I loved Holy Communion. I even studied to be a priest so that I could draw nearer the mystery of the Eucharist, the two-fold offering of divine grace and human response.
The Eucharist is the central Christian rite. Christ bestows his Holy Spirit as a gift of grace. He sends his Shakti down upon this human work of bread, this ferment of wine, and transforms them into his flesh and blood. How should we respond? By offering worship. And offering ourselves back to the giver in his service.
I used to think I needed a church, an altar, a golden grail, an unleavened host, a priestly ordination.
Then I discovered that my flesh already is the Bread of Life. My blood is the Wine of Eden's vineyard. There is no Sin that I have fallen in. And every man, woman, or child was ordained to the priesthood of wonder the moment they were merely born on earth, where pain and beauty meet at the center of eight billion crosses.
The church is my body, the alter my breastbone, the two-fold offering my inhalation and exhalation, the rising and falling of my chest. This very breath is the Holy Spirit, poured into the grail of my heart. I do not take a breath. It is given.
What may I offer in return? My exhalation. In effortless surrender, I become hollow, an empty cup again. Simply to breathe out is to follow the example of Christ's kinosis, his self-emptying (Philippians 2:7). Here is the Good News: when you are completely empty, God fills you.
The sacrament of breathing embodies, in most intimate microcosm, the essence of all rites: the Vedic yagya, the Dharma wheel of sacrifice and sustenance, the mutual exchange of Yin and Yang, the cosmic mystery of Fall and redemption, descent and return.
A perfect prayer descends into my chest without a word spoken. I simply witness in wonder and gratitude. All day long, breath pours down and is offered up, what incense!, an ebbing flowing tide of divine nearness, drawing the heart into the silence of the Godhead.
Give us this day our daily breath. Let the sacrament continue through the darkest hours. "I sleep, but my heart is awake" (Song of Solomon, 5:2).
To breathe is to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Moment by moment, breathe the Spirit into flesh. Let it burst into flame on the altar of your heart, becoming earth, ashes, dust. And moment by moment, breathe out the offering of your body in return, a propitious sacrifice.
Jesus said, "Watch and pray" (Mat 26:41). To pray is to breathe. Watch and pray this breath. You will become the Presence of God.
Painting: Dante Rossetti's Grail Maiden