew word for “proud”, and is the root word for “enemy” in Aramaic. It is the description of the autonomous breath that has lost its sense of connection with God and the rest of life. It can also be translated as “one who falls out of rhythm”.

This tells us that in the early Hebrew language, this sense of being in rhythm with God, living consciously in connection with God, was very important, and to fall out of rhythm with that is to be proud, and to become an enemy of life and of our very selves. It is our human condition of being cut off from one another and God, and living autonomously.

Questions for reflection:

Look at the descriptions of the various forms of breath described above.

  • In what situations do you find yourself relating to each one?

  • Where have you become overly autonomous and cut off from the flow of life?

  • Can you set yourself reminders in some way to return to breathing consciously and freely, opening yourself to the rhythm and selfless love of God's breath?

Ending prayer:

Holy Spirit, Ruah of God, Breath of our breath, help us in our weakness.

We do not know what we ought to pray for,

or how to breathe in rhythm with you.

Too often we find ourselves cut off, trapped in our constricted selves,

and we miss the life-giving generosity of your free-flowing breath.

Thank you that you yourself intercede for us

with groans that words cannot express.

Teach us to breathe in rhythm with you,

to love with the spacious and tender heart of God,

and to be Christ's hands, feet and body in this world.

Amen.

(Adapted from Romans 8:26)

To conclude this morning's reflections, listen to the following song by Alana Levandoski, which is a beautiful prayer of surrender using the breath:

Every Breath Is YoursAlana Levandoski
00:00 / 03:59

Lyrics:

Every breath is yours, Beloved, every breath is yours

Every breath is yours, Beloved, every breath is yours

 

I give myself to you, Beloved, the self that I thought I was

I give myself to you, Beloved, the self that was false and lost

 

Every breath is yours, Beloved, every breath is yours

Every breath is yours, Beloved, every breath is yours

 

Who is it moves in me, Beloved, whose hands, and feet are these?

Who is it moves in me, Beloved, whose heart beats, who breathes?

 

Every breath is yours, Beloved, every breath is yours

Every breath is yours, Beloved, every breath is yours

For a teaching on the breath-prayer by James Finley you can watch this YouTube video: https://youtu.be/-A16N4hKou0

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