Zechariah

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. – Luke 1:21-23

I was struck dumb in the middle of the liturgy this morning. I rose to pronounce peace to God’s people. “In the tender mercy of our God, the dayspring from on high shall break upon us, to give light to those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” I managed this far… I could feel pressure building in my chest; I knew that the cough that was coming would be unproductive, would do nothing but make the people wonder “is she contagious? should I take communion”. But it was not just that cough. It was one, and another, and another, and I could not catch breath enough between them. I managed to gesture to the lay-reader, who stepped in and said what I could not “The peace of the Lord be always with you”. And God’s people greeted one another with words and gestures of peace, while their priest prayed silently for Ruach – for air in motion; for breath.

And I was fortunate in the scheduling this morning. I was scheduled as the celebrant, and the Incumbent was on hand- he had planned to sing the O Antiphons; and distribute bread at the chapel altar. Instead, he found a lapel mic thrust into his hands, while I excused myself to go to my home; my time of service was ended.

It was a troubling (and not a little embarrassing) suggestion that perhaps it is time to re-evaluate my relationship with my body, and its spirit. I have asthma. I am an asthmatic. Asthma has me- for as long as this latest round of cough and cold has paved the way for normally inconsequential triggers to shut down my entire respiratory system. And my triggers include short quick breaths of cold air (such as those drawn in a comma while speaking long prayers in public). Once I could return to controlled, slow, and intentional breathing I was fine.

My body, it seems, is calling me to an advent Zechariah discipline. Every speech event demands a departure from the deliberate Ujjayi breathing that is all that remains of my yoga discipline, and indeed masters the chest area.

I am forced now to consider each utterance. Is this worth saying? If the breath that carries these words is the last un-laboured one my body will allow for the next several minutes, will it have been well spent?

I expect a fairly quiet few days ahead of me.

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