The word of the day is “fire.” Today our reading of Hebrews 12:18-13:8 begins with a striking admonition: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:18-19).
Today as we stand in the doorway of Holy Week, we have good reason to take this urgent counsel with ultimate seriousness. Indeed our King is coming to us and the events that the things He will endure on our behalf will be both dreadful and awesome.
As the Lord prophesied, He comes “to bring fire on the earth” (Luke 12:49), the fire of God acting for our salvation. And that fire will transform us in one way or the other.
St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco wrote: “God is consuming fire. When an object touches fire, it is changed: either it is burned up, or it is tempered. So too, a man, in touching God, either perishes or is saved. Fire – always fire! But from contact with it either ashes or steel is obtained, depending on what is touched.”
“What of our lives and ourselves will the firestorm of the Lord’s passion touch? St. John goes on, “So does it happen with a man, and everything depends on what he brings to the divine Fire – in what state he touches God. If he keeps himself like iron, the power of the iron becomes steel. If he lets himself go to the point of the weakness of chaff – he will burn up.”
John explains, “The winnowing-shovel is in the Lord’s hand. Grain and chaff are tossed up by the winnowing-and is gathered into the granary; the chaff is abandoned or is burned up.”
In the light of St. John’s teaching, how should we prepare for the awesome events of the week to come? First we must complete our season of repentance, acknowledging our sins before God and appealing to His mercy. Second we should “watch and pray” as the Lord taught His disciples in the Garden. Then we should “love one another” as the Lord taught at the Last Supper. Finally we must enter these Holy Days with firm, confident, and courageous faith, faith that will walk with the Lord, faith that will not falter or turn aside, faith that will stay with the Lord through His passion.
Then when we go through this fiery trial with fear and reverence, we will not be burned, but we will be transformed by our God who is a consuming fire.
St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco. “God Is a Consuming Fire.” St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. https://www.orthodox.net/articles/god-is-consuming-fire-john-maximovich.html.