Earth’s Crammed with Heaven
And Every Common Bush Afire with God
Early this morning, as I looked out my home office window, I could see that big ball of fire we call the Sun just clearing the trees toward the East. I started to think about how the Holy One appears again and again in Biblical stories as fire. In the Book of Exodus, Moses encounters the Holy One in a burning bush. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit appears as a flame that divides and comes to rest above the heads of the disciples. These are the two most familiar examples, but there are many other stories of the Divine appearing as fire in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the scriptures of other religions.
Recording one of her visions, the twelfth-century saint and mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, wrote down what she heard: “I, the Highest and Fiery Power, have kindled every spark of life. I, the fiery life of Divine Essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars… I remain hidden in every kind of reality as a fiery power” (Vision 1.2).
The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a similar revelation which she shared in her epic poem, Aurora Leigh: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes.”
This “fire” is also a part of us. In The Book of Proverbs, it is written that “The soul of the human being is the flame of God” (20:27). Helen Keller recognized this. Perhaps she was more attuned to her inner senses because her outer senses of seeing and hearing were absent. She wrote in her book My Religion, “I feel the flame of eternity in my soul.”
I find it fascinating that this same idea harmonizes across cultures and religions. In Chinese philosophy, Shen extends itself through all that exists. The word Shen can be translated in many ways such as “spirit”, “soul”, “God”, and “numinous”. Shen is associated with fire and resides in the heart. Saint Paul also tells us that God’s Spirit resides in our hearts, and advised the fledgling Christian community, “Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive” (Romans 12:11). So, what can we do to keep the divine flame alive in our hearts? One way is through meditation. If you are an early riser, I suggest facing the rising sun and beginning your meditation with a prayer. This one from the Celtic Christian tradition is one of my favorites:
At the rising of Your sun Lord God, Creator of light,
At the rising of Your sun each morning, let the greatest of all lights, Your love,
rise, like the sun, within my heart.
Then just sit or stand quietly and breathe into your belly. Let the sunlight remind you of the Divine light in your heart and ask this light to lead you throughout the day. Jesus said that we are to allow the light of this flame to shine forth. (Matthew 5:14-16), so send your light out to those who need healing in the world. My Quaker friend likes to say, “I will hold you in the Light.”
End your meditation with a prayer. I like this one:
May the light of God illuminate the heart of our souls.
May the flame of Christ kindle in us, love.
May the fire of the Spirit free us to live fully, this day and forever.
Rev. Yanchy Lacska, PhD is an Orthodox Catholic priest, an interfaith minister and a Jungian oriented pastoral counselor. He has been a hospital chaplain, a college professor, psychotherapist, and has taught qigong for 20 years.