Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Breath


In temperatures below the freezing-point of water, I walked to work today through vapour clouds of my own breath. A reminder of the biblical life-breath, often translated ‘soul’. My soul, made visible.

Materialists deny the concept of a soul, but in Hebrew thought at least, it refers to the essential life-breath, which departs at death, when, clearly, the body remains, but the person is no longer present. The witness of the ancient Hebrew texts is that this animating breath is given us by God. The very act of breathing, of living, is to participate in receiving life, one breath at a time, and offering it back to the Giver, trusting in the giving of another breath; and, in the end, when that breath is withheld and our material being returns to unanimated dust, still trusting the One who has shown themselves trustworthy.

This life is, as the ancient writer Qohelet noted, merest breath (Ecclesiastes chapter 1). Real, but ethereal; fleeting, but dependably given. We do not know when we will breathe our last. Enjoy each breath. Make the most of it. Give it back, in love of God, the Giver; and our neighbour, whose soul also projects from them on such cold mornings as today.

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