PURIFICATION

Fire

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          I had become aware that I had been mentally and emotionally feeling the heat of a burning for the past two weeks. The fire of loss of a (destructive) friendship I have come to cherish (unfortunately). The fire of loss of hope in the workplace environment. And a few other little  fires burning here and there on the landscape of my spirit.

          I lamented these fires, sought heaven’s help to put them out. These were almost all old fires, and I had wearied of them. Most of all, I was tired of being who I was, someone in a near constant burn, always burning up in secret over something.

          And when I finally fell at God’s feet for mercy, asking for the respite of Joy for my burning, He told me,

Rise!

          A day later, when I had quietened myself somewhat, He continued,

Arise!  Shine!

          I saw it as a call to obedience, as a call to work. So, with the help of dear~heart friends who answered the Spirit’s summons to help me understand, I tried the live the new hours differently. I did not seek joy although I burned for it; instead, I sought His will in loving and caring for my family. I sought His will at my workplace in willfully searching out silence. Because in all of these abodes of quietness and simplicity and silence, lay the call to obedience, from which joy would flow.

          If I could just hold on long enough, that is.

          So, I took myself back to the vineyard again. But instead of the inner assurance I thought would come, I sensed that my spirit doors remained open.

          Late, late at night, when the moon~scented hours seemed to have nothing more for me, unseen hands turned my eyes towards a piercing teaching about Fire.

          “A Father of the Church, Origen, in one of his Homilies on Jeremiah, cites a saying attributed to Jesus, not contained in the sacred Scriptures but perhaps authentic, which reads: “Whoever is near to me, is near to the fire” (Homily on Jeremiah, L. I [III]). In Christ, in fact, there is the fullness of God, who in the Bible is compared to fire. We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit blazes but does not burn. And nevertheless it enacts a transformation, and thus must also consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbour.

          This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us; we are afraid of being “scorched” and prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often based on the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-gift. Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat; they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something pleasant to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves.

          On the one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other, we are afraid of the consequences entailed.

          Dear brothers and sisters, we are always in need of hearing the Lord Jesus tell us what He often repeated to His friends: “Be not afraid”. Like Simon Peter and the others we must allow His presence and His grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness. We must know how to recognize that losing something indeed, losing ourselves for the true God, the God of love and of life is actually gaining ourselves, finding ourselves more fully.

          Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus already experiences in this life the peace and joy of heart that the world cannot give, and that it cannot even take away once God has given it to us.

          So it is worthwhile to let ourselves be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit! The suffering that it causes us is necessary for our transformation. It is the reality of the Cross. It is not without reason that in the language of Jesus, “fire” is above all a representation of the mystery of the Cross, without which Christianity does not exist.

          Thus enlightened and comforted by these words of life, let us lift up our invocation: Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of Your love! We know that this is a bold prayer, with which we ask to be touched by God’s flame; but above all we know that this Flame and It alone has the power to save us.

          We do not want, in defending our life, to lose eternal life that God wants to give us. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit, because only Love redeems. Amen.”   ~   Pope Benedict XVI

 

          Like so many, I too wanted to be enveloped by the miracle and joy of Pentecost. Pentecost was fire, yes, but for me it meant the fire of inner light and jump and spring, the fire-power of special wisdom and vigour that I needed so badly to carry my Crosses.

          Not once did I associate it with a hidden burning away of my old self.

          In the dark of the quiet hours, I finally understood the fire I was sensing.

 

 

 

 

Replace my blood with Yours

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          It’s been some days of a growing emptiness within me, despite many sun~tumbled days of happiness and laughter. It hasn’t driven me to the precipice of panic – as it would have before – that heaven has deserted me. I now know enough to know that it is I who does the fleeing – never God. Nevertheless, the vacuum within is mildly unsettling, irritating.

          Because I don’t want this void. I want to be filled with joy. I want that joy~Light to spill and flood every crack and crevice of my heart to the brim. I want to skip sunny steps and twirl and dance in happy abandon.

          Yet, it isn’t the worldly allure I seek. I want the gaiety of spiritual lightness that only the Spirit can bequeath the soul because suddenly, I am tired of worrying and caring. I want to believe that putrid waters will never hit our shores.

          But the Holy Spirit is Wisdom. Its ways not mine. It alone knows what my soul needs.

…don’t be too eager to be set free from your present state. Let the Holy Spirit act within you. Give yourself up to all His transports and have no fear. He is so wise and gentle and discreet that He never brings about anything but good. ~ St Pio

          When my Father Pio’s words sank into me, I slowly understood that this voiding was His work of Mercy. He is emptying me to be filled, I thought. Although I accepted it, being the sinner I am, I was not entirely happy with it. I wished it could have been different. I am all for the infilling. It is the emptying that scrapes unpleasantly at me.

