Thursday, May 21, 2015
In a World Lit By Fire: One from the Heart, the Feast of Pentecost
I grew up on the edge of town, and so when there was a severe storm, or a heat wave, or any of a number of other causal events our power would go out. For the most part, this was simple an inconvenience. I remember filling the bath tub with hot water in the winter in order to keep the house warm enough. I remember moving everyone in the house, including our cats, into the cooler basement when the lack of air conditioning meant 100+ degrees outside meant the need to avoid stifling inside. I remember, distinctly, from time to time when night fell in the absence of convenient power, my sister and I doing our homework by candlelight.
These occasions were not routine...just regular enough to allow us to understand that life without the convenience of easy light, heat and cooling, television and cable access (these were the days before wifi internet). They were inconvenient. Just that.
We know it now, that slight irritation you might have when the bandwidth slows on your wireless device...or that the climate control doesn't quite live up to expectation.
But growing up where and when we did, I had classmates that weren't so lucky as to experience lack of utilities as an inconvenience. In a couple of small communities further away from town than where we lived, there was no running water. People didn't have cable access...and some houses even lacked electricity. "Convenience" was an outhouse and a hand pump for water you could haul in for washing and cooking.
So, as we near the feast of Pentecost, where we commemorate the Holy Spirit descending on the gathered disciples in the aspect of tongues of fire, I am mindful that what they experienced in their day was perhaps a bit more impactful than we would today. Aside from the pyrotechnic spectacle, fire is not that big a thing for us.
We can have light, usually, by just walking into a room and throwing a switch. We can have access to almost everyone, everywhere with mobile devices. Living in New Jersey, I know there is access to food all around...both that which I can buy and a wide network of support for those who lack the funds to do the same. We have PLENTY.
But in those days, fire itself was a luxury and a commodity to be nurtured as a ward against the harsh universe. It kept back the dark...and without electric light pollution the nights were VERY dark. It kept back the danger....fire prevented predators from approaching too closely, and its light revealed enemies in the shadows. Fire made food safe to eat, and by either boiling or with addition of fermented beer or strong wine, it made water safe to drink.
Fire provided light...illumination...quickening not only our comfort but also guiding our growth.
What better way to manifest the illumination of the Church at its inception than as tongues of fire? The light, the heat...and yet a flame that does not consume, but instead inspires.
Those little tongues of flame have done more to illuminate a dark world than any invention of Edison's ever did....
And so, when the power goes out and the candles are lit. When the surety of convenience gives way to the slight discomfort of needing to wait until the power comes back on....or perhaps even in those moments in the dusk or dawn before the lights are switched on, take a pause. Embrace the blessing of the knowledge that one little flame is able to illuminate not only the room in which you dwell, but also your life.
One little spark...reminding us of a love that burns brightly for us, a light born of God's love for the world so much that is overcomes every shadow that looms both around us and inside our own selves.
We do live in a world lit by a very particular kind of fire....and I give thanks that this flame has never yet gone out. It has been with us since it arrived that day, in that upper room, so many years ago.
Veni Creator Spiritu! Veni Sancti Spiritu! Enlighten us with your celestial fire!