Pastor's Blog - June 2011
The important Christian holiday this month is Pentecost that is celebrated on June 12. Fifty days after Easter we mark the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of Christ’s Church. It is described in Acts 2. The image of fire is often associated with this day. “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among [the disciples], and a tongue rested on each of them” (Acts 2:3). It reminds me of the story from the Desert Fathers.
Father Joseph came to Father Lot and said to him: “Father, according to my strength I keep a moderate rule of prayer and fasting, quiet and meditation, and as far as I can control my imagination; what more must I do?”
Father Lot rose and held his hands toward the sky so that his fingers became like flames of fire and he said: “If you will, why not become entirely as fire?”
This story comes from an early century of the church when Christians were hungering for a more authentic and life-changing experience with God. They had grown weary of letting kings and emperors legislate how people were to live spiritually. By turning their own minds to God, they were seeing God everywhere. They were experiencing God’s energy in the physical universe. It was like fire. Father Lot’s counsel to Father Joseph to become entirely as fire was a metaphor to help Christians train their minds to experience God’s energy. The Desert Fathers (and Mothers) called it “contemplation”—training the mind to experience God’s energy.
We don’t generally think of ourselves as contemplatives. We have assigned this term to someone who withdraws from active life and lives in an isolated monastery. But to be a contemplative in our generation is taking on a whole new understanding. “Contemplatives” today live active lives of service and vocation. If we don’t train our minds to experience God’s great energy, how can we stay focused on the things of the Spirit?
I would encourage each of us to become contemplatives as we actively serve Christ in the world. I would hope that we would balance our work in the world with a deep sense of connection with God’s fire-like energy. We may not become fire, but we can burn with the divine energy about us. To look for the presence of God in everything can become a passion we foster.
The following prayer of Richard Challoner invites us to see God as a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). May it prepare us once again for Pentecost.
O blessed fire, when shall I partake of thy sacred flames? O come and take possession of my heart; consume all these bonds that tie it to the earth; and carry it up with thee, towards the heavenly furnace, from whence thou comest. Sweet Jesus, thou hast said (Luke 12:49): I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I but that it be kindled? O cast this fire into my soul, that it may be kindled there!