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Ruach: The Breath of God

Ruach: The Breath of God

By Rich Berube
CSS Associate Chaplain

Several times every week, I manage to go for a walk through a park near my home. During the present season especially, it is during these contemplative moments that my being stills as I take in all that surrounds me: the delight of bird songs, the gentle rustle of leaves, the breeze that sooths, the enchantment of colours, and the aromas that abound -- all of these helping to ground me for a short interval, carrying me away from those many cares, preoccupations and obsessions that I am so often engrossed in.   

I see these experiences of connectedness as invitations from the Spirit of God. This calling can be discerned in a similar and compelling way when, in celebrating the Eucharist, we publicly profess the Nicene Creed. We are drawn again into that inner, authentic world of wholeness and unity, offering us a close encounter with our soul’s full potential, although only fleetingly and as in “a dim reflection in a mirror” (Corinthians: 13).

In this creed, we proclaim our belief in God the Father, Creator of all things visible and invisible. We affirm our belief in Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God who shares in our history and humanity; and we acknowledge the Holy Spirit, the mediator who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

It would likely be odd and inappropriate to rate the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity in terms of their relevance in our lives; to contemplate one, of course, is to attend to all three.  In the shorter Christian creed used (the Apostle’s Creed), the Holy Spirit only gets one simple line of acknowledgement when we say: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”  Yet for me, it might be the “Third Person,” the Breath of God, who perhaps most constantly knocks at my door, taps me on the shoulder and naggingly tries to avert me away from my obsessions.  I know the Spirit as the “voice within,” the gentle breeze, the soft whisper, the counsel of the prophets that draw our attention to the veiled dimensions and inner meanings in our day-to-day. It is the Spirit of God who patiently, but persistently, inspires us toward goodness and greater fulfillment; it is He who quietly resides within us, always.

It is not surprising, really, that our faith profession of ultimate meaning and purpose quickly dissolves into the hubbub and the shadows! Our dominant culture fixes such a compelling and frantic pace for us, bombarding us with so many optional quests as we look to satisfy our sense of personal and social well-being. Naturally, it becomes a challenge for us to surrender with an authentic “amen” to the dogma contained in the Nicene Creed, this commonly used Christian profession of faith.  While this doctrinal declaration helps refocus us on our spiritual path, the journey itself remains convoluted, frustrated and often elusive as we move through a heavy haze of mystery which never fully dissipates. Still, in our moments of confusion and perplexity, its tenets continue always to stand as an unswerving beacon summoning us, helping us to transcend our brokenness, our worldly attachments/aversions and our distractions towards a deeper, a less constricted, release -- an inner transformation that is always a work in progress, but remains steadily enticing.

While some other doctrines of the Church can leave us wondering and grasping for meaning at times, it might be through this faith proclamation, this great “release” that a new world of possibility opens up.  My sense is that it is the Spirit of God is inviting us to become attentive to our inner being -- to be vigilant, to stay the course, to stop, to reconsider, to turn around. It is the Spirit, the giver of life who, just as He speaks through the prophets, speaks to us directly every day.

The word “inspire” (in-spirare in Latin) means “to breathe into.” It is the Holy Spirit that inspires and arouses us during our frequent deviations from the path when we need awakening. As it is with the Word, so is it also with the Spirit who through the starlight and the poetry, the breeze and the music, the colours and fragrances, open us up to a union with all that is the Breath of God.  

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