The words ‘spirit’, ‘spiritual’, ‘spirituality’ come from the Latin ‘spirare’: to breathe.  “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” 
            We breathe in, drawing in oxygen, which gives us life; without it we would quickly die; it is our first food.
            But we cannot breathe in forever: we must breathe out too; we must give away everything that has been given to us. 
            There we have an image of the spiritual life: breathing in and breathing out.  Everything you receive is a gift, free as the air.  Everything you have you have to give away, a gift; it is yours only for a little while. 
            Breathe in: go into your deepest centre; find God there.  Breathe out: “go out to the whole world,” find God there and bring God there.
            Breathing is the first thing and the last thing that we do in our life.  It is the bearer of great wisdom.  It reveals something of God’s Holy Spirit. 


Some books (and lectures, and articles) are full of answers, like bad poetry.  Full of answers to questions that have not been asked.  No opening of the spirit, no sense of wonder. 
            A question is an opening.  Your senses are continually questioning the world around you: that's how you are able to walk without crashing into things, how you recognise your name and the words of your own language; it is how you are able to tell a friendly handshake from a cold one, how you know when food is fresh….
            Your mind too is made to ask questions, to be a living mind and not a dead one.  It is right to ask questions. 
            When Jesus was about to take leave of the disciples, you might expect that he would check that they had all the answers to all the questions they would be asked.  They never had so many questions as they had then.  But he gave them no ready answers.  He left them with many questions - to ensure that their minds would remain alive.  But he promised them something more important than answers; he promised that he would send his Spirit. 


A human mind is like an island.  It is not possible for the truth to come ashore at every point.  In many places there are high cliffs, in other places dangerous rocks and gullies, or ferocious animals….
            The truth cannot come home at these points; it has to sail around the island - perhaps many hundreds of times and over very many years  -  before it finds a place to come ashore.
            This is why Jesus was not able to say everything he wanted to say.  “It would be too much for you now” (John 16:12).  And that is why the Spirit of Truth has to stay with us, sailing around us, year after year, seeking a place to come ashore. 

Donagh O'Shea


These are brief articles, one per month,
on a wide variety of topics concerning the living of the Christian life.