Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012.12.09 Breathtaking/Breathgiving

Some things take your breath away. Could be death, danger—or awe.

One such "thing" is Jesus of Nazareth, a man who lived and taught the God of love so fiercely, with such boundless compassion, that they called him the Christ, a word whose root meaning is salve, a healing ointment. Think salvation.

The other is oxygen.

At a recent retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY,  I talked with  two brothers, both on oxygen. One of them I'd known about and one of them was newly encumbered.  I felt sad for them, and scared for me.  I have lung disease and dread one day having to drag around a tank and have tubes to force oxygen into and through my nose so I can breath. I'd been told things like: Avoid oxygen as long as you can. Resist it. Don't do it till the doctor threatens death.

But these brothers gave me hope.  Oxygen, they told me, rather than a death sentence oxygen meant new life. Oxygen was a beginning, not an end— metaphorically, a manger not a cross. Travel was possible, eating obviously was, as well as good humor, garrulousness, and a spritely step.

The way these monks spoke of their disability and their oxygen would've sounded counter-intuitive, or at least nuts, if it weren't so authentic— joyful not doleful. They weren't playing a pious role.

The click-clicking of the oxygen machines in the silence of chapel prayer suddenly sounded to me like applause. 

I've prayed for years to the tune of a hymn,  Breathe On Me Breath Of God. I use my own text and prayed in hope, with fear in my heart. Now I can pray it in hope, with hope in my heart.

Breathe in me, breath of God,
healing my lungs disease,
so that I may in purist love
breathe in and breathe out with thee.

Breathe in me, breath of God,
for when my life is done
and my sweet lungs lose all their power,
my last breath and yours are one.