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Holy Fire

Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire.  He said: Why not become fire?
-Desert Fathers

Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we shall harness for God energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world we will have discovered fire.
-Teilhard de Chardin

I love this little story from the Desert Fathers. In the spiritual life we keep our practices, spend time in prayer, seek God in all things, and yet at some point even all this is not enough and we are asked to become fire. Becoming fire, for me, means letting my passion for life and beauty ignite me in the world. We are drawn to creativity because it is woven into the fabric of our very being and it taps into what is most vital and alive in us. This pulsing in our veins always seeks expression in the world, whether through art, song, cooking, gardening, our work, relationships, or in our simple presence to others.

Many of the mystics talk about God as the living flame within each of us: we each contain a spark of the divine. Fire is a symbol of purification and passion, warmth and raging power, destruction and rising up like the Phoenix from the ashes. Becoming fire means holding these tensions and saying yes to life by the very way we live. It means unleashing the tremendous power of love into the world and, as Chardin says so poetically , discovering fire for the second time.

Do I live my life aware of this holy fire within me? What ignites me with sacred passion for the world? What would it mean for me to truly become fire?

-Christine Valters Paintner

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12 Responses

  1. I don’t know if this would be of interest but I looked at that for a woman’s retreat idea and found charms of the four elements at Bobby Beads in Minneapolis. We were going to make some kind of prayer bracelet honoring them but…another idea took hold! They were brass or gold tone and quite inexpensive.

  2. I have a few things I’ve written on fire, mostly from many, many years ago. I’ll have to dig them out. I’m always struck by the notion of the “Refiner’s Fire” that which seems brutal, too hot, almost cruel while in the midst of the flame. Yet in reality, it is the most loving, caring, restorative thing my Abba Father (The Great Refiner) can do to, for, through, and in me! I love the elements book idea! Let me know when you’re ready for some water images…my DD1 is both artist and poet as well and possesses concepts well beyond her mere 10 years! She loves water and has a couple of poems dedicated to the element. –K

  3. Thank you for all of the great comments and resources to explore!

    Rich, I am grateful for your gifts of poetry.

    Milton, feel free to create a book of your own. You have some really lovely reflections that would go well together.

    Thanks Wendy, I couldn’t agree more!

    Me, what great offerings, and thank you too for your gift of poetry. I am touched by your words.

    Cathleen, I would love to read what was inspired in you by my words here.

    Bette, how blessed I am to have so many fine poets in my life. And congratulations on the belly button piercing! What a wonderfully symbolic act. I agree, as you get older you should care less about what others think and live life to the fullest.

  4. Well, holy smokes!!! (sorry….couldn’t resist :) What a great carving and great symbol. I really like it. I like the four candles – four elements. And when I think of prayer I always think of candles. To me it is as if prayer cannot be separated from fire. The book is a wonderful idea. The only verse that comes to my mind with this fire stamp are two verses from my 30-day waka.

    Deeply burning
    in this dark sanctuary,
    my secret lantern ~
    its ever-present flame glows
    pure alizarin crimson.

    Bette Norcross Wappner


    A fiery sunrise
    stirs my cold, waking body,
    pilgrimage pond–
    clouds carry burning torches
    upon this morning mirror.

    Bette Norcross Wappner

    I have a confession to make. But shhhhhh….don’t tell anyone. It is very symbolic with this fire post. I had my “belly”button pierced on Dec. 29th. the gems on it are ruby red to symbolize the sacred fire that burns within my belly. I want it to remind me to strive for God, to pray, to listen, and to create the spiritual flame within! And heck…I’m 49…and I’m going to live it up before the big Five-O.

  5. Beauty in simplicity. Strength in words. And inspiration… last August I drew large, huge flames ~ your words invite me to revisit those flames and find another of healing in them. I feel a new post waiting to be written….

  6. Oh – I forgot – I found a poem by someone else too – it is beautiful and awesome in the old-fashioned sense of the word – it is by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

    As Kingfishers Catch Fire

    As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
    As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
    Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
    Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves — goes itself; _myself_ it speaks and spells,
    Crying _What I do is me: for that I came_.

    I say more: the just man justices;
    Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
    Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
    Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

    — Gerard Manley Hopkins

  7. I like the central flame – maybe set the candles at irregular intervals around the flame instead of foursquare – or even do only three as another reference to the Trinity in which the Holy Spirit rests and resides?

    I took a tour through my personal poetry and through my quote collection – three quotes and two poems – seemed worth sharing.

    Faith is fire, and gives warmth to the heart. The Holy Spirit came down upon the heads of the apostles in the form of tongues of fire. The two disciples, when the Lord was revealed to them, said ‘Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us in the way?’ Christ compares faith to a ‘burning candle.’ …….the most tangible characteristic of faith is warmth…And even as the distinctive mark of faith is warmth, the sure mark of unbelief is coldness. Do you want to know how to understand if a man has faith or unbelief? If you feel warmth coming out of him — from his eyes, from his words, from his manners — be certain that he has faith in his heart. If again you feel cold coming out of his whole being, that means that he has not faith, whatever he may say. He may kneel down, he may bend his head humbly, he may utter all sorts of moral teachings with a humble voice, but all these will breathe forth a chilling breath which falls upon you to numb you with cold. –Fotis Kontoglou

    A corner draft fluttered the flame, and the white fever of temptation, upswept its angel wings that cast , a cruciform shadow. Boris Pasternak

    When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the “I” whose predicate can be “love” or “fear” or “want”, and whose object can be “someone” or “nothing” and it won’t really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence shaped around “I” like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else.To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned. ~ Marilynne Robinson in Gilead

    Holy Spirit(11/4/01(

    And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2: 2-4 KJV

    the wind expounds
    gustily outside my window
    leaves batter the glass
    doors rattle

    Father tells me
    you can’t be afraid of the wind

    yesterday a butterfly
    beat its wings
    outside my door

    tonight a squall gathers
    sirens blow and we hide
    in the storm cellar

    my brother
    has a grand seizure
    bites his tongue, babbles

    the candle’s flame
    bends in homage
    and straightens
    when I stop breathing

    what if an angel
    flew past my house?

    Friday, October 21, 2005
    So Let My Light Shine

    I need to be that white pillar
    standing with fire and flame
    dancing around my shoulders
    consumed in energy

    and when spent
    I will be hot wax spilled
    on the tablecloth for idle hands
    to press their thumbs into and mark as theirs
    before I cool and become a brittle thing.

  8. Wow, this is SO lovely Christine! By candlelight and hearth, two of the most healing places to be : )

    And I really like the element book idea!