Whilst we remain fleshly corpuscles, there is a tedious burden laid upon us all. It is called breathing. We do it even in the womb, though we are then breathing amniotic fluid. It is in fact easier to breathe fluid than air, due to the lack of surface tension forces in our alveoli. None of us remember this, however.
Just as it is the first action your body makes, it will also be your last. The drive to breathe persists even after the last effective heartbeat (assuming the brainstem is intact). I learned this lesson the hard way, when as a very junior doctor, I noticed the cessation of pulse on the monitor of a dying patient. I went over to the relatives at the bedside, and informed them with great seriousness and sincerity that their beloved had just died, and how I was sorry for their troubles. At that very moment the “departed” patient took an enormous breath, and sighed very loudly. After a few more sighs, he did finally breathe his last. I was very embarrassed, but thankfully no complaint ensued.
The ancients were aware of this link between breathing and life. Genesis 2:7 :
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
The words inspiration and expiration derive from spirit. Before the discovery of the circulation, human life and death were defined by the breath, and mirrors were used to detect the mist of spontaneously exhaled water vapour.
Though we can survive without food for weeks, and water for days, without air, we are dead in minutes. If food and water can be likened to the Blessed Sacrament, then to what can we liken asphyxiation? (The following is lifted straight from Wikipedia, sorry: )
- despair: which consists in thinking that one’s own malice is greater than Divine Goodness.
- presumption: if a man wants to obtain glory without merits or pardon without repentance.
- resistance to the known truth.
- envy of a brother’s spiritual good, i. e. of the increase of Divine grace in the world.
- impenitence, i. e. the specific purpose of not repenting a sin.
- obstinacy, whereby a man, clinging to his sin, becomes immune to the thought that the good searched in it is a very little one.
So then, dear reader, those are the things that will smother your spirit. Unless you have a death wish, avoid them! If you have trouble avoiding the unforgiveable sins, though, here is some hope, also from Wikipedia:
However, the Church further believes there is no offence, however serious, that cannot be taken away by Baptism, or absolved from in the Confessional—that no one, however wicked and guilty, may not confidently hope for forgiveness. Note that while Our Lord did declare blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable, He did not except it from the sins that may be forgiven by Baptism and Penance (Mt 16,19; Mt 18,18; Joh 20,23). St. Thomas explains that its unforgivability means that it removes the entrance itself to these means of salvation—however, it cannot hinder Almighty and Merciful God to take away this obstacle by sort of a miracle. This is affirmed by the Catechism which says that Christ desires “the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.” The Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, notably, take away any sin if received.