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Making the ordinary sacred: Mary and the blessing of the breath

As we reflect on Mary who was blessed in the midst of her ordinary life, I find myself pondering some questions , and invite you to join me:

  • What changed for Mary, as she heard this affirmation of her blessing? No doubt she continued with her daily routine. She heard the voice of God through an angel and through her cousin, and yet she would still wake up in the same bed, still need to prepare her food. Still need to go to the toilet! Still need to get through all her usual tasks, perhaps with the unglamorous addition of morning sickness and swollen ankles as time went on.

  • How do I find the blessing in my ordinary life, from the quiet self-care of brushing my teeth to the heating up of soup for a quick lunch, to the answering of emails, and the sorting out of the recycling? What does it mean for me to be blessed, and to be a blessing, when things are difficult?

One way of approaching big questions like these is to simply hold them. Not every answer comes easily, but if we live with the questions for a while we might find a way through together. Below is a simple practice you might like to try as you hold these questions in your heart in the coming days.

A practice to try

Have you ever used a breath prayer?

In case you haven’t come across the term before, a breath prayer is simply a short phrase split into two parts which becomes your prayer. As you inhale, you ‘breathe in’ the words of the first part of your phrase silently, and as you exhale you breathe out the words of the second part of your phrase silently.

A breath prayer I often use is: “ [inhale] I am always…[exhale] in your presence”. You may repeat the breath prayer several times as you continue to breathe, perhaps taking slightly deeper and more intentional breaths than you would typically do.

Today I invite you to try a breath prayer as you move from task to task in your ordinary, everyday life. Whether it’s as you are brushing your teeth, getting dressed, having a difficult conversation, as you go through your day try to take a few moments with a breath prayer. The beauty of this practice is that it happens internally – you really can do it as you go! You might sometimes like to intentionally pause, and perhaps sit down and close your eyes if that’s possible, but it’s not necessary.

You could use the breath prayer in the example, or you might like to try this one:

“[inhale] Emmanuel…[exhale] God with us”

Sometimes I personalise this breath prayer so it becomes:

“[inhale] Emmanuel…[exhale] God with me”

You could also personalise the breath prayer for another person you are thinking of, by adding their name:

“[inhale] Emmanuel…[exhale] God with _________”

At the end of your day, you may like to pause for a moment to reflect how it felt to include this small practice as part of your day. What is the blessing you have experienced through pausing in your everyday life today?

May every breath be a deep affirmation that you are loved and known, and God’s blessing is yours no matter what the day brings forth.

Vicky Allen

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