Ember Letter: Pentecost 2012

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Most Lovable J. Jon Bruno,

You have certainly been in my prayers a lot these last few weeks and I am pleased and grateful to learn that the leukemia is now in full remission. I continue to pray for you and for your complete recovery.

I have been thinking a lot about the letters of the Hebrew alphabet recently, which, according to Jewish Mysticism, bring spiritual insight and even physical health to those who meditate upon them. In the spirit of Pentecost, I have been reflecting on the letters that make up the Hebrew word for “spirit,” which can also mean “wind” or “breath”: ruach. The three letters—resh, vav and chet —each have their own mystical meaning, which will frame my ember update.

RESH: Because it is the first letter in the word for “breath,” resh is associated with intentional and meditative breathing and its health benefits. A few months ago, I led a parish retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg CA, where we practiced intentional breathing through gentle movement, qi gong, tai chi, song, and play. We focused on the “Temple of the Body” and explored the connections between the energy of chi and the spirit of ruach.

Resh is also a letter of healing since it is the first letter in the words for “healing,” “healer” and even in the modern Hebrew word for “doctor”: ropheh. Although I have been challenged by the reality of illness in the world and in those closer to me (including you and Rev. Julie Wakelee-Lynch), I have also been encouraged by the presence of healing and restoration, thanks to doctors and the healing power of the Holy Spirit.

VAV: The word vav is most often used as a conjunction in Hebrew and is therefore usually translated as “and.” As a result, the Jewish mystics see vav as a connector, often connecting things that seem separate and even contradictory in order to reveal a higher unity. In early April, I participated in an academic conference at Boston College on Comparative Theology with my friend Rev. Won-Jae Hur. At the conference, we explored the “vav” between disparate faith traditions: similarities, differences and potential bridges. I presented a paper on a common thread that I noticed in Rabbinic Judaism and Desert literature, while I was teaching “Comparative Theology as a Spiritual Discipline” at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Vav is also about connections with other people and, while in Boston, I had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and celebrate Palm Sunday with new friends at Trinity Church in Copley Square.

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CHET: Chet is the letter of vibrant health and vitality because it is the first letter in the Hebrew word for “life”: chai. According to the 16th century mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria, “The letter chet is formed by combining the two previous letters—vav and zayin—with a thin, bridge-shaped line between them. Thus, Jewish mysticism intriguingly teaches that our physical well-being—represented by chet—is linked to the quality of our relations with other people (vav) and our inner relationship with time (zayin).”[1]

In addition, chet begins the Hebrew words for both wisdom (chochmah) and piety (chasidut), thus affirming the connection between the two: wisdom enhances piety as piety deepens wisdom. This last year, I feel that I grew in both chochmah and chasidut as I earned my Certificate of Anglican Studies at CDSP and completed my year of Field Education at St. Clement’s in Berkeley. I was especially encouraged when my supervisor Rev. Bruce O’Neil wrote in my final evaluation, “I believe [Daniel] is the finest field education preacher that St. Clement’s has heard in my fifteen years as rector.”

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I hope to continue growing in wisdom and piety this summer as I travel to Europe to visit the hometown of my favorite Christian mystic Teresa of Avila, worship at Taize, preach at an Anglican Church in Monaco, and study with my favorite theologian James Alison in the Netherlands.

I pray that the healing power of ruach hakadosh continues to move through your body and your soul, restoring you to perfect health.

Blessings to you, Bishop Bruno!

Yours,

Daniel DeForest London


[1] Edward Hoffman, The Hebrew Alphabet: A Mystical Journey (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998), 41.

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About deforestlondon

Episcopal priest
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One Response to Ember Letter: Pentecost 2012

  1. Sharon Obuchon-Staub says:

    Again, I love the artwork accompanying your letter. We’ve also been praying for Bishop Bruno. Your summer adventures sound wonderful. Buen viaje!

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