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Contemplative Prayer and Breath

By Fr. James Farfaglia
December 3rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Everyone can be a contemplative. Everyone should ask for this gift. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that "Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more".

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Contemplative prayer is an immense gift from the Holy Spirit.  We do not have to be a Saint Theresa of Avila or a Saint John of the Cross to receive this awesome gift.

Everyone can be a contemplative.

Moreover, everyone should ask for this gift. 

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be open to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11: 15).

What is contemplative prayer? 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that "Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.  But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God.  Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2712).

My dear friends, with Pope Benedict XVI we have begun a journey through the Year of Faith. 
As the Year of Faith began, I initiated a presentation for Catholic Online on contemplative prayer.

We have seen how centering prayer and lectio divina are two preferred methods of prayer that dispose our soul to receive the gift of contemplative prayer. 

We have also considered the importance of openness to God, silence, stillness and solitude.  Let us now continue our discussion by considering the importance of breath. 

Prayer and meditation in Non-Christian eastern religions place a lot of importance on breath.  We should not be reluctant in learning methods from other religious trations if they can help us receive more fully the gift of contemplative prayer as Christians.

We must also remember that the importance of breath is not something only emphasized by Non-Christian eastern religions. It is a part of the Christian tradition, both in eastern and western Christianity. God gave us breath and breathes His breath into us! 

Let us take a look at the importance of breath in the Bible.

"Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being" (Genesis 2: 7).

"After saying this he breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained'" (John 20: 22-23).

"When Pentecost day came around, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting." (Acts 2: 1).

"The Lord Yahweh says this to these bones:  I am now going to make the breath enter you, and you will live.  I shall put sinews on you, I shall make flesh grow on you, I shall cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live; you will learn that I am Yahweh" (Ezekiel 37: 5-6). 

"And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze.  And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave" (1 Kings 19: 12-13).

My dear friends, we live in an extremely hyperactive world.  Moreover, many people live extremely isolated lives glued to some sort of screen.  Our senses of sight and hearing are bombarded by a very noisy technological world.

Focusing on our breath will quiet our mind, our heart and our senses. 

Focusing on our breath when we pray will help bring calmness and silence to our minds and hearts.

Attention to our breath will allow us to slow down and be in touch with the rhythms and cycles of our own body. 

Contemplative prayer is an immense gift of the Holy Spirit.  Contemplative prayer is God praying within us.  During this Year of Faith, I invite you to ask for this gift.

Be still, be silent, breathe and let God love you. 

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Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics.  You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org. 

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