Fire is rightly considered to be an apt emblem of charity, for charity is also a pure flame emitting light and heat, self-consuming for the benefit or for the glory of others. This is another reason why the Holy Ghost appeared on the day of Pentecost under the form of fire, as He is essentially the Spirit of charity.
1st. Consider that St. John tells us that “God is charity.” (i. 4, 1.) Although this applies to all the three Persons of the most Holy Trinity, yet this sublime attribute of “charity” is appropriated more especially to the third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost. For as the Son was begotten of the Father in the character of the Eternal Word, the highest, most perfect, absolute Wisdom, so the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son as supreme, absolute charity, and constitutes the sweet bond of love between the Father and the Son. And therefore also the charity of God is, as the Apostle declared, and as the Church teaches, “poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.” (Rom. v. 5.) Where the Holy Spirit is present there the flame of divine charity burns brightly and hotly. This is apparent in the apostles; this is apparent in those to whom the apostles in their turn communicated the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands; this is apparent in the saints of God, the men and women who are filled with the Holy Ghost; this you are conscious of in your own soul, for the charity of God only abides in you as long as you remain in a state of grace, the sanctifying grace imparted to you by the Holy Spirit. And according as this grace is increased or diminished, so the love of God waxes or wanes in our hearts.
2d. Consider how the Holy Ghost is a source whence charity, peace and concord flow. Hence it was that St. Luke was able to write in reference to the early Christians, the first community of the faithful who were endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that they “had but one heart and one soul.” (Acts iv. 32.) None among them, he tells us, said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but in the Spirit of charity they had all things in common. As the children of God they formed one household, one family. Pause, my soul, and contemplate this fair picture which the Church presented in her first bridal days; imagine that you see that community united in the bonds of mutual charity, united together by the Spirit of charity, who still continues to produce that union in ecclesiastical associations and monastic communities where He and He alone holds sway.
3d. Consider the state of things that prevails when this Spirit of charity is wanting. Look at the disunion, the divisions among Christians on earth, from which not even those are exempt whom Nature has united in the closest ties of relationship. See how the world is split into factions, each seeking its own selfish interests, see how men live in strife and contention, as if the earth were inhabited by ravenous beasts rather than by brethren and sisters, members of one great family. Look further and you will see that even among Priests who have received the Holy Spirit in a special degree, that even in religious Communities, whose members have been called by the Holy Spirit to lead the life of the early Christians and have received graces similar to theirs, this Spirit of charity is to a great extent wanting, and in its place a very different spirit reigns, a spirit of jealousy, of envy, of malice, of discord. Nay, you need but to look into your own heart, where there is so much that is in direct variance with charity; observe how often in the course of a single day uncharitable thoughts intrude themselves into your mind, how often your eye looks with ill-will on others, how often your tongue utters words which will give pain, then ask yourself when this state of things began to prevail and you will find that it was when the grace of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying grace, began to lose ground in your soul. Wherefore pray to-day from the bottom of your heart for yourself, for your brethren and sisters, for the world in general; saying: Come Holy Ghost, visit our hearts and kindle in them the fire of Thy love. For our Lord tells us that on love towards God and towards our neighbor, “the whole law and the prophets dependeth.” Now He who alone can impart to us this twofold charity —mark these words—is the Holy Ghost.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
Copyright © 2013. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.