Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my Little Office. I fast a little. I pray. I meditate. I live in peace and as far as I can. I purify my thoughts. What else am I to do?” Then the old man stood up, stretched his hands towards heaven and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
Becoming Pillars of Fire
So, Christians are called to become all-flame by stretching their hands toward heaven? Yes! Christians, if they are to be Jesus’ longed for fire-casters, must pray and live in a manner that incessantly invokes the irruption of Pentecost’s immortal Furnace into our tepid world grown old in sin. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we call this heavenward posture of up-stretching the epiclesis, or the “calling down” of the Spirit. In this beckoning of the Paraclete, we ask Him to consume all that we offer within the burning Heart of Jesus to the honor and glory of God the Father. At Mass, when the priest calls the Manna-bearing Spirit down, I often imagine that this vision of the prophet Daniel is invisibly at work:
As I watched, Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was snow bright, and the hair on his head as white as wool; His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. (Daniel 7:9-10)
Christians in the world are called and sent to sustain beyond the Mass this invocation everywhere they go, absolutely depending on God’s power, preceding, carrying out and completing every action with a regular interior prayer of epiclesis. Christians entering the idol-ridden Pantheon of the world, filled with its priests of violence and death, each day must be like Elijah on Mt. Carmel who serenely and confidently called down God’s transforming fire upon the fruit of human labor and the dead heap of corpses in need of redemption:
Answer me, Yahweh! Answer me, that this people may know that you, Yahweh, are God and that you have turned their hearts back to you.”
Yahweh’s fire came down and devoured the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust, and lapped up the water in the trench.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus longs for the coming day of Pentecostal fire that will come through his “baptism” on the flammable wood of the Cross — reminding us that such divine fire-casting is a co-laboring of sacrificial love. Today’s Gospel reminds us that in order to become all-flame, we must pray as co-crucified Promethean thieves, stealing fire from the Fire-Caster for the life of the world.
I will allow Bl. John Paul the last word on this:
At the price of the Cross which brings about the Redemption, in the power of the whole Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes in order to remain from the day of Pentecost onwards with the Apostles, to remain with the Church and in the Church, and through her in the world…in this way there is definitively brought about that new beginning of the self-communication of the Triune God in the Holy Spirit through the work of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man and of the world.