I arise today...
Through the swiftness of wind...
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
Like lightning, wind offers us another image for speed, and with it, another nuance to explore in our understanding of Creator God.
Swiftness implies something more graceful, like the swiftness of a speed skater on the ice or a deer swiftly darting through the forest glade. While the speed of lightning is sharp, focused, directed and intense, wind tends to flow more smoothly. Even strong sustained winds like that of a hurricane more closely resemble the ebb and flow of ocean waves than a lightning strike or a Formula 1 race car.
Wind functions much differently than lightning. Take the sail of a ship for example. Wind fills the sail and guides the ship, if we point the sail in the right direction. A lightning strike on that same sail would set the entire ship ablaze.
Wind is fluid. Wind blows where it wills. We can harness the energy of the wind, but we cannot create it, control it, or contain it. Perhaps this is why we see the image of wind along with tongues of fire at Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit blows through the upper room and fills the disciples with divine strength, boldness, and understanding.
Wind involves the rapid movement of air from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure, much like the compressed air inside a balloon being released into wide open atmosphere. This image in itself is rich with spiritual implications. How, for example, can we expect the “wind” or “breath” of God’s Spirit to flow into us if we live in a constant state of “high pressure”, always forcing air out rather than being empty enough to receive it?
The beautifully poetic word for wind in Hebrew, “Ruach,” also means spirit and breath. As we arise through the swiftness of wind, the Spirit of the Lord breathes life into our physical bodies and animates our spirits. “In Him we live and move an have our being” (Acts 17:28). While Luke refers explicitly to Christ, we experience the life of Christ through the movement of the Holy Spirit, much like we experience the existence of invisible pressure systems through the movement of the wind.
Sermons upon sermons could be and have been written about the metaphor of wind as it relates to God and to our spiritual lives. I offer only a glimpse of the many ways we might meditate upon this image. May the wind of God’s Spirit fill the sails of our Holy Imagination and lead us where God wills, to whatever dead and dying places within us need to be awakened by divine CPR, as it were.
One final thought on the spiritual significance of wind as I close. Wind often serves as an indicator of greater realities. The strength and direction of the wind helps us determine the location, speed, and direction of approaching storms. When the wind is too intense, we must “hunker down” and weather the storm. When the wind is too still, we might call it “the calm before the storm” or perhaps even find ourselves “in the eye of the storm”.
When the wind blows as a warm and gentle spring breeze, we feel relaxed and at peace.
If wind and breath and spirit are so intimately related, perhaps our own breath can serve as a barometer of our spiritual condition. We don’t pay much attention to our breathing unless we have overexerted ourselves or find ourselves struggling to breathe in some way. Mostly breath, like wind, just happens without our notice.
Take time to notice the Spirit-wind of your own breath. Is it swift and graceful, like that skater gliding with ease across the ice, or does it feel sharp, heavy, shallow, or difficult? Take a deep breath. What do you feel? Does this sensation seem unfamiliar or natural? How does it feel as you exhale? What feelings are you exhaling with this deep breath?
1. How do you experience the swiftness of wind in your own life right now?
2. Which image or description of wind most resonates with your Holy Imagination right now? What might God be speaking to you through this image?
3. How would you describe your own breathing in this moment? What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you through your own breath?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
... I arise today,
Through the depth of sea…