The Fiery Spirit & Sanctification
A person may often complain:
- Truly I love God, but I don’t feel His presence when I pray.
- When I open the Holy Bible, it’s like a mystery to me.
- I go to the church, but I don’t feel the sweetness of the heavenly life.
- I try to obey the divine commandment, but it seems impossible to me.
- I don’t find any pleasure in the communal or personal worship, or in fulfilling the divine commandment.
So what is the solution?
I was contacted by a righteous family in Los Angeles. They requested to meet with me. The reason was that, while they were in Toronto, they were hosted by another Coptic family whose hearts were inflamed by a fiery Spirit! The wife told me: “We all want to be like this family.”
WHAT DOES A FIERY HEART MEAN?
It’s like an ember of fire, wherever it is, it inflames the surrounding hearts with the same divine flame that’s working in it. It’s the heart that is able, by the grace of God, to take away the coldness in others and transform it into embers of fire. On it, offerings of love are being offered, pleasing God’s heart. The fiery heart confronts sin with power, turning it from wounding thorns into insignificant ashes. He encounters the love of the temporal world, and turns it into a life of thanksgiving to God, who created everything good for our sake. He faces the desires of the flesh to transform it into holy feelings of love!
The entire world’s water cannot quench the fiery heart. (Song 8:7)
GOD’S ICON “THE CONSUMING FIRE”
You might ask: How can I get to enjoy a fiery heart? The fiery heart is not a product of a fanatical ideology and not obtained by human self-effort, but it is the fruit of God’s work Himself, in the life of the believer. For the fiery heart is a living icon of God, the consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), who dwells in a devouring fire (Is. 33:14), and came to cast fire upon the earth (Lk. 12:49), to make the believer a creature more like a fiery Cherub. You might say that, the Lord makes out of the Church a chariot of fire that carries Him, for it is His throne! Held fast to God, the devouring fire, so you might become through Him a sacred fire!
BLOOD AND FIRE
The Lord Christ came to establish of us, souls inflamed with the fire of His divine love. That’s why St. John the Baptist looked at the Lord Christ from two complementary angles:
(a) The Redemptive blood: “”Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Our Christ came to embrace man by His love, took his place, accepted the wage of sin for him through the cross, and granted him sonship to the Father as a divine gift. He took what’s ours and gave us what’s His!
(b) The Divine Fire: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Mt. 3:11).
From the beginning of salvation’s history, the sacrifice was connected to fire. For the sacrifice offers the blood, without which, there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb. 9:22) The fire offers to us the fiery work of the Holy Spirit, which transforms us through the entitlements of the blood into a burning flame of fire!
Free salvation was offered through the cross, and we received the membership in the body of Christ in the water of baptism, that we may accept the Fiery Holy Spirit, and experience His spiritual work in our life, through continual repentance and requesting His work in us.
Therefore, St. John Chrysostom confirms that baptism is the beginning of the road, not its end.
A FIERY COVENANT
God has longed to enter into a covenant with man, and to establish with him a treaty. So he asked Abraham to bring offerings and cut it in two. When that was done, a smoking fire appeared and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. (Gen. 15:17)
DO YOU WANT TO ENJOY A COVENANT OF LOVE WITH GOD?
First, enjoy the reconciliation with Him through the cross offering, through which you meet with God, the consuming fire. He will make of you a burning lamp through His Holy Spirit. He will take away your icy and cold heart, and create of you a fiery being.
FIRE FROM HEAVEN
Despair was destroying Elijah the Prophet, who thought that all the prophets were murdered and the people turned away from worshipping the living Fiery God, becoming like pieces of ice, not knowing the warmth of the Spirit. Elijah offered a sacrifice and poured a great amount of water on it (12 jars of water), then the fire of the Lord fell from heaven, licked the water, consumed the dust and the offering (I Kings 18:38). If despair has destroyed your soul, and you think that all who are around you have left the practical living faith, do not despair! Believe in the Fiery Holy Spirit of God, who is able to remove from the heart its water, and swallow its earthly nature, to make of it a chariot of fire worthy of the fiery God’s dwelling!
The first encounter between Moses, the first leader, with God, took place at the burning bush, which was inflamed without being consumed. Moses the Prophet was attracted to the sight of the burning bush, and through it he received the assignment of a fiery leadership. Moses saw the divine incarnation in the burning bush, whereas St. Mary carried the Word of God, but wasn’t consumed by the divine fire, for the fiery Holy Spirit prepared her for that unique role.
The prophet also saw in the burning bush, the Church of Christ which enjoys the gift of the fiery Spirit, and became through Christ Jesus inflamed by fire.
DO YOU WANT TO BE A TRUE LEADER?
Accept the work of the Holy Spirit in you, for the Lord Christ commanded His disciples not to leave Jerusalem till they receive power from on high. (Acts 1:8) Keep the fire of the Spirit working in you, for any spiritual leadership outside the fiery spirit’s circle, will fail.
Dash with Moses to the burning bush and look for the leadership of the Spirit Himself, who appeared as a pillar of fire before the people, transforming darkness into light, and the night into a joyous day (Exd 13:21).
