CHAPTER FIVE HOLY BREATH
In a moment we had risen into the air and were speeding over the river. By now the sun was high, but it was veiled in clouds so that the cool breeze and the misty sunbeams filled us with zest. For a while we followed the direction of the river, skirting peaceful fields fringed with hedges and low drooping trees. From the gladness of her heart Janet began to sing:
“My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”
The angel and I immediately joined in and as we ended our song, we alighted beside a wood and paused to breathe deeply.
“Breathing in Heaven’s realm is almost like eating on earth,” I said. “It seems to feed one. Have you noticed it, angel?”
“Not only noticed it, but used it,” he replied. “Have you forgotten the Garden of Breath?” “Of course, that was a very high degree of power,” continued the angel. “However, men can recharge themselves with strength or hope or love for God – or almost anything they need-by the conscious act of breathing.”
“Can they? “Janet asked, marvelling. “How is it, then, that men do not know?”
“They do know,” our angel smiled. He began to walk slowly into the cool depths of the wood and we followed him, Janet moving to one side of him and I to the other. “Have you never heard the saying on earth when at some ordeal a man has shown fear? ‘Square your shoulders, take a deep breath and bear it like a man’ Does that not prove that men know what breath is
“What is it, then?” I asked.
“In that case, courage.”
“Do they know how to be re-charged in other needful things?” Janet put in.”
“Oh yes. Strength, for instance, and resistance to changing temperatures. Watch a man on earth (in your mind’s eye) about to lift some great weight. You will see that he first draws a slow deep breath. He has charged himself with strength. Think of those you knew in the world. The quick shallow breathers were the ones who were physically weak, the slow, deep breathers were the strong. Now, again, with your mental eye, visualise a man about to plunge into an icy pond. He first stands on the edge and fills his lungs with a mighty breath. Remember always that breath is holy.”
We had penetrated deeply into the wood, now. The trees stood like pillars on every hand, their branches interlaced, forming a queer roof, The light was dim as twilight, though in the open we knew that the sun was high. The ground was carpeted with leaves, old and crisp and brown. Our surroundings, too, seemed to speak of holy things. “Tell us more,” I murmured. “Yes, tell us why breath is holy,” added Janet.
“Well, first we must see it as a gift of God,” said our teacher.
As the Holy Book proclaims, ‘He giveth to all, life, and breath, and all things.’ However, it is very much more than that. The act of giving is a holy, intimate act, binding us closely to our Maker. ‘God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.’ So you see that breath is the link by which the Life of the Creator enters into man. The holy man job said: ‘The Spirit of God made me and the breath of the Almighty gave me life.’ Again, he said, ‘If He draw His Spirit and Breath unto Himself, all flesh shall perish together.’ By this, you see that man exists by the power of the Holy Breath, that if the Creator withdrew His Breath to Himself, all would eternally cease to be. If the Almighty breathed in, ceasing to give forth His Spirit and Breath, man would be no more. Man, by breathing in, draws of the Life of his Maker, and lives. The whole of life is, you understand, a great, pulsating Rhythm of Breath.”
He paused, and we walked on in silence for a while. Janet and I meditated on his words, coming to understand a little more of their deep meaning. Presently, our teacher continued: “This Holy Breath is more than a gift. It is more than a link which binds in the act of giving. It is a power. This power, eternally going forth from God, creates and re-creates. Thus: ‘Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at Thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils.’ Again, when Ezekiel brought the dead to life, God said to him, ‘Prophesy, O son of man, and say to the Spirit: Thus saith the Lord God, Come O Breath, from the four winds and breathe upon these slain and they shall live.’ Remember, too, that the Lord breathed on His disciples, saying, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost.'”
“Do you mean that Holy Breath and Holy Spirit are One?” I asked, suddenly understanding the trend of the angel’s teaching.
“I mean that Holy Breath is the vehicle of the Spirit,” he said solemnly. “Men think of breath as a physical act only, but it is more than this. Within the air men breathe there is a more subtle air, and the souls of men live upon it as the bodies of men live upon earth’s air. With the act of physical breathing, the harmony between the physical and the spiritual is restored and maintained, so that at last the in-breathing and out-breathing of both body and soul flow in the rhythm of nature, in the rhythm of the universe itself. Then indeed is man filled with the spirit of God. Can you see now, why you feel that Heaven’s breath feeds you?”
“Yes,” we both answered, and once more we fell into a thoughtful silence.