By Jill Mraz
I have a couple of adoration hours a week. After years of this I am still mystified, every time I enter the chapel, to encounter the heavy, perfumed air which resides there. Rarefied is the word. As I kneel in my usual pew and commence my hour with a deep sigh, it wafts over and around me, more alive and fragrant than one would think capable after months spent amid many adorers behind closed windows. I sense the familiar hopes and fears, tears, gratitude and praise which have been purged and prayed into it by all the souls who stop in here. Like that even smaller room, the confessional, it has become a place for new beginnings.
“The Lord God blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” We know everything stems from God. In this initial act His breath became ours. A newborn child naturally draws in its first deep breath. It does not know whether it is good or not, it simply breathes in, and then, frightened, breathes out a loud, ragged cry for what it knows not. In it’s first act of breathing air the child has no choice – it must innately trust in the good. And, thanks be to God, it is good. Still frightened, the child breathes again and trust gradually takes root in this pure, unblemished heart.
As we grow up our free will can lead to darkness which deceives, tempts and frightens us, and, often, it is only after many years of Godless experiences and searching, for what we know not, that we come to see clearly our own frail humanity, our need for innocence and love, for each other and for our Creator. Whether we choose to open our hearts to God or remain closed is up to us. I myself have made the long and arduous journey to the decision point of open or closed. Sure, I breathed and had some laughs along the way, but my heart wasn’t open to God, and so the breaths were pretty shallow and the laughter echoes now as hollow and lonely. How Jesus must have pined after me as I ran wildly partying away, afraid of what I knew not, my heart constricted, pounding tightly in my chest. How badly I needed a deep and abiding friend.
Enter, God. To choose Christ, to be truly with and for Him means that our lives must change, beginning with trust. In this, like the newborn, we need lots of love. I know I needed (and received) a flood of consolations as I went through my big conversion. How well Jesus knows my weaknesses. I found offerings of consolation abound in Holy Scripture, through the suffering witness of the saints, and in our own lives if we look carefully at them. How is it, really, that we have made it safely thus far? If we truly desire to be open to God’s will and, ultimately, to imitate Him, our likeness to Christ is achieved only in our closeness to Christ. Do not be afraid. It is natural to fear this closeness, for although He is all Love, God is also uncompromising, unchanging, pretty much all or nothing. Still, we needn’t worry about doing this perfectly. It’s not a one shot deal anyways. This is a friendship that will be ongoing for all time. Even when we think we have completely opened our hearts to God, we will need to work to keep them open as the world strives to pull them shut. To strive to align our will with God’s can be as complicated as we tend to make it. I have found the smallest and simplest place for me to turn, and continue turning, to God is one breath at a time. This is also a good starting place for prayer.
Back to the chapel. Adoration. What a fitting word for our holy hour with God. The word adoration comes from the Latin ad oratio, which means “to the mouth.” The breath of life. A deeply intimate exchange of His mercy and our trust in His mercy. And this is really the main thing – as we sit in the adoration chapel before the Blessed Sacrament and quietly open our hearts to God, we can rest in the sure knowledge that we are not alone in this, for even the desire to open our hearts is placed there by God, a sure sign that He is present, bidding us to come closer. Like a mother to a toddler just learning to walk, arms outstretched, encouraging, yearning. Likewise, Jesus waits patiently outside the door of your heart. He is a gentleman but He is far from shy. Open it just a crack and He will move right on in. The transformation often happens imperceptibly but if we remain alert we will hear his voice in our hearts and through others. For me, I know the Holy Spirit is at work when a hymn seems to come out of nowhere and I gradually become aware of it’s presence, clear as a far off, resounding bell. “O breathe on me, O breath of life” visited me often in the couple of days I spent writing this piece.
One final, simple prayer gets to the heart of it for me and has become my very breath. As I end my adoration hour on my knees, I always whisper this simple prayer as I breathe in and out “Abide in me Lord, and I in you”. In with the good, out with the good. How grateful I am to share this little story with you.
About the Author:
Jill Mraz is a Catholic mother to one wonderful daughter. Residing in Minnesota they enjoy summer road trips to either coast, marveling at the stunning beauty of God’s natural world. Jill writes poems and essays which reflect upon motherhood and her beloved Catholic faith. She is a contributor for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization.