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What is spirit? In the Scriptures, the word “spirit” also can be translated from both Hebrew and Greek as breath or wind. When I see the wind moving the leaves in the trees, I think of God’s unseen presence in the world. American theologian Georgia Harkness describes the Holy Spirit as God’s presence, guidance, and strength in our lives. A much earlier writer, Cyril of Alexandria, tells us that “All of us who have received the one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense merged together with one another and with God….the one and undivided Spirit of God, who dwells in us all, leads us all into spiritual unity.” And Galatians 5:22-23 spells out that “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
So it seems to me that the Spirit is what enables us to become one with God and with each other. Through the mystery of the Holy Spirit, we can feel God’s transcendent, comforting, empowering presence around us even in the midst of this world’s pain and sorrow. The Spirit shines God’s light on our path to help us find our way. Together, we become the body of Christ in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can be part of God’s eternal kingdom NOW, since God exists outside of time. What a glorious, life-giving, life-changing gift!
Coming back to the idea of spirit as breath, I love the imagery of the hymn, “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” (text by Edwin Hatch). What better prayer could there be?
Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love, And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will, To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life Of Thine eternity.