It was on a camping trip with my dad that I learned about sanitation. It’s odd, isn’t it? Camping
trips usually mean roughing it. No running water. Soap? Well, don’t let mom hear, but we did fine without it. When you went camping you’d expect to get dirty and messy.
After breakfast one day, we hiked up a trial. It was a long walk through some of the most scenic areas in the Sierras. We walked, ran and played along the trial. As far as I remember, we weren’t interested in resting. The fun of the hike is in the discoveries that are made along the way and the more you walk, the more you experience. This particular discovery wasn’t in the fun category. It started off with the slip of my foot which sent me stumbling toward the ground. By instinct I put my hand out to break the fall and pushed my palm on a broken tree truck. It hurt; not the fall, as much as a rather large sliver of wood dug deep into my skin.
It was one of those wounds that hurt a bit more every time you thought about it. This was in the middle of my palm. It was hard to ignore. You couldn’t see the sliver of wood but you definitely knew it was there.
We headed back to camp. There my dad looked around the campsite and later found a pin inside the car. He went over to the campfire site and stirred up some embers which were dying under a layer of earth. He brought them back to life by fanning a newspaper on them. Before long there was a small blue and gold flame dancing in the middle of the heap. He took the pin out of the safety and began heating it. I remember the tip of the pin got black and then it turned bright red.
“Dad, what are you doing?”
“I’m just sterilizing the pin. The fire burns off all the germs.” He used the pin to push the sliver through my skin, back out the hole from where it came. It was the finest campsite-surgery I had seen this side of the Rockies using an improvised splinter-removal tool, sanitized courtesy of the resurrected campfire embers.
Yesterday on the Road to Healing, we spoke about the “fever” which is the fire within. It’s part of the body’s natural process of eliminating infections. Today we focus on the fire that is introduced from the outside and necessary for our healing. That fire is nothing more than all the elements that come into our life to give us strength – to sanitize it, sterilize it, purify it, so that we fight the infections that prevent us from wellness. These fires could be the words of a friend who offers comfort and consolation to us. It could be the tight embrace of a loved one, reassuring us that troubles are many, but their support is firm and steadfast. The flames that give us strength can be found in exercise, mental stimulation and the human touch which reflects deep love. The flames are in music and art. They are the reflections of love.
This fire is not the one that fights the infection, rather it’s the one that sanitizes the tools, so that you can have a fair fight. Most critical of these outside fires is faith. In the prayer of St. Nersess Shnorhali, we prayed, “O Christ, who are the Living Fire, inflame my soul with the fire of Your love.” Christ is the incarnation of Love. Christ is pure Love and purifying Love, sacred and sanctifying, strength and fortifying, perfect and perfecting.
As we move forward on the Road to Healing, we understand that complete recovery comes from the harmony of body, mind and soul. Love is the fire that cleans and purifies, melding, body, mind and soul to yield a healed self.
Yesterday, we read the prayer of St. Nersess with one understanding. I asked you to meditate with the prayer in your heart on the idea of inner-fire. Today, we learn the importance of the outer-fire. Let us pray the same prayer today as we contemplate the Fire as it comes from without.
O Christ, who are the Living Fire, inflame my soul with the fire of Your love, which You did send forth upon the earth, that it may burn the stains of my soul, sanctify my conscience, purge the sins of my body, and kindle in my heart the light of Your knowledge. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner. Amen.
I look forward to continuing the Road to Healing with you tomorrow. Don’t be scared and stay on course. Until then, this is Fr. Vazken sharing the message of the Living Fire within and without you.