Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).
Recall a moment when you held another person so close that you could hear his or her breathing, the sound of life. Maybe it was your husband or wife, a parent, your child or grandchild, a dear friend. Cheek to cheek. You could feel his or her breath brush across your face and he or she felt yours. The two of you shared and breathed the same air. Giving and receiving. Breathing in. Breathing out. There was only one breath, one life, one love.
That was a moment of holy conspiracy. The intimacy of that conspiracy is beautifully shown in this icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Mary cradles Jesus and pulls him close to her. Jesus’ left arm is on Mary’s shoulder. His right arm reaches around her neck pulling her face to his. They are cheek to cheek giving, receiving, and sharing the breath of life. They are coconspirators.
The word “conspire” literally means “breathing with” or “to breathe together.” For most of us, I suspect, conspiracy brings up ideas of wrongdoing, secrets, and planning to do something illegal or harmful to another. That is a reality in our world today but it is not the only or even the final reality. There is another conspiracy about in our world. It is God’s conspiracy, God’s breathing with you and me. It began long ago and has never ceased.
In the beginning God took dust from the ground and breathed humanity into existence. The breath of God parted the Red Sea and blew God’s people through the wilderness to a new life in the promised land. In the valley of dry bones Ezekiel watched the breath of God return life to old, dry, brittle bones. God’s breath came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary so that the child to be born would be holy and called the Son of God. The breath of God gave voice to Jesus’ teaching and preaching of the good news. God’s life-giving breath was present at and the source of Jesus’ miracles. The breath of God swept through Jesus’ tomb, defeating death, and proclaiming, “He is not here.”
The breath of God, God’s Holy Spirit, is not simply a thing or an event. It is the abiding and transforming presence of God’s life with us and in us. Wherever life is being created, renewed, put back together, or inspired the Spirit is present. God is breathing and the conspiracy has been accomplished.
God breathes and we live. God breathes and our lives are put back together. God breathes and we are re-created. We cannot explain it but we know it when we see it. It looks like lives of love and self-giving, mutuality and intimacy, forgiveness and reconciliation, generosity and compassion, healing and wholeness, prayer and holiness.
What does it mean that God has been conspiring with creation from the beginning? It means that there is only one breath, one life, one love. It means that God never gives up on you, me, or any other person. It means that God breathes God’s life through humanity: through the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; through the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints; and, most profoundly, through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. It means that we are to be co-conspirators, co-breathers, with God. It means that God is here with us, among us, and in us, as close as our next breath.
So breathe. Breathe long. Breathe deep. Just breathe. Participate in the conspiracy.
Mike, Just a line from the UK. Our church is currently in inter-regnum (the Rector having resigned) it is a struggle. I have been helping out by leading prayers at Friday evenings service. “God’s Conspiracy Gives Life” came at an opportune time. It provided me with a real boost so I shared it with the group that Friday evening. Fortunately I had taken some extra copies with me. I also forwarded the email to our beleaguered Team Vicar, who has just told me that he broke his rule and also forwarded it. Thank you for this piece and for all the work you put into ‘Interrupting the Silence’ I look forward to reading everything I receive.
Ernie, I am so glad to hear from you and grateful that the post was timely for you all. Perhaps it will offer some “breathing room” for you and your parish. I appreciate you reading and sharing Interrupting the Silence.
Peace be with you,