In my last post I wrote about our intrinsic longing for the paradise that seems to have been lost. In fact it is a paradise that still surrounds us but is hard to see. In fact we can’t see it on our own. We need new eyes. We need the new Adam, Christ to unveil it for us. It is only He that can enter the gate to the tree of life and paradise guarded by the Cherubim and the flaming sword. (Gen 3:24) It is only He that can reveal the Holy Spirit to us in a way that won’t destroy us.
I say that paradise still surrounds us because in a very real sense, nothing has changed since the days of Eden. It is still the same raw material that makes up the structure of this world. We have, photons, neurons, atoms and electrons flying around now just like back in the day. In a way there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). What changed or rather, what was bent, was our disposition towards Paradise or lets just call it what it is, Reality. Paradise is another word for what is truly real. Our disposition towards reality changed from just enjoying the reality and mystery of it to wanting to control and know all the aspects of it. It is this desire for control and knowledge that still roams around and reeks havoc in many a place. When Adam and Eve wanted to control reality they lost their sense of what is real.
With the assumptions that we still long for something real, for paradise and that our bodies are a manifestation in the material of our spiritual person, we may draw the conclusion that it is our disposition towards the material that will heal the wound in our soul. When we start to view the material as something real and good. I’m not talking about materialism I’m talking about realism proper. It is from this disposition that we may start to see the fingerprints of the Creator all over creation. This can only happen by us becoming one with the One Who can actually reveal the way because He Is the Way and He is the inaugurator of Paradise. We cannot pass through the gate of the secret Fire (Holy Spirit) without Christ as our Shepherd. When the verdict is spoken, when Christ reveals the truth about our own person, then we will realize the true color of our person. The fire of the Spirit prepares us for eternal life by burning away impurities and pretense.
If there is something that fire does, it is to reveal the true substance of something. A trial by fire is a trial of purity. It is only the pure, unsoiled material that remains. When we look for paradise surrounding us we must realize that we won’t be able to see it if we do not invite a trial of fire, the Holy Spirit. We won’t be able to see anything truly real if we do not accept that it will cost us greatly because to live in paradise is to die to everything pretense. It is to die to everything that does not hold eternal quality. If we die to self and put our hope in that Christ will not let us down, He will not fail us. The trial itself can become light (!) with Him. It may also be heavy as the Holy Spirit works in different ways with every person but always in the way that is most effective for our healing.
It is not mere chance that a pillar of fire went ahead the Israelites in the desert before they could reach the Promised Land, paradise. (Exo 13:21) It is not mere chance that the Cherubim are guarding the access to the tree of life with the flaming sword. (Ibid.) It is not mere chance that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles as fire before the Church (Acts 2:3) , was established and it is not a mere chance that a huge sphere of fire (a star) guides the way to the One who can leads us through the fire. (Matt 2:1 – 12) Jesus came to inaugurate a Kingdom of peace (in heaven) but to do that He brought a sword (Matt 10:34), and maybe that sword is made out of Fire?
Establishing the Kingdom of God, the body of Christ in the world was never about subduing other people’s hearts to your own by the power of the sword. It is about offering up your own heart to God so that His fire, The Holy Spirit, the flaming sword that burns through your thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12) can burn away the impurities that keeps you from seeing paradise surrounding you. Once these impurities are burnt away you will begin to see that everything is made out of His light. It is interesting how modern science has focused on mapping the particles (photons, bosons) of light to understand the structure of the universe…
“Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: “Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?”
Our desire to do something more, to strive for something real, to seek paradise lost is not evil but, we can only do those things by letting the Holy Spirit cleanse our person by His fire, and that can only happen when we trust Christ as our Shepherd.
I welcome the season of Advent because it prepares us for the arrival of light and fire, of the Kingdom once more.