          Suddenly, I remembered a curious incident from the Sunday before. My reading of St Faustina’s Diary – Divine Mercy In My Soul had taken me to:

          …the Blood and Water which came forth from my heart flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Blood of Jesus, flow through me. Replace my blood with Yours. # Entry 1602

          Blood of Jesus, flow through me. Replace my blood with Yours.

          That prayer ensnared my heart. It was one of those prayers that fell straight into my spirit. I barely understood it, but feeling it was right, I prayed it over and over.

          Some days later, wanting to note down that prayer in my diary, I searched for the paragraph where it was mentioned. I found the paragraph I read. I found everything there except the prayer, Blood of Jesus, flow through me. Replace my blood with Yours.

          The prayer was not there. It was never there.

          Today, in the sun-blessed hours of a whitegold morning, birds in an ecstasy of mad trilling from green arbours, the memory of that mysterious prayer returned. In a pearl~moment, the lights knitted together.

          Replace my blood with Yours. For the Holy Blood to flow and flood me to fullness, I had first to be stripped bare, emptied of mine. That was why, when I chaffed at the emptiness inside, my Father Pio had come to tell me, Don‘t be too eager to be set free from your present state. Let the Holy Spirit act within you.

          Not every inner suffering is a punishment. Neither is it always something to be rid of. My present emptying is the work of the Holy Spirit I had consented to through the prayer, Replace my blood with Yours. Although I didn’t know it then, that prayer was my Yes to the Holy Spirit’s gentle knock on the door of my heart.

          I had opened the door to the Spirit. Now, I must submit to It.

Replace my blood with Yours.

When Fire Is A Grace

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          During one mist-laced, green June day Mass, my spirit crumbled into a rare state of joyful brokenness and I was moved to pray,

Break my spirit upon Thy sacred stones. Break me till there is nothing left of me but You.

          It wasn’t until some hours later that I recalled the prayer and puzzled over it. I had felt so close to Jesus during that Mass, so safe and sheltered, like He had put His arm around me and drawn me close to His Heart.

          And yet, instead of a joyful hymn to burst from me, it had been, Break my spirit….Break me…. A prayer fierce in its force.

          What on earth is sacred stones? I wondered.

          Looking back on June, then till now has been some weeks of deep inner struggle hidden within days of good work and simple joys ~ which is no pretense. No papering over with false light with the intent to conceal. The inner scourging has not held back the skip of my heart. But in the much that got done, in the happiness I’ve felt and the love I could give, no one could have guessed at the relentlessness of a secret whipping within me: I struggled and struggled with anger and its tainted companions of revenge and unforgiveness.

          Yet despite the secret battle in this one pasture of conflict,  I found deep joys in other meadows. I partook of life and loving. There was no mechanical rigidity to my waking hours. I did not live an existence landscaped by ashes and sorrow. Every pearlseed of beauty around me sank into the grooves of my heart and bloomed.

          This, for me, was something new. In each past skirmish of my entire life thus far, inner turmoil had robbed me of the diamond sunbursts that garlanded my simple everydays. But this one, this time was different.

          Sometimes, even I thought I must be mad, to be so much a part of the light and yet be in pain at the same time.

          I banged and banged on heaven’s door and refused to leave my place on its stoop. Why, Lord, why? I cried in near despair. Why can I not move past my anger? And why this deep swell of red when its catalyst so tiny and trivial compared to the huge trials I have faced and weathered before? Why this strange blend of storm and sun? 

          My spirit seeking discernment, I recalled the counsel of my friend, Fight the dark through thanksgiving. So, I lifted my eyes to the morning sky to scatter the claws of frustration. As I gazed in thanksgiving at the expanse of gold sea before me, the sun shimmered and misted the sky.

          My spirit stilled and I saw the words of my prayer at Mass that day, Break my spirit upon Thy sacred stones. Break me till there is nothing left of me but You.

          Suddenly, it fell into place. My spirit was indeed being dashed and broken upon the sacred stones of God’s Truth. That mysterious prayer had unlocked a fire that now flooded every shadowed crevice of my soul. Fire was piercing through inner crevasses like never before. That was why the turmoil of spirit was unprecedented. My sinfulness had never been so close to Light before; even the slightest smudge burned and burned and burned.The turmoil I was feeling was the scream of sin being rent to ashes.

          My inner burning was manifesting outwardly as joy and love and strength because the fire was a grace wrought by a God who cleanses in order to free.