Rise with Moses to Mount Sinai, which trembled and smoked as by fire, knowing that you will enjoy His work through the Gospel’s mountains. He will shake your inner mountains, and transform them into divine sanctuaries. Accept with Moses the divine commandment, not through tablets of stone, but in your heart, etched by his fiery Holy Spirit, for the Lord said, “I am making My words in your mouth a fire.” (Jer. 5:14)
A WALL OF FIRE
The people of Israel almost lost hope in coming back from captivity, but God assured Zechariah, “For I will be to her a Wall of Fire around her.” (Zech. 2:5) The enemy sets his fiery arrows towards you, that you may remain in captivity, as in the great city of Babylon, the mother of all adulterers. (Rev. 17:5) Nobody can protect you from these arrows except the Holy Spirit of God, who will become a Wall of Fire for your protection, and a mystery of glory within you.
THE FIERY VOICE OF GOD
Prophet David was in distress, so he cried to God, “He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering.” (1 Chron. 21:26).
When the world closes in on you and your insight is taken by darkness, cry to God through the sacrifice of the cross, that you may hear the Fiery Voice answering you in your inner altar.
THE FIRE OF THE AMAZING GLORY
King Solomon built the temple of the Lord as an icon of heaven. For God confirmed His satisfaction and revealed His glory in His house, “Fire came down from heaven.” (2 Chron. 7:1)
Do you establish an altar to the Lord within you? Pray with Solomon the Wise, that you through the eyes of faith, see the fire of the Holy Spirit working every day in your depth, to erect your altar and grant you the fellowship of His glory.
AN INVITATION FOR SANCTIFICATION
Years ago I met a lady who lived in America, who wasn’t satisfied with herself. She felt that God granted her beauty, a husband who loves her very much and a child. She was successful in every aspect of her life, and besides all her honor and riches, she felt very dry inside. She was thirsty, and she needed to quench her thirst! She said, “Externally I don’t lack anything, but deep down, I feel like a barren wilderness controlled by drought. What should I do?”
I remembered what the Jews use to practice at the time of the Lord Christ, in the Feast of the Tabernacles. A priest stood with a golden pot in his hand, pouring down water before the crowds, asking them to come and drink. On the other side, the Lord Christ stood proclaiming: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink; he who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Jn. 7:37-38)
“But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet [given], because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn. 7:39) This is a gift from the Lord Christ, the Crucified One, who is glorified; His Holy Spirit who wells up in us rivers of living water and transforms the barren wilderness of our hearts into a fruitful paradise, knowing how to offer love, joy, peace, longsuffering and gentleness. (Gal. 5:22-23)
Isaiah the Prophet looked at the Lord Christ and saw His repeated wonderful work with us, confirming the transformation of our inner wilderness into a joyful and exhilarating paradise, so he said, “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose… They shall see the glory of the Lord, The excellency of our God.” (Is. 35:1-2)
Beloved, Isaiah is not talking about places outside your soul and your feelings, but he presents good news, concerning your barren and thirsty depths, as you complain with the psalmist, “My soul [longs] for You like a thirsty land”. (Ps. 143:6)
He offers you the water of the Spirit that fills your depth with joy and you’ll be watered, overflowing with love, joy and glory! He’ll transform you into a divine fruitful garden. (Is. 41:17-20)
In the old times, God brought forth for His thirsty people, water from the rock, which was struck with the rod in Horeb. (Ex. 17:1-7) But now as we are in a new exodus, He will do what’s greater than that. The Crucified Lord, Jesus Christ, offers on the wood of the cross, water that changes the face of the earth.
He is transforming the wasteland of our hearts into his spiritual paradise, and our inner wilderness into a divine oasis, in it spiritual trees grow bringing forth desirable fruits. “That they may see and know; and consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this; and the Holy One of Israel has created it”. (Is. 41:20)
Do not complain, beloved, with the people of the old, look at the beaten rock, or the Crucified Lord Jesus Christ, and enjoy the gift of His Holy Spirit for you; through His people (His holy Church). For in the first sermon of St. Peter, at the day of Pentecost, he proclaimed, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
DO YOU FEEL THIRSTY, MY BELOVED?
Look in the depth of your heart to see the sealed spring within you. Enjoy the gift of the Spirit, dwelling in you. He is longing to work in you; to convict you of sin, grant you forgiveness and fill you with joy. Come to Him, approach Him and be watered. Repent with me and confess with me and ask Him to work in us.
In the beginning phase of Exodus, the Lord brought forth for His people, water from the rock at Horeb (Ex. 17), and when they reached the outskirts of the Promised Land, the Lord gave them water in Kadesh (Num. 20), why? In the beginning of the way, we need the gift of the Spirit that our souls might be watered, and our wilderness is transformed into a divine paradise. While we’re traveling on our path, we also need to drink from that same spring, that we might experience the holy life. For the meaning of “Kadesh” is “holiness.” The Scripture concluded the passage about the water from Kadesh’s rock by saying, “And He was hallowed among them.” (Num 20:13)
This is an invitation for enjoying God’s Holy Spirit, who is called “The Spirit of Sanctification.” He grants us the fellowship with the Holy Father, in the entitlement of His Son, so we might be considered saints in Him.
