Updated: May 19, 2021
“You are dust and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).
My husband and his brother love open fires. During the cooler months, we spend a lot of time sitting around fire pits, fireplaces, and even charcoal barbeques and watching the fire burn down.
My dad is sort of the opposite. An open fire seems an awful lot of work to him when he could warm his house with the click of a button using central heating, and so, as a child, I grew up in a home where fires were lit an awful lot less than they are in my home now.
The other day, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, we were sitting altogether – my family, and the families of my in-laws – and the fire pit was lit and burning away…
The conversation meandered from one topic to another, and soon, I found myself staring into the flames.
I watched – as the afternoon progressed – how the logs inside that fire burned down. Large, dry logs were thrown into the flames, slowly, one after the other, each in their turn.
Each time a log was tossed into the fire, it went through a process to burn down to ash.
First, the wiry papery bark burned off in a spark of flame. That flame was fleeting, but it was intense and as it burned so rapidly, it ignited the timber itself, and then – slowly – the timber itself began to burn. A good dry log does not burn rapidly in a fire. The log is not like paper, or even the bark surrounding it, which burns quickly and violently.
The log burns nice and slowly. If the log is thick enough and dry enough, it can take many hours to burn down to ash. And the log burns in a methodical manner. First the bark and then the outer layer, usually on one side, the side exposed to the flame. And then, through the centre, and slowly and surely, the flames eat their way through the log, until at last they reach the other side. And then, very quickly it seems, the log burns itself out and collapses upon itself into ash and the flame – and if there is no other log added to the fire, the fire is consumed and burns itself out.
As I sat there on that Sunday afternoon, watching these logs burn down, it occurred to me, that these logs are like our Earthly life…
You see, just as the logs burn in a sort of process, so too do we move through our Earthly life.
Just as the bark burns quickly and intensely and ignites the flame to the timber of the log itself, so too does our faith grow through the Graces received in the early sacraments we receive as children.
When our faith is correctly formed by our parents and Parish, we are blessed to spend our childhood spiritually open and connected to God. As children we are innocent and like my young children, we embrace the sacraments. For in the sacraments, we have moments of celebration. But those sacraments are more than mere celebrations, they are also moments where we can be reassured that we can have hope for a future in Heaven. Our Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation and Holy Communion provide us with Graces that ignite our soul and burn into our faith – igniting the slow flame that will burn through for our whole lives.
Then, we grow older, and though the spark of faith is ignited by those early sacraments, many of us grow away from God for a period of time. Here, the log burns slowly on one side, and if we are focused on the concerns on the other side of the log, we barely notice the slowly burning flame. We distract ourselves from the fire and the burning on that side. Instead, we look outward at other things. We look at money, careers, wealth, and even marriage, with barely any thought for the burning flame of love and faith on the other side of us…
And then by the actual GRACE OF GOD – for those of us who are terribly terribly lucky – we have a moment or an instant of awareness. This happens in our soul just as the flame burns through the centre of the log. And by some miracle that we never could merit, in that moment, we can realise that just as the log will soon be ash, so too will our Earthly life soon turn to dust…
And when, in that instant – infused by Grace – we finally realise what our Earthly life is for, we can bow down and instead of trying to escape the searing heat – we can EMBRACE it… Because we will know that this fire, this suffering, this burning, is the way that Our Blessed Lord draws us closer to Him and brings us home…
And so, though it may be more convenient to flick a switch to warm the room, God makes choices that are for the GOOD, not for His convenience… He burns the logs instead!
Oh, my Lord and my God – my Beloved… How lucky I am… You have allowed me to feel this burning heat and KNOW that it is You… And I burn and I burn and I burn and I burn. And my Earthly life is consumed. And I give it to You – to draw ever closer to you…
Because I know, and believe Your words when You told me… “You are dust and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.