Praise to you
Spirit of fire!
to you who sound the timbrel
and the lyre.
Your music sets our minds
—Hildegard of Bingen
I have long been fascinated by The Holy Spirit in the form of fire. I savor the potentiality in it: fire as holy.
And so I was delighted to read about the Seraphim, those angels that are ranked highest in their hierarchy.
(Though, to admit it, the concept of putting angels into some sort of greater-lesser relationship frustrates me. Because even in the natural world, who is greater in the long run, the lion or the cockroach?)
But, going along with the accepted notion of no-I’m-first-you’re-under-me for the angelic hosts, I read along about the Seraphim and their attributes.
I’ve done this many times. But this time, I stopped. And gasped.
The qualities of the Seraphim, to my mind at least, line up so nicely with those of The Holy Spirit.
One of the jobs of the Seraphim is to encircle God with songs of praise. One song in particular:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of hosts. Heaven and Earth are full of your glory. Glory be to you, Most High.
It sank into me then: this, according to the experts, is a song of creation.
It is continuously sung in order for creation to continue.
What a lovely image: we are born into creation through the beauty and grace of the angels’ song.
Here is where the Seraphim and The Holy Spirit stand apart.
God, the Father, creates through the ministration of his angels.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop smiling at the thought of this.
But here we are, created. Breathing. In body.
In Christianity, the body is so important. It is so vital.
In order to do the work of God, I imagine.
But something goes wrong in our creation. We need to heal.
The Seraphim are described as fiery, flying serpents. Ultimately two intertwine to become the symbol for the medical profession.
Healing from serpents.
They could be snakes. Or, they could be dragons.
So there’s chaos that needs to be tamed for sanity’s sake. And there’s chaos that is the perfect description of healing. It’s broken: everything move about frantically and find your right place again.
Like the game of musical chairs in a nursery school.
God, I love this.
For me, healing is the primary expression of The Holy Spirit.
And this is where fire comes in.
Fiery serpents. The miraculous blaze of The Holy Spirit.
A team for healing.
The fire that can burn away the old cells, the broken cells. It can cleanse in its destruction of the old and broken.
It takes courage to be a fire-worker. It takes strength to create chaos in order to reshape it again into something that is new and healthy.
I wonder if The Holy Spirit acts as a kind of conductor. Directing the blissful music of the Seraphim to break apart the creation that they have created and reassemble it again.
Because that’s what snakes do: they shed their skins and are rejuvenated.
And it is through The Holy Spirit that Jesus was raised from the dead. (Romans 8:11)
In Christianity, our bodies are so cherished that it is through them that, on Earth, we are born again.
Like the phoenix, God gives us the ability to be created anew.
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man
And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass.
And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.
And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. (Ezekiel 1:4-14)
And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go.