Don’t get confused, my beloved, if you feel the weaknesses, as I do, fighting with your thoughts as well as your heart. God’s Spirit, who dwells in us, is able to take away from us our earthly nature, to grant us constant renewal and a holy life in Him.
Let’s cry with David the prophet, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” Cling to His divine promise, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances… And I will save you from all your uncleanness.” (Ezek. 36:27, 29)
God is amazing in His love, for He faced the people’s hostility and their murmuring about Him and His servants (Num. 20:3), by giving them His divine gift, He was sanctified in them (Num. 20:13).
In Horeb God transformed the thirst into giving and overflowing, and in Kadesh, God’s Spirit transformed the hostility into sanctified life. This is the riches and generosity of the Spirit of God.
- It’s obvious that the Holy Spirit is the Power of sanctification, and we can all receive a share of Him that we might be sanctified by His grace.
- As the fellowship with the Son of God makes man a son, adopted by God within the ranks of God’s children, likewise the fellowship with the Holy Spirit makes man holy and spiritual.
- He is called the Spirit of holiness, for He offers holiness to all.
- It’s impossible for anyone to obtain God’s grace, unless one obtains the Holy Spirit, in Whom dwells all God’s gifts.
St. Didymus the Blind
A COLLECTIVE CALL
God doesn’t invite you just to be quenched or to be sanctified, but for a heavenly life, full of praise and joy. This is a gift given to you by the Holy Spirit. He wants to transform you, while you are here “in the valley of tears,” into the pledge of eternal glory and fellowship of angelical life, through the communal spiritual praise. It was said, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Gather the people together; and I will give them water.’ Then Israel sang this song, ‘Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it! The well the leaders sank; Dug by the nation’s nobles; by the lawgiver, with their staves.” (Num. 21:16-18)
Here, God is calling Moses to gather the people to grant them His Holy Spirit who descends upon the Universal (Catholic) Church, and fills it with singing and joy. This praise is full of wonderful meanings:
- “Spring up, O well” As if the well, which is in hiding, is rising, for all to enjoy its water. What’s that well, except the baptistery, where the believers are born, as children of God, witnessing to the work of the Spirit in them.
The baptistery usually is set by the entrance of the church, so that the believers may never forget their baptism, as they pass by it, coming in and going out.
It’s fitting for us to always discover the baptism’s potential that we received, so that we may respond to the Holy Spirit of God, by cherishing our sonship to God.
As St. Didymus the Blind says: [He (the Holy Spirit), liberates us from sin and death… and makes us spiritual, sharing the divine glory as children of God and His heirs. He transforms us to the image of the Son of God, and makes us His brothers and fellow-heirs of the inheritance, that we may be glorified and reign with Him.
He grants us heaven instead of the earth, and in His generosity, he grants us paradise, and makes us more glorified than the angels. He extinguishes the flames of hell by the water of divine baptism].
- “A well which the leaders dug.” It’s a very strange thing that God Himself asks Moses, whom He created and saved; to gather the leaders and the nobles with all the people to dig the well! Does digging a well require a great assembly like that, being praised by all?
This is the rejoicing of the Church in the work of the Holy Spirit, who brings her into a heavenly rejoicing life! The meeting of the leaders with the people may point to the meeting of the heavenly hosts with the believers of the people, that all may rejoice for man’s salvation and the enjoyment of the heavenly glory.
Do not be afraid of that dryness, which you suffer, for the Spirit of God, is able to quench your thirsty soul, taking you from the letter that kills, into the Spirit that gives life (2 Cor 3:6). Do not be confused because of sin and weakness, for God’s Spirit desires to sanctify your soul and body. He sanctifies your heart, mind, your worship, your daily tasks, your time, and talents! Don’t be afraid of despair, for God’s Spirit grants you the heavenly rejoicing life.
- We confirm that this fire that Christ sent is for the salvation and benefit of the people. May God grant all our hearts to be filled with it. For the fire – as I say – is the saving message of the Bible and the power of its commandments. For all of us, who are on this earth, are cold and dead because of sin and ignorance… We get inflamed by the righteous life, and become “fervent with the Spirit” (Rom. 12:11), as the blessed Paul said.
In addition, we become partakers of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:4), who is like fire within us… This is the custom of the Holy Bible, to give the holy divine words, sometimes, the name “fire,” to bring out the effectiveness and power of the Holy Spirit, by whom we become “fervent with the Spirit”. (Rom. 12:11)
How can we interpret the burning coal that touched the prophet Isaiah’s lips (Is. 6:6-7) and purified him from every sin? This is the message of salvation and confessing the faith in Christ. Whoever confesses that by his mouth will be purified. This is what St. Paul confirmed for us, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)
Therefore, we say that the power of the divine message is like a live burning coal and fire. The God of all says to Jeremiah, “I will make My words in your mouth fire, And this people wood, And it shall devour them” (Jer. 5:14) “Is not my word like fire? says the Lord.” (Jer. 23:29)
St. Cyril the Great