The Holy Spirit is often depicted by the mystics as a kind of fire. Thus Hildegard of Bingen writes: Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is a Burning Spirit. It kindles the hearts of humankind. Like tympanum and lyre it plays them, gathering volume in the temple of the soul.
Meister Eckhart says that “God glows and burns with all the divine wealth and all the divine bliss in the spark of the soul” and is never extinguished there. Hidden in this spark is something like the original outbreak of all goodness, something like a brilliant light that glows incessantly and something like a burning fire which burns incessantly. This fire is nothing other than the Holy Spirit.
In his poem, “The Living Flame of Love,” John of the Cross describes what he calls the “total transformation of the soul in the Beloved” wherein God and soul produce a “living flame….this flame of love is the Holy Spirit [that] bathes the soul in glory and refreshes it with the quality of divine life.”
It follows that our work burns for “all the acts of the soul are divine” and “since love is never idle, but in continual motion, it is always emitting flames everywhere like a blazing fire.”
Thomas Aquinas says that “compassion is the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth.”
How important is that teaching? Rabbi Heschel says that “Humanity is a reminder of God. As God is compassionate, let humanity be compassionate.”
Meister Eckhart declares that “we can call God love, we can call God knowledge, but the best name for God is compassion.” Compassion is our response to interdependence, to our interconnectivity, to our shared humanity, to our shared being-ness with other beings. Compassion is our living out of what Thich Naht Hanh calls our “interbeing.”
Given that today’s science holds interdependence and interconnectivity as foundations to all bodily and ecological relationships, it would seem that Eckhart has hit on something primal and profound: Our capacity for compassion. In the Jewish tradition compassion is the “secret” name for God. Jesus let this secret out of the bag in Luke 6:26: “Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.”
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unanmaeable God, pp. 47-49.
Queries for Contemplation
Does your work “burn”? Is humanity (sometimes) a “reminder of God” for you?
Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God …Including the Unnameable God
Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview. In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.
“This book is timely, important and admirably brief; it is also open ended—there are always more names to come, and none can exhaust God’s nature.” -Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, author of Science Set Free and The Presence of the Past