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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit

The Spirit Is a Life-Force

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

God’s Spirit in the Bible is identified with the Hebrew word ruach, which can also mean breath. Korean-American theologian Grace Ji-Sun Kim explores the Spirit’s creative power in the Old Testament:

Breath evokes the sense of the intimacy and presence of the Spirit, who is with us always, even when we are unaware of it. Ruach is the breath of life and the power to live (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In the Old Testament, life-sustaining breath comes directly from the Divine—the creative power of Yahweh who bestowed life upon creation (Job 27:3). . . .

In Genesis 2:7, it is after God breathes into Adam that Adam comes alive. The word used in the text to refer to God’s breath is neshama, which is a synonym of ruach. Ruach is used to mean “breath of life,” as in Ezekiel 37, when the dry bones in the valley come to life as a result of God’s ruach.

Creation emerges out of the energies of God’s own Spirit, bridging the gulf between Creator and creature, actor and act, and master and work. Human creativity is intimately bound up in God’s own creativity. Ruach can give life to the lifeless and bring renewed life to those who have no hope. The Spirit of God is at work in creation.

The creativity of God begins in creation itself: the creative act of God that brings all things into existence and coexistence. “This breath is the essence of life” (Job 12:10), and without it is death. And all life is derived from one source, which is God. Thus, life and death are dependent upon the presence of the divine breath, as in Job 34:14: “If [God] should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath.” God’s ruach sustains the being of the universe and energizes its processes. God is constantly present and breathes with the breath of the world.

Kim describes the Holy Spirit as the divine life-source of all creation:

The Spirit of God is recognized at the beginning of the Bible as it plays its role in the creation story. The Holy Spirit as breath is the force that gives life to all life in the cosmos (Genesis 1:2). As it does so, creation becomes understood as an act of God. The Holy Spirit moves the biosphere and gives life to everything in it. . . .

The Old Testament shows the Spirit—not just any spirit, but a life-giving Spirit of God—as the divine power that creates, sustains, and renews life (Genesis 1:2). This power of the Spirit is found in the prophetic books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel. For God to bring breath to dry bones shows the power of the Spirit to give life, always. Even in situations of death, sorrow, despair, and hopelessness, the Spirit can move us and create a space of joy to be alive. If it can bring back to life what was dead, what more can the Spirit do for us?!

Grace Ji-Sun Kim, The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the Holy Spirit: Hand-Raisers, Han, and the Holy Ghost (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2018), 17–18, 19, 20.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Arthur Allen, Daily Meditation Spring 2022 Series (detail), 2022, photographs, France. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This year we invited a few photographers to share their vision with us in an artistic exploration for the Daily Meditations. The inspiration questions we asked each artist to create from were: How do you as an artist connect to and engage with (S)spirit and/or tradition(s)? How can we translate deeper truths through a lens? How can we show our inherent connectedness (of humans, nature, other creatures, etc.) through imagery? This week’s images by photographer Arthur Allen appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: My point of departure for this project was a question: Do precious things Glow, or are we casting Light on them? I found no answer (in any philosophical sense) but I did notice in my searches that some images—some “strikes to the eye”—positively wanted me to look at them. They called to me as if I had been ignoring them unfairly, the way I might ignore children’s jokes while I am trying to finish taxes. My goal became to ignore them less. I was surprised by how many of these children can fill a day, how many stories they can tell, and just how dream-like their jokes are. —Arthur Allen

Story from Our Community:

I recently purchased prayer flags. During my morning meditation as I watch the flags being lifted by the breeze, my prayers go out to all creatures. All my sorrows and worries go along, too. God lifts my spirit and heals my soul, and finds different ways to reach us if we are open and willing.
—Joni S.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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