Food: October 2007 Archives



The following is an article I wrote over 10 years ago - I am publishing it again because I can! You can find it here unless they took down the site since then!

Images of the Spirit
Three images of the Spirit in the Bible are as the creator, the water which nourishes and sustains us, and as light or fire. If you look at the sequence of the Bible, you will see the Spirit moving powerfully at the beginnings of events. In Genesis, the Spirit moves upon the void. In silence, the power of God brings order from chaos, brings substance from the void. We have here the creative power of God. Humanity is priviliged to share most intimately in this creative power when we say YES to the creation of new life. In the silence of the union of sperm and egg, the Spirit moves upon the water once again. We see here the power of God the creator, God the father of us all. The image here is of the power of the Spirit in silence.

In the opening chapters of the Gospel of John, it is revealed to us that "the Word is made flesh, and dwells among us". In the silence, we can listen to the Word that is spoken. The Spirit of our living God is incarnate (literally 'made flesh') in the person of Jesus the Christ, the anointed.

Parents share in the work of grace by welcoming new life into the world. God creates, God makes flesh, and breathes the life into the child, but parents are co-creators. Especially the mother, at this point, is responsible for treating the unborn child with love and respect, through taking care of her body, through good nutrition and avoiding harmful substances, and for rejoicing in the gift. Think about how Mary reacted when told she was to become the mother of our Lord! Surprised, yes, maybe a little fearful, but still she said 'yes'. "Be it done unto me according to your will" (Luke 1:38). This is our human model for accepting the gift of pregnancy and the potential pain that comes with the gift. The pain is not just in childbirth, but in the forknowledge that what hurts your child will also hurt you, that to love is to be open to loss. (Luke 2:35)

Another 'beginning of things' is in Acts 2. Pentecost, 50 days after the Passover sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples before His ascension (John 20:22,23) but the power was not made manifest until then. All of a sudden, those who had been fearfully crouching, hidden away in fear, became courageous (literally 'having heart'). They were literally 'made new' by the power of the Holy Spirit. Imagine the confusion and the chaos of that first Pentecost! The church, the Body of Christ, the People of God, it was our birthday. Like many births, it was noisy, and crowded, and didn't go according to any human plan. There were many strangers there who were struck by the Spirit. Their ears were opened, so that they could hear the Word spoken, each in their own language. The creative power of God was once again manifested.

Throughout the Bible, we have the image of the water of life. Moses draws water from the rock at the command of the Lord. Isaiah speaks of the streams that will burst forth in the desert. John the Baptizer washed penitints clean in the river Jordan, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. Jesus spoke of to the woman at the well of the living water He came to bring. In the silence of the womb, God breathes life into the unborn child, and sets around the child the living water of amniotic fluid. Without this fluid, the child cannot develop normally. The time in the womb, the child is continually bathed in water, created and made fresh through the miracle of the placenta. Our baptism in water calls to mind when Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3), that we must be reborn of the water and the Spirit. When I am at a birth where the fluid splashes me as the baby emerges, I am again reminded of this truth. We, as humans, can live for longer without food than without water. As Christians, we need the grace of the Spirit, the water of new life, to constantly restore and replenish our lives in Christ.

At Pentecost, the Spirit manifested as tongues of flame. The image is of brightness, of light, of fire that burns but does not consume. Like the burning bush from which God chose to speak to Moses, the Spirit enlightens and brings life to light. How much more can we see when we are illuminated by the Spirit? And can we sometimes be blinded by the brilliance? A child is born out of the darkness of the mother's womb into a world that is incredibly bright and noisy.

So the sequence here is from silence and chaos, through the water of renewal, to the noise and brilliance of birth. The Spirit of our living God is in action. The triumph of the Spirit over chaos is repeated each time a woman carries a child to birth.

Breath, the Spirit, and Life
The word 'spirit' comes from the same roots as words we use for breath. We inspire when we take in a breath. When we expire, we breath our last, we die. We literally give up our spirit, our breath. Our breathing in and our is the process called respiration. When we teach breathing techniques for childbirth, we are reminded that breathing is a two-way process. If we only breathe in one direction we lose the trigger to breathe in, we hyperventilate. The treatment for this is to rebreathe in some of the exhaled air. God created us to breath in and out, in a balanced manner. And the miracle is that most of the time we don't need to think about it. Only when pain or stress diverts us do we need to focus on how we breathe, and the key is to restore the natural process that God has given us. (This is why I personally am opposed to the very unnatural Lamaze-type of breathing with the pant-blow, hee-haw, or hyperventilation producing techniques.)

Another concept here is that when God breathes His Spirit into us, we are called upon to breathe it back out to others. A lector or preacher inhales the Word of God and speaks it back out to the people. I have been present in labors where the task taken on by the husband is to simply read scripture to his wife, inspiring her with the courage of the Lord to accomplish the task of giving birth. We who have been gifted with the Spirit are called upon to exhale it back out to the people, through service in ministry. We can't hoard the Spirit. Working with pregnant women, birthing moms, and families, is a very real ministry.

