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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

God Is - I am

But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, "The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, "What is God’s name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am."
                                    -Exodus 3:13-14
“…the word “God” is too huge to allow any other word to breathe beside it.  Furthermore, it is unnecessary; God is omnipresent , and life itself is the primal sacrament, namely the visible sign of invisible grace.  
                                    - John  O’Donohue,  from To Bless the Space Between Us

In the Hebrew Scriptures the name of God is comprised of four letters: YOD, HAY, VAV, and HAY with no vowel markings.  Even though we may pronounce them as “Yahweh,” Rabbinic tradition would substitute “Adonai” or “Lord” claiming the name is too holy to say.
Once in a retreat setting a Rabbi shared with our group that in truth the letters are unutterable not because of the holiness they evoke, but because they are all consonants. You cannot pronounce a string of consonance without vowels.   The Rabbi said if we tried it would sound something like a hissing sound, which he then demonstrated.  The four-letters when “said” together are actually the sound of breathing. The holy Name, the Name of the Creator, is the sound of our own breath.
These letters are also the root letters of the Hebrew verb “to be”, giving us the possible translation of God’s Name given to Moses at the burning bush as  “I am who I am,” or more accurately “I will be who I will be.”
With all of this in mind I suggest combining these imaginative linguistic observations into a simple mantra for meditating and contemplating our identity as being created in God’s image.   It’s as simple as breathing in an out while thinking: “God Is – I am.”
Inhale – God Is.
Exhale – I Am.
And so the act of breathing becomes not only the Name of God but also our name as created in God’s image.
The practical beauty of this meditation is that it can be done anywhere – in quiet, still solitude as well as within noisy, active congestion of daily life.  Wherever we are or whatever is going on, if we are alive, our own breath reminds us:  God Is – I am.
Happy Breathing!

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