I only came across the term “pneumataphore” in June in a post I receive daily from Abbey of the Arts. In botany, pneumataphores are defined as a specialized respiratory root in certain aquatic plants, such as the bald cypress, that grows upward and protrudes above the water or mud into the air. But in the Abbey of the Arts post the author revealed that this term was used in the early Christian east to mean “bearers of spirit.” It referred to both men and women who were considered to be spiritual, inspired and prophetic. I presume the connection between such disparate things as aquatic plants and “spirit bearers” is the origin of “respiratory,” “spiritual” and “inspired” from Latin having to do with the breath. It is no coincidence that there is an entire category of “breath prayers,” short prayers that can be said in a breath, such as Kyrie Eleison ((translated “Lord, have mercy”). This all sounds quite lofty. But we also have the word “prophetic,” which introduces another dimension entirely to that of “spirit bearer.”
“Prophet means ‘spokesman’ not ‘fortune-teller,’” Frederick Buechner writes. “The one whom in their unfathomable audacity the prophets claimed to speak for was the Lord and Creator of the universe” Tongue in cheek, he adds: “There is no evidence to suggest that anyone ever asked a prophet home for supper more than once.” And, truth be told, prophets in the Hebrew scriptures could be a pretty harsh lot, speaking unwelcome truths.
So spirit-bearing would seem to be a high calling requiring a particular skill set. And yet I think this is the very invitation we have every day with whatever gifts we bring to it. We are undoubtedly imperfect creatures. But at our best we come from a centered and grounded space that allows us to grow within ourselves; to elevate and inspire others; and to take on the difficult task of spokesperson or “prophet” when hard realities confront us. May we see within this calling, the opportunity that is offered us to become the humans we are created to be, the ones who are “just walking each other home.”
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.
Hope’s Café Bonus: For “spirit-bearers” everywhere, lift your spirits with this refreshing drink: Mix 2 c. fresh berries (such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or blueberries, or a mixture, plus more for garnish); ½ c. orange juice; 2 T. lime juice (plus lime slices for garnish); 2 T. honey; 3 c. soda water (or lemon-lime seltzer; add ice cubes. Enjoy. 😊