Advent Week 2: Peace
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Nothing is more simple, more elemental, both voluntary and involuntary, bridging mind and body. Inhale. Exhale. In this stretch of my life, when tasks spill down long lists, when needs of people I love are myriad, when my mind must alternate between intense focus and splintered attention, breathing has become a core spiritual practice. Or more precisely, I’m learning to join breath patterns with words or images that lead to reflection and prayer.
Inhale. Exhale. Some passages of scripture spill into such intensity, extend so widely, and alternate so much between idealism and practicality, they resist explication. So it seems with today’s passage – one of the soaring exhortations and affirmations of the New Testament letters. Perhaps you can grasp all those virtues, analyze all those forms of unity, and hold them clearly in your thoughts all at once. I can’t. But I can slow myself down and breathe my way meditatively into scripture. Inhale “Lead a life,” Exhale “of calling.” (And again until it’s time to let go of that thought). Inhale “Live with humility,” Exhale “and gentleness.” (Repeat) Inhale “Bearing with [insert name that springs to mind],” Exhale “bound by peace.” (This one might take more repetition).
Inhale. Exhale. Truth is, sometimes breathing isn’t simple. That wheeze as your friend exhales worries you. That congestion as your loved one inhales needs a remedy. Sometimes we need help to breathe. So, too, in community – we need help to slow down, help to declutter, help to find the centering Spirit that connects us to each other and to God. Today, breathe prayers for yourself and for others. And be assured—others are breathing prayers for you.
Prayer as Today’s Action: Sit or stand comfortably. Pay attention to your balance. Relax your shoulders. Perhaps raise yourself a little straighter. Inhale. Exhale. Feel your connection to the earth. Inhale. Exhale. Give thanks for breath – whether raspy or clear, whether shallow or deep. Inhale. Exhale.
Let your breath become prayer by finding a few words from today’s Ephesians passage. You choose, or let the Spirit choose (if there’s a difference).
Your prayer may be meditative. Inhale “One hope,” Exhale “one faith” (Repeat).
Your prayer may be intercessory. Inhale “For [insert name that comes to mind], Exhale “be above and through and in all” (Repeat).
Your prayer may be petitionary, Inhale “Every effort, loving Spirit,” Exhale, “toward unity” (Repeat).
Breathe. Pray. Inhale. Exhale.
Diane Lipsett is Assistant Professor of Religion at Salem College and Minister of Faith Formation and Education at Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC.