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||    Pope Shenouda    ||    Father Matta    ||    Bishop Mattaous    ||    Fr. Tadros Malaty    ||    Bishop Moussa    ||    Bishop Alexander    ||    Habib Gerguis    ||    Bishop Angealos    ||    Metropolitan Bishoy    ||

The fiftieth day and the fire Symbols


We read in the Acts book that our fathers the apostles as were gathered in one spirit…

Then there appeared to them divided

tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of

them. And they were all filled with the Holy

Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance… (Ac 2:3, 4).


And today we want to meditate together in the

subject of the fire and its symbols in the Holy Bible

and how it relates to the Holy Spirit…

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

The fire symbolized God and sometimes the

Divine Justice. And the fire coming down

symbolized God's acceptance of the sacrifice.

And we see that in the story of Elijah and the

prophets of Baal, and how that God accepted him and

his sacrifice in that "the fire of the LORD fell and

consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood… Now

when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces;

and they said, "The LORD, He is God!..." (1 K 18: 38,


And in the law of prophet Moses the burnt

sacrifice was the first sacrifice because it was all for

God, all for the fire, it was that "The burnt offering

shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until

morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept

burning on it" "And the fire on the altar shall be kept

burning on it; it shall not be put out." (Lv 6:9, 12).

The burnt sacrifice was not for anyone to eat. But

it was all for the fire as a sign of satisfying the Divine

Justice completely.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

It was said in (He 12:29) "our God is a

consuming fire".

And the Lord Christ said about the work of the

Holy Spirit "I came to send fire on the earth, and how

I wish it were already kindled!" (Lk 12:49).

The fire then symbolizes God and consequently

His Holy Spirit.

Each of us has become a temple for the Holy

Spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells in him (1 Co 3:16).

And here I would like to ask an important question:

Did the temple ever was without fire?!

No, fire was always there in it continuously, in

candles, in firepans, in burnts, in lamps, and the fire

is still there in God's temples continuously in the New


􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

Candles at the icons, before saints pictures,

indicates that these saints were a light for the

world according to the Lord Christ's commandment

(Mt 5:14). And their lives melted as the candle melts

to light for people… And those two matters are

important: that the person's life is lightening and

lights for others and that he sacrificing himself…

And candles on the altar symbolize angels and

their presence in the church during the holy sacrifice.

And the candles in the church symbolize Heaven. It is

as if we are in Heaven while the holy sacrifice is


And candles during the reading of the bile

symbolizes the spiritual light that the bible offers in

the holy teachings as the psalm says " Your word is a

lamp to my feet And a light to my path" (Ps


􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

And the fire exists permanently in the

church, in the firepan (in the incense burner)

whether in the morning offering or in the evening

offering or in the incense burning in the Holy Liturgy.

The church is never out of incense…

And the fire in the incense burner in lighting the

coal symbolizes the union of the Divinity with the

Humanity. And that is inside the firepan which

symbolizes virgin Mary’s belly. And thus we call it (ti

shery in noub) meaning the golden firepan.

And the fact that the incense piece keeps burning

until it is finished is to offer a good smell to others, is

a symbol that the person should sacrifice his life for

others and that his life should be of a good smell in

the society in which he lives. And that's how Christ

was continuously a good smell…

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

And on the fiftieth day, as we remember the

tongues of fire we remember the saying of the bible

"Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame

of fire" (Ps 104:4).

So it is required from the church that its

servants be flames of fire…

So the church servants, like angels, should be

flame of fire…

And when the bible talks to us about that prophet

Elijah ascended to heaven in the storm in a "chariot

of fire" (2 K 2:11), that does not mean that a chariot

of physical fire carried his physical body, otherwise he

would have been burnt. But this chariot of fire was

angels. Elijah was carried by angels to Heaven.

And the same description can be found after a

while in the same book (2 K 6) when the enemy's

army was surrounding the city, and Gehazi got afraid

but prophet Elisha said to him: "Do not fear, for those

who are with us are more than those who are with

them." and the servant saw "and behold, the


mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all

around Elisha" (2 K 2:17). And the fire chariots were

God's angels.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

And we learn the same thing from the Seraphim

story with prophet Isaiah and the word (Seraphim)

linguistically mean the ones fired up.

Seraphim were standing praising God saying " Holy,

holy, holy is the LORD of hosts" and when Isaiah heard

them he said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I

am a man of unclean lips" (Is 6:5).

And when one of the Seraphim heard him he did

not bear that this person says that he is undone so he

flew to him quickly having in his hand a live coal which

he had taken with the tongs from the altar touched his

mouth with it and said to him: " Behold, this has

touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your

sin purged" (Is 6:7).