We live in a culture of death. Abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, whether legal or accepted, are very prevalent. The ongoing debate seems to be not so much over the general morality of these actions but over the moral relativism. Not "is it justifiable" but "when is it justifiable". So we have in the blurring of distinctions, those who would argue for the abortion of 'defectives' but not for the infanticide of this same group. Those who argue for euthanasia of the terminally ill, or simply the terminally depressed. Absolute values of life and death are no longer accepted.

Think about this. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, "This is my Body". The same phrase is used time and again in the abortion and euthanasia movements. "It's my body, I decide what to do with it". Jesus was giving Himself up for our salvation. He was accepting the will of the Father. He had asked that the cup pass Him by, but in the end He was obedient, " even unto death on the cross" (Phil 2:8). When Jesus said 'this is my body', he was accepting the decision of the Father, not announcing His rebellion. He handed Himself over to death, for our life. But our God is stronger than death. So what does the service of Christ the King entail, in the midst of our culture of death? Simply, it is that we must forgive. We breathe in the Spirit of God, and breathe out forgiveness. Not acceptance of evil, not toleration of sin, but forgiveness of those who wrong us. We forgive even those who do not ask forgiveness, for are not they in most need? In forgiveness comes healing. We also need to accept that we are forgiven. The gift of salvation includes forgiveness. Our repentance opens up to us the door.

Sometimes, the best preparation for childbirth is to set one's spiritual house in order. A woman who goes into labor carrying around old hurts and angers is not going to do very well. Her relationship with her husband is paramount. If there is disharmony and hurt, it will affect her ability to listen and cooperate with him. If she has no husband, there is a hurt that needs healing and forgiveness, as well. Another thing that can interfere with labor is the woman who has not accepted that she has been forgiven for old sins. Abortion is a classic example, but there are others, both major (like infidelity) and minor (like childhood name-calling).

The scriptures include ritual for the healing of the body and the soul. (James 5:14). Laying on of hands and anointing with oil are mentioned frequently throughout the Old and New Testaments. Of special value is that touch, the laying on of hands, can speak to the soul amidst noise and chaos. Even when there is no silence for the Word to be spoken and heard, the presence of the Spirit can still be conveyed to our human senses through touch. The kiss of peace, between husband and wife, speaks volumes about love and forgiveness.

Doing the Work of Christ
The mission of all Christians is to carry on the work of Christ. Christ is our priest, He is our prophet, he is our king. When we lay our hands on each other and pray, when we call down the Holy Spirit for healing, when we forgive and are forgiven, we are carrying on the priestly ministry of Christ. Our daily sacrifices, large and small, are gifts to the One who has given us all that we are. The Spirit is present in the ordinary parts of our lives, and transforms them. The ordinary becomes a miracle through the power of God. Especially during the times of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, the ordinary becomes sacred. Families are called upon to consecrate themselves to the glory of God the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ our prophet is indeed "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). The people of God, the church, is called upon to proclaim Jesus as Lord to the ends of the earth. We are called upon to evangelize by the testimony of our lives, first to our family and friends, and then to all others with whom we come in contact. We can't just talk it, we have to walk in the ways of the Lord.

One way in which this can be done is to remember the ways the Lord has worked in our lives. Midwives teach by telling stories. So do most childbirth educators. We tell birth stories, we recall what happened, what worked, what went right and what went wrong. How often do we remember to give credit and glory to God in telling these stories? Do we proclaim the mystery of our faith when we tell these stories? We have a responsibility to remember, to not forget, what God has done in our lives.

Christ the King is a paradox by the values of the world. He tells us that to rule is to serve. The last shall be first, and the first last. He showed His kingship when he washed the feet of His disciples. So too we share in His kingship when we serve one another. When we are obedient to the will of the Father, we share in the Kingship of Christ. Our obedience is in listening in the silence of our hearts for the word. It is in our prayers of praise, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession. When we act upon our Christian values, when we serve our clients and their families, if we act in the love and knowledge of God, we are sharing in His kingdom.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The oneness of the trinity is a great mystery of our faith. It is greater than our human intellects can contain. It is only by the gift of faith that I can even begin to comprehend it. The poet Jessica Powers expresses it thusly: The Father seeks submission, Suffering draws the Son, But only by silence, is the Spirit won. Fr. Liam Carey of Portland OR expressed it thusly:

The Father is 'how things stand'. That which is beyond control. We are powerless in the face of the will of God. The Son is 'that which is possible'. The Son frees us from the burden of the inevitable. The Spirit is 'support (a foothold) on every side'. " Sure and present in the midst of danger". so, "How things stand is that all things are possible with support in every side."
Another view regards the Father as Creator in silence (Genesis 1), the Son as the Word of life spoken by the Father (John 1), and the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son as Light illuminating the darkness of our souls. Thus:

"In the Spirit of the Living God, silence lets Life come to Light."
When we were baptized into life with Christ, we were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our God is awesome. To each of us is given gifts to be used to the glorification of God's holy name. These gifts are given us to announce, to bear witness, to complete the mission of Christ. And each of us is given the gifts in different constellations. To serve God, I must be the person He created me to be, and I must be that person to the fullest. This means that I am called to integrate the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual parts of my self, and to dedicate them to the Glory of God.

Copyright © 1997 Alicia Huntley, CNM
All Rights Reserved

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Food category from October 2007.

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