A Vincentian View: Tongues of Fire

by | May 22, 2024 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

In our St, Thomas More Church on the campus of St. John’s University, we have a beautiful stained-glass window depicting Pentecost.  One finds the twelve apostles surrounding the Blessed Mother, and a tongue of fire is descending upon the head of each.  The fire obviously represents the Holy Spirit whom tradition teaches founded the Church in this event.  The element fire can symbolize and emphasize the gift that the Spirit brings to the earliest Christian community—and to us.  We can imagine the symbolic weight that it carries in expressing the meaning and importance of Pentecost.  I find several options attractive as I reflect upon the meaning that fire offers for the work of the Spirit.

Fire burns.  It engulfs and consumes those combustible objects with which it comes into contact.  One senses its power and hunger.  When Jeremiah suffers because of his fidelity to the Lord, he resolves:

I will not mention him,
I will no longer speak in his name.
But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding back, I cannot! (Jer 20:9)

The Holy Spirit is the force behind this fire.  When someone has embraced the Word of God or understood a directive of the Lord, he/she cannot restrain it.  It demands to be exposed and expressed.  The Holy Spirit drives that deeper appreciation of the message of Jesus.  Its power cannot be contained or suppressed but must be allowed to burn freely in the community.

Fire warms.  Thinking about the Spirit as the “Comforter” suggests her role as giving stability and confidence to the heart of the believer.  Jesus tells his disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” (Jn 14:15-17)

The Spirit reflects the ongoing presence of God at the center of a Christian.  She promotes stability and calm.

Fire lights.  So much of the role of the Spirit is connected to Jesus’ repeated statements regarding the effects of her coming:

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (Jn 14:26)

The Holy Spirit helps the Christian community to understand all that Jesus said and did.  She casts light on his words and actions.  The disciples were often mystified trying to comprehend the fullness of Jesus.  And they could not.  But Jesus promises them the gift of the Spirit who will bring light and clarity into their world.

We live in a world and at a time that has much need for the energizing fire of the Holy Spirit.  Let us pray for this special blessing as we reflect upon the gift of Pentecost.

1 Comment

  1. Sr Teresa Pegado

    Thank you father very enriching thought.


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