Fire provides us with heat and light and a way to cook our Foods. What would a s’mores be like without being roasted over a fire? And who won’t agree that hot dogs taste best when roasted over a roaring campfire. Fire in and of itself is very mesmerizing. Watching the flames dance upon the wood can be calming and almost hypnotic. Fire can be devastating, like the massive wildfires that have been raging all over the West Coast. (My heart goes out to all the people who have died or who have lost their homes and property.) But as much as fire can be dangerous, it can also be necessary. Beyond being just a source of heat and light for people, certain fires are actually necessary for the health of the forest.
I remember growing up in the Boy Scouts, the fact that in order to be able to start and build fires you had to earn that privilege. You actually had to show that you could be responsible and earn a special card proving you were responsible enough to build a fire. It’s a lot of responsibility, because within the flames and heat there is great power. And just like Uncle Ben once said, with great power comes great responsibility.
We use fire in many aspects of our life. I’ve already mentioned using fire as a source of heat and as a way to cook your food, but also in the church we use it to burn our incense and light our candles. I remember when we joined the Orthodox Church and part of the process of baptism had Father Gregory take a small clipping of my hair and then burning it. I still remember the smell of the burnt hair rising up to my nostrils.
If you want to go back even further for the greatest symbolism of fire, look no further for the day of Pentecost. The day when the tongues of flame appeared over the heads of the Apostles, the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Christ. This wasn’t the worship of fire like the pagans, this was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in brilliant flame.
We all know that fire needs an initial spark (or source of heat) fuel, and oxygen. One reason why wildfires can be so dangerous is because of the abundance of dry fuel and strong winds. During summer and fall, while growing up in Southern California, I can remember vividly the smell of smoke every Autumn as the Santa Ana winds picked up, carrying little embers throughout the air and starting new fires elsewhere.
So since fire is a very real and symbolic thing, my next question is how we tend the fire within our hearts? This fire within our hearts is strong and bright, but only when we feed it and give it enough oxygen. This fire is our passions and our love. When these flames are tended properly, others can tell. It’s almost as if we are shining and are producing our own personal warmth. If we let it catch the wrong materialq however, we can have an uncontrollable wildfire within our soul that could be disastrous. Perhaps it’s a random memory of an old crush, or maybe it’s anger directed towards your boss or a coworker, or even a parent. Your emotions flare up like a strong wind and spreads your own fire across your soul, like an out-of-control forest fire. You might be distraught emotionally for having thoughts that you shouldn’t have, or in your anger allow yourself to sin. Either way, your own personal flame is out of control and needs to be tempered. How does one temper the flame within their soul? Through prayer and obedience to Christ. Much like Forest firefighters will cut a line to prevent the fire from spreading further, we must cut a line through out passions in order to prevent our own lives from being caught aflame. We must be able to struggle and fight and not allow the underbrush that is our passions to grow or else our passions could get the better of us and start another out of control blaze within us, which could lead to sin.
This personal flame within our hearts gets supplemented with the Light of Christ, the eternal flame of God actually becomes the new source for our own personal fire. It is through Christ’s life that I have life, it is the Light of Christ that gives me light. Burning bright like a candle upon an altar within my heart, it is now the source for the flame within my soul. Almost as if I no longer need my own personal flame because now I have Christ’s. So what are we to do when that flame starts to die?
Just like how a fire needs fuel and oxygen in order to thrive, a Christian needs to feed themselves and allow the Breath of God to enter them. If you’re not practicing your faith and engaging with Orthodoxy yeah, eventually it won’t be Christ’s flame that burns bright within you. Rather it’ll be your own flame getting ready to jump the fire line and spin you out of control. My own fire of Christ within my heart didn’t necessarily flicker out this week but because I allowed myself to focus on other passions and other desires it definitely didn’t burn as bright as it did the prior week. I noticed myself drifting away from Christ and further towards my own Passions and I wondered why I was doing this? Last week I listen to ancient Faith radio and worked on my prayer rope and was happily engaged with my faith nearly every day. What changed? I allowed myself a break and didn’t get back on the wagon. And because I allowed myself to drift away, I allowed other things to into my heart and like a wildfire my passions took off. A fire needs fuel and oxygen and if you’re not feeding the Flame in your heart that represent Christ, you’ll end up feeding the other flame and who knows what direction it’ll take.
Well, it looks like it’s time for me to cut a fire line within my soul and to once again cut myself off from my passions. I got to get back on track and let that candle of Christ burn bright within my heart. More prayer, more spiritual nourishment, and more of him- less of me.
Thanks for reading my friends. I hope you are all staying safe out there. If you’re being negatively affected by the wildfires, know that I am praying for you. Have a wonderful rest of your week and I’ll see you next time.
The metal fire pit had the shape of a mountain cut into it, which glowed beautifully when the fire is lit behind it