Embodiment, Part 3

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Embodiment, Part 3

 God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing, Embody me.

Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final. Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke[1]

When I began this reflection on embodiment two weeks ago, I noted that the Hebrew word rauch is translated as Spirit in the creation story of Genesis. The same word also means air, breath, and wind. This allegorical story provides a vivid image of God’s spirit (rauch) as the animating force that brings the materials of earth to life. The broad meaning of rauch gives us a clearer understanding of the intimate presence of God’s spirit. It was not just something that entered the earth in the beginning and then retreated to parts unknown. God’s spirit continues to sweep over the face of the earth as air and wind. God’s spirit enters and exits our bodies with every breath we take and envelopes our being with every breeze. That same spirit creates and sustains the life we know. When we take our last breath, that spirit leaves the body, carrying our soul with it. The form we once knew dies, but everything making up that form assumes a new, resurrected form.

The Hebrew people, in the time of Moses, believed God’s name should not be spoken. The name of God, as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, is YHWH, or what we pronounce as Yahweh. It means I am. Some believe we breath the name of God with every inhale and exhale. We breath God’s spirit (as air) into our physical body with each inhale – Yah – and we return God’s spirit into the world around us with each exhale – weh. Consciously breathing the name of God is a practice known as the Yahweh Prayer. It is the first and last Word we utter in the earthly chapter of our lives. It is quite literally the spirit of God, through our breath, that keeps our earthly form alive.

Richard Rohr, in his Daily Meditation for October 3, 2019, wrote, “We are only afraid of death as long as we do not know who we are, but once we know ourselves objectively to be a child of God, we are already home and our inheritance is given to us ahead of time.”[2] As the significance of the presence of God as our very breath begins to sink in, it becomes apparent that we are quite literally God’s children. The moment God’s rauch is removed from us, our physical existence ceases.

The life force flows from the spirit of God as our soul and animates our earthly embodiment. God enters us, enlivens our physical form, and sees and works through us. Most of the time, most of us are unaware not only of the intimate nearness of God’s presence, but also of the work God does in and through us. We feel closest to God when we become conscious co-creators with God in the world around us. This is how we develop a relationship – by acknowledging God’s presence and finding ways to listen for God’s guidance through practices like Centering Prayer, presence to the moment, and mindfulness meditation. In the process of tuning in to the divine presence with and in us, our fear of physical death dissipates because we learn that the connection with the eternal transcends our physical existence. As Rilke encourages: “Don’t let yourself lose me.” Our body is only the vehicle through which God’s work is done through and with us on earth. Although we do not know how the relationship will look after our physical death, we are assured that the bond of our soul to God’s spirit will continue because we have learned that we are inseparably united.

This is the beauty of embodiment, that our soul wraps itself in the substance of the earth for a time in order to experience the extraordinary beauty, depth, change, and pain of physical existence. And with us for every step of the journey is the spirit of God sweeping over the face of the earth as it continues to create, animate, experience, and lovingly claim us as the children of God. Through Rilke, God says, “Give me your hand.”

This is the 4th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

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[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Riverhead Books. 1996.

[2] Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations. Meditations.cac.org, October 3, 2019

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