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Breath of God

By shaunefc, May 13 2013 04:56PM

This year, two events which took place and greatly affected the formation of the early Christian Church are remembered this month. On Thursday 10th we remember the ascension of our Lord into Heaven as recorded in Luke 24:50-51, and in Acts 1:9-11. And then ten days later on Sunday 19th we recall the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, the details of which can be found in Acts 1:4-8 (where the Holy Spirit is promised) and Acts 2:1-4 (where we read about the fulfilment of that promise).


On the evening of Resurrection day, Jesus appeared to His disciples in the upper room and having given them His peace and commissioned them, we read in John 20:22 “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.”


This idea of breath has always had a major place in Christian theology: way back at the time of creation, we read about God breathing life into mankind: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).


Furthermore, idea of breath has also been linked within Christian thinking concerning the Holy Spirit. Incidentally, the Greek word for both “Spirit” and “breath” is “pneuma”: and to a physicist, “pneumatology” means the science of air and gases, whereas to a theologian it means the doctrine and study of the Holy Spirit!


And it is thought of the Holy Spirit being the breath of God which is breathed on and into His human creation that Edwin Hatch (1835-89) expands in his simple, devotional hymn which first appeared in 1878 in the pamphlet “Doubt and Prayer”.


Despite Edwin’s academic excellence (he was Professor of Classics, Trinity College, Toronto, 1859-67; then Vice-Principal, St Mary’s Hall, Oxford; later becoming University Reader in Ecclesiastical History, 1885-89) it was said that his faith was as simple and unaffected as a child’s!


Edwin Hatch’s hymn can be used as a personal prayer on a regular basis, and not only at Pentecost!


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, blend all my soul with 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.

(GJS)


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