THE LEGEND OF HELIOPHER

Once upon a time there was a people that was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in constant fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people refused to believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people, however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst them.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! Let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!”

And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!”

But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” And with his nails he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. Then he took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart.

And the people went in jubilation toward the sun and danced in its loving rays, and they loved one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

Source: First published in Plough’s Winter 1938 issue
based on Maxim Gorky’s story
“The Flaming Heart of Danko.”

CONSIDER THIS

“I wish each of us Easter eyes, able to perceive in death, life; in guilt, forgiveness; in separation, unity; in wounds, glory; in the human, God; in God, the human; and in the I, the You.” – Bishop Klaus Hemmerle

DANGEROUS PENTECOST

Lorenzo de’Medici, the great Florentine patron of the arts was very proud of the spectacles he staged for the citizenry. Among his many productions were several amazingly realistic religious pageants performed in church. But one Pentecost, Lorenzo went a little bit too far: he used actual fire to depict the descent of the tongues of flames on the apostles. The fragile stage set caught fire and, before horrified onlookers, the entire church burned to the ground

Source: Halford E. Luccock, Marching Off the Map
(Harper, 1952).

CONSIDER THIS

Is your heart burning within you? Is it a heartburn or a passionate heart on fire?

Pray for the gifts of fire, zeal and passion. Pray for the gift of pentecostal fire but never ever try to manufacture it. The fire of pentecost is a gift to be received. The other kind of fire is a false fire and may spell disaster.

NO TIME FOR TOKEN CONTRIBUTIONS

Once upon a time there was a fire in a small town. The fire brigade rushed to the scene, but the fireman were unable to get through to the burning building. The problem was the crowd of people who had gathered not to watch but to help put out the fire. They all knew the fire chief well – their children had climbed over his fire engines during excursions to the fire station, and the friendliness of the fire chief was legendary. So when a fire broke out the people rushed out to help their beloved fire chief.

Unfortunately the townsfolk were seeking to extinguish this raging inferno with water pistols!  They’d all stand there, from time to time squirting their pistol into the fire while making casual conversation.

The fire chief couldn’t contain himself. He started screaming at the townsfolk. “What do you think you’re doing? What on earth do you think you’re going to achieve with those waterpistols?!”

The people realised the urgency of the situation. How they wanted to help the fire chief. So they started squirting more. “Come on” they encouraged each other, “We can all do better, can’t we?” Squirt, squirt, squirt, squirt.

Exasperated the fire chief yells again. “Get out of here. Your achieving nothing except hindering us from doing what needs to be done. We need fireman who are ready to give everything they’ve got to put out this fire, people willing even to lay their lives on the line. This is not the place for token contributions”

Source | Story retold from Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations
(Orbis, 2004) pages 173-275

See also Tony Campolo, Let me Tell You a Story
(Thomas Nelson, 2000) pages 82-83

CONSIDER THIS

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is urging us to realise that radical discipleship to Christ means much more than mere involvement or token contributions to the mission of the church in the world. Radical and authentic discipleship calls for wholehearted and total life commitment.

BLESSINGS IN SMOKE

There was a shipwreck and only one man survived, cast ashore on a tiny island with nothing but the clothes on his back. For a while he hoped for rescue. But in time he knew he had to make a life there on the island. And that is what he did. He taught himself to fish and hunt, to garden and cook, and he built himself a charming little cottage overlooking the bay. He even carved a tiny flute which he played every night after supper.

One day he hiked to the top of the mountain at the center of the island to see what he could see. As he reached the top, what he saw was a tower of smoke and his little cottage going up in flames.

He ran down the mountain as fast as he could. But it was too late. The cottage was in ashes – and his flute, his garden, his tools, his bow and arrows – everything he’d made with his own hands was gone, all gone!

He wept. He raged. He cursed God. He despaired. And finally, as night came, he collapsed on the sand and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning he was awakened by sailors who had rowed ashore from a great ship to rescue him. “But,” he exclaimed, “how after all this time did you know I was here?”

“Ah,” said the captain, “we saw the smoke from your signal fire.”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, Sunday Morning (1996)

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • When you have reached the end of your rope, as the saying goes, tie a knot and hold on. Perhaps this is what hope is about: Hold On, Praying Expectantly.
  • When all seems lost and we can feel our emptiness and feel our aloneness, Life has a way of surprising us blessing us and filling us  in a way we’d least expect.

THE GIFT OF FIRE

There’s this guy who invented fire.  He takes the tools for making fire and goes up to the north, where there are some tribes shivering in the cold.  He teaches them the art and the advantages of making fire.  And the people become interested.  they learn.  And what do they know? Pretty soon they’re cooking, they’re using the fire for building.  And before they had time to say thanks to the inventor, he had disappeared.  He didn’t want any thanks; he just wanted people to benefit from his invention.

He goes to another tribe, and he attempts to interest them also in his new invention.  But he ran into a snag there, see?  The priests began to realize how popular the guy was becoming and how their own influence on the people was diminishing.  So they decided to poison him.  A suspicion arose among the people that it was the priests who had done it, so you know what the priests did?

They had a huge portrait made of the man.  They put it on the main altar in the temple.  They devised a liturgy by which the man would be honoured, a ritual; and year after year, people came to pay homage to the great inventor and to the instruments for making fire.  And the ritual was faithfully observed.  But there was no fire.  No fire.  Ritual.  Remembrance.  Gratitude.  Veneration.  Yes.  But no fire.

Source | Anthony de Mello, Rediscovering Life. Pages 102-104

PONDER AND CONSIDER

“Why do you call me Lord Lord and fail to do what I tell you?” [Luke 6:46]
And what is it we’re told to do? Love. Be kind.  Be compassionate. Be merciful. Forgive.

  • Are you trapped by the need for recognition or fuelled and propelled by the urgent longing to make a difference and make the world a better place?
  • What is your reaction to the success and popularity of others?

WHO REALLY LOVES GOD

Saint Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish mystic, saw an angel rushing towards her, carrying a torch and a bucket of water. “Where are you going with that torch and bucket,” she asked; “what will you do with them?”

“With the water,” the angel answered, “I will put out the fires of hell, and with the fire I will burn down the mansions of heaven; then we will see who really loves God.”

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • I wonder if we could live our lives without the threat of punishment or the promise of reward. Could we just do the right thing because it is the right thing?

YOUR BEARD IS ON FIRE

A man was standing in the middle of the town square. While lighting his pipe, he accidentally started his beard on fire. To the townspeople witnessing this event, he seemed to just stand there, doing absolutely nothing about it! Thinking that he somehow was unaware of the growing blaze, they ran up to him and shouted, “Your beard is on fire! Your beard is on fire!” and the man replied, “Yes, yes, I know – can’t you see that I’m praying for rain?”

Source | Story as told by Anthony De Mello

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Indeed, when it does rain, the rain is available! But in the meantime you better watch what you’re doing! And if your beard does catch fire don’t wait for the rain. Do something. Praying for rain does not help.