This Seraph did not put in his mind that he was

standing in a praising atmosphere praising God. And did

not put in his mind that nobody asked him to go and

save that man. But he did not bear to hear someone

saying "Woe is me, for I am undone" so he flew quickly

and took a live coal from the altar and touched his

mouth with it… to purify those lips…

What is this live coal that purified the lips of Isaiah

and took away his iniquity?

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

Anyway, we, on the fiftieth day, when we meditate

the issue of the tongues of fire, we remember the

Lord's saying to his disciples:

"It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your

Father who speaks in you".

Then, this is the job of each servant in the church:

not to speak himself, but to let God's Spirit speaks in

him. And how would God's Spirit speak in him? It

speaks as tongues of fire, i.e. fiery words…

Then, the word that the spiritual servant says is a

fiery word that keeps ringing in the ears of the listener,

his mind and in his heart, and be with him on the way,

with him at home and in everywhere. It does not leave

him, because it is a word like it is made of fire that

lights him from inside; lights his heart and soul…

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

What does it mean that the word lights him?

This is the nature of the fire. If it touches

anything, it makes it fire as it is.

If the fire touches wood, it makes the wood fire, if it

touches paper, it become fire and if touches cotton it

also becomes fire. Even any building that catches fire

becomes also fire…

And this is the method of the spiritual servants. If

they speak to anyone or deal with him, they lit him with the fire. The fire that is in them turns him to fire as well.

So, in the fiftieth day, the disciples were burnt with

the Holy Fire, the fire of holy zeal for God's Kingdom.

And they turned into fire flames that were spread

around the world. And then the whole world was set on


This is the wonderful spiritual service that comes

with fruits…

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

Someone like St. Paul the apostle, as he was "a

captive in chains", meaning officially arrested, as he

was speaking to Felix the governor. As he reasoned

about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to

come, "Felix was afraid" (Ac 24:25). Because the

words of St. Paul were made of fire so the governor

could not bear that.

Also, as St. Paul was speaking to King Agrippa,

he told him: King Agrippa, do you believe the

prophets? I know that you do believe." Then

Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to

become a Christian." (Ac 26:27, 28). The words of

St. Paul the apostle were not just ordinary words

but what was important was the fire that was in it

that lit others with fire…

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

That's what we can say about the nature of the

servant. Supposedly he should be fiery, meaning

that he should have taken a touch of the Fiery Holy


Even in the Old Testament: before us there

is an example which is David the lad before

the giant Goliath.

He heard that giant defying God's people, and

the army was standing in fear, and so the king was

afraid. But God's Spirit moved David so he said

"who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should

defy the armies of the living God?". And David went

to fight that giant saying: "You come to me with a

sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come

to you in the name of the LORD of hosts" (1 S 17:

46, 45)…

And David managed to win because his heart

was lit with the fire of the Holy Spirit because he

was already anointed by the Spirit (1 S 16).

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

And in the New Testament we read in the

bible be "fervent in spirit" (Ro 12:11).

Meaning do not have a lazy still spirits, but ones

full of heat even heat differentiate the live body

from the dead one. The dead body does not have

heat as opposed to the live one.

The apostles had this spiritual heat with which

they said in their preaching "we cannot but speak"

(Ac 4:20). And said also in daring "We ought to

obey God rather than men" (Ac 5:29).

And this same talking reminds us of prophet

Jeremiah who upon transmitting God's message,

people laughed at him. So he got silent but he could

not remain silent and God's word was in his heart

like fire.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

And the heat the fathers took in the fiftieth day,

was not only heat in service and in the fiery word

which they say.

It was also a heat in everything. As it was in

service, it was in prayer, in the spiritual life, a heat

in repentance and in all what their hands reached.

And this is something we saw across ages,

which made Christianity capable of bearing the

cruelty of the Roman Empire until the Roman

Empire became Christian…

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

An example of that is the heat that was

there in the Fourth Century.

Whether it was a deep heat in defending faith

against the Arians and some heretics or a deep heat

on the side of the spiritual life in asceticism and in

monastic life in the church that was fiery in all those

who loved God from all their hearts and came out of

the world looking for life with God alone. And


similar ones who stayed in the world to defend faith

with power and heat.

􀀿 􀀿 􀀿

And here we find the impact of the human who

came into the church in a fiery spirit, so the church

becomes all fiery, and the service fiery… While

another person may have no impact whatsoever on

the service.

The fiery spirit is the one we want in servants

whether they were ordinary ones or servants in

clergy ranks.

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