St. Maximilian Kolbe teaches us that “(l)ove does not rest, but spreads like fire consuming everything.” (Aim Higher, 68)
In a fire, one tongue may go out but the rest — the fire as a whole — keeps burning. The Holy Spirit appears as fire. He, like fire, doesn’t rest but burns day and night.
Tolkien wrote of the “secret fire” that “burns in the heart of the world”. The Holy Spirit, the love of God burning in the world, has been there from the start and is there now. It’s not a secret fire any longer, as God revealed to us, through His Word and through the teaching of His Church, the reality of His Holy Spirit. It burns in the world and within each of us in the world.
We are just tongues of flame. While we do have the Holy Spirit within us, we “go out”. “Our bodies need rest”, St. Kolbe says, “but God’s work goes on day and night.” There are other people awake while we’re asleep, others with God’s Spirit in them, working around the world He made.
We see that in the celebration of the Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours. “From the rising of the sun to its setting…” we’re told by the prophet Malachi, “a pure offering” is made. (Mal 1:11) Priests celebrate Mass and religious participate in the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, nearly everywhere.
Likewise if a fire goes out spiritually, if one of us falls into sin and no longer burns for God, there are others left to continue the work — and, hopefully, to reignite those embers of faith and zeal.
One tongue of fire may go out — in sleep, or in fear, or even in death — but others still burn. What happens over hours as people sleep, happens over years as people fall and rise, and happens over generations as people are born and die. The fire of faith goes on, and it’s our duty, in our time, to carry it. There are others, and that is very reassuring, but we must carry it during our time. We must be grateful for each other, for other tongues of flame in that great spreading fire of God’s Holy Spirit.
Speaking to members of the Militia Immaculata, Kolbe exhorts them in a way that applies to us all: we “must endeavor to be penetrated with these flames of love, so that this fire inflame all souls who are and will be in the world.” We are part of that beautiful conflagration of God’s Holy Spirit over the earth, and we must each pray and work to keep our own fire going, to contribute while we can to the spread of the holy fire over the whole earth.
Copyright 2016, Joe Wetterling