The Breath of Life
Throughout scripture the concept of breath represents life. Genesis 2:7
It is evident that we need to breathe to live and that without our respiratory system, we would die. But why is this? Can we know why other than to say that this is how our Creator designed us to be? Perhaps an understanding of our own respiratory system can help us to better understand our Creator? I think so.
What do we find in our nose? A kind of filter that keeps out of our lungs harmful particles and spores that would otherwise pollute them. This can be a symbol of how we should filter our minds of impure thoughts so as to keep our souls clean. It can also be a symbol of how important God's grace is in our souls -- it is to our souls as oxygen is to our bodies. Without oxygen, we die. So to do our souls "die" if we cut them off from God's grace. But, just as our souls can be restored to life through the welcoming of grace into them, so to can our bodies be fortified, even when they have respiratory afflictions. For example, oxygen therapy is one way to treat patients who suffer from emphysema, heart disorders, pneumonia, and other diseases that restrict the person's ability to breathe (Cooke, Lauer, 1968).
More interesting still is the part that plants play in producing the oxygen we need to breathe. Thanks to photosynthesis, our bodies are not suffocated by harmful carbon dioxides (Fenical, 1983). Breathe is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as shown by Jesus in the Book of John: "He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22, NIV). Breathe, life, grace and spirituality are intimately connected.
I believe this scripture could be read both literally and metaphorically, and that it uses incredible imagery to show the incredible act of creation that was making man out of dust. Just as all of nature takes part in producing the air we breathe, so to is the mystery of God's grace to be found in all of creation.
Cook, G., Lauer, C. (1968). "Oxygen." The Encyclopedia of the Chemical Elements.
NY: Reinhold Book Corp.
Fenical, W. (1983). "Marine Plants: A Unique an Unexplored Resource." Plants.
Darby, PA: DIANE Publishing.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation. (2004). IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Charity -- the Food of Life
Week 4: We see in scripture a constant discussion regarding the cleanliness and un-cleanliness of food. Leviticus 11:4, Romans 14:20
St. Paul is certainly appealing to the pagan Romans in this epistle when he tells them that all animals are clean. As Leviticus shows, the Jews were only permitted to eat the flesh of certain animals. But with New Covenant in Christ, the old covenant is ended and St. Paul provides the new perspective for all Christians to adopt. So there is a clear shift in terms of what was right for the Jews of the Old Testament to what is right for the Christians of the new covenant. Thus, says Christ: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 7:12, NIV). The point that Christ wishes to teach is that cleanliness is a spiritual matter. Leviticus lays the groundwork for this teaching by emphasizing the need for ritualized cleanliness. And Christ becomes the foundation, appointing a new ritualized cleanliness through his disciples: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven" (John 20:23, NIV). The shift in teaching takes place simply because the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ (Frey, 1948).
Therefore, I do not see how there are any foods that we should not eat or that would be sinful for Christians to eat -- unless the eating of them causes scandal, as St. Paul implies in his letter to the Romans. Perhaps St. Paul is suggesting that the Christian converts from paganism should not look down on the Christian converts from Judaism, if the latter continue to abstain from certain foods forbidden them in the Old Testament. St. Paul appears to understand that conversion is a process that is not always achieved overnight. So he cautions prudence: if you Romans are eating with Christians who were once Jews, do not eat those things that might cause the latter to be scandalized. This is simple Christian charity on St. Paul's part.
Hughes (2001) emphasizes that Jesus, especially in this teaching of St. Paul, shows that it is "more important to fulfill the higher commands to bring love and justice by serving' people's...
Thus, even though Leviticus no longer applies in the new covenant, it is charitable to observe it for the time being for the sake of those Christians still attached to the old law. After all, charity is the highest law, according to Jesus Christ.
Frey, R. (1948). Introduction to the New Testament. New York, NY: Ave Maria.
Hughes, R. (2001). Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House
New International Version (NIV). Biblegateway.com.
Jesus -- The Font of Life
Week 5: Throughout our study of the kidneys we see that one of their major functions is to maintain water homeostasis. This is a major function of the kidneys as water is essential to life. Without it we perish. John 4:14
Jesus is speaking of a spiritual thirst -- a thirst for ultimate fulfillment, which can only be had through perfect union with God. Because Jesus is God, he alone can give the "drink" to quench that thirst. All physical thirst pales in comparison. Illustrating this point are the great saints of the desert -- men and women who went into the wild to live, to fast, to pray, to be closer to God. By drawing away from men, they became closer to God -- and little things like food and water became insignificant in the bigger picture of what life is truly all about, the attainment of the perfect union (Sheen, 1954).
Homeostasis refers to internal stability and if we think about it in a spiritual sense, Jesus provides spiritual stability -- as well as the other physical stability that we need (the saints of the desert did not starve to death, after all, but lived many years in the wild). "Seek ye first the kingdom of God…and all these things shall be added unto you," (Matt. 6:33, KJV). So when we go to Christ to have our spiritual needs met, we are promised that all of our physical needs will be met as well. The spirit comes first, all else follows, Christ seems to say. Christ, therefore, is a symbol of living water -- just as God the Father is the same, "the spring of living water" (Jer 2:13; 17:13). The command to drink of Jesus may also be a reference to the sacrament of the Mass, to which Christians are invited to drink the blood of Christ under the species of wine (Frey, 1948).
Frey, R. (1948). Introduction to the New Testament. New York, NY: Ave Maria.
Sheen, F. (1954). Life is Worth Living. NY: McGraw Hill Book Company.
King James Version (KJV). Biblegateway.com.
Eye -- Window to the Soul
Week 6: Consider the following passages on how scripture discusses the acquisition of health. Proverbs 3:7-8
The eyes are windows to the soul, as Shakespeare says. They are also one of the chief ways by which we know our surroundings. In the case of this scripture, the eyes may signify that particular sense by which we want or desire things. This could mean that if our wants and desires are good, then our soul will be in a good state, or a state of health. As the ancient Greeks speculated, there stood a significant relation between physical health and spiritual health.
Alexander the Great, elephantiasis, associated with leprosy, soldiers got in when they marched to India. Has to do with soil. A case of Alexander overreaching. He also died during this expedition. Had his desires been humbler, had he not seen, or envisioned himself as lord of India, he may not have died, his soldiers may have remained healthy, and the story would be different. I believe this is how this scripture applies.
Smith (2007), for example, cites the story of Teresa of Avila, a nun and mystic of the sixteenth century. Known for "her spiritual purity," she endeavored to clear spiritual obstructions between God and man. It is also worth noting in full the ancient methods of treatment: "Asclepiades advocated the use of music and invented a swinging bed designed to relax the agitated patient….Cicero…believed that man could help with his own cure through philosophy….Therapuetuic interventions by the Romans tended to be humane and emphasis was placed on warm baths, massage, and diet" (Kyziridis, 2005, p. 43-4).
Kyziridis goes to great lengths to show how every civilization has seen some connection between health of spirit and health of body and mind. The study is very informative. It also makes sense of the passages in Proverbs and Luke. Luke was, after all, said to be a physician. "Plummer…
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