I don’t have the photos from this year’s Hunger Strike yet as it’s going on now. However, I do have the speech that I’m going to read around the bonfire tonight for our “Fire of Prayer” activity. This is the speech, I’ll add in pictures later as an author edit. You’ll forgive me that I think, readers mine.
The name of this activity is “The Fire of Prayer”. A man who had a very personal relationship with God, a Catholic Saint by the name of St. Ignatius of Loyola, said that as Christians we should, “Go forth and set the world aflame”. This quote was the inspiration for the activity that you are about to do. This retreat is devoted to reaching out and changing the world through your actions and that is exactly what St. Ignatius meant. Jesus said, “I have come to cast fire upon the Earth”. The fire he spoke of is the Holy Spirit, which appeared as a flame above the heads of the apostles on Pentecost, empowering them to preach the Gospel and change the world. You can do the same. Go out and teach the world about God’s love through your actions. Change what needs changing. Help others and show them that a Christian is a person who is both kind to all and passionate about their faith. Share your passion with the world.
I can’t think of a better symbol for passion than fire. By it’s very nature, fire is change. Moses encountered God as a burning bush, lighting the spark of passion in him that allowed him to free the people of Israel from slavery and seek out the Promised Land, regardless of the daunting odd. Firefighters speak of flame as “living fire”. It is always moving and sparking, setting other things ablaze. By being here tonight, you are acting as the spark. You are igniting change. By raising money for those less fortunate than yourself, you are altering the lives of those who will receive your gift. By being here and learning about third world statistics, you are shifting how you see the world and gaining a more global perspective. In Matthew, chapter 25, verse 40—the Sermon on the Mount—Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” What makes you a truly righteous person is not passing judgment on others, but by giving to those in need. By being here, you show that you have a passion for sharing with those who are less fortunate than yourself and want to explore your relationship with the Lord.
Beyond symbolizing passion and the Christian spark of light that is the glory of the Lord, fire is used in our church services. In the time of the Roman Empire, candles were used in the official ceremonies for the highest dignitaries to show that they had authority and that the people who employed them were important. When we process with the Gospel or Holy Communion on Sundays, the candles show how important the Gospel of Christ or the Holy Gifts are, as well as the fact that they are imbued with the power of God. Candles are also a sign of joy and a symbol of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. This is why many families bring the light of the Pascha candle home on Easter. It shows that Jesus, the Risen Lord, is present in that home and in the hearts of those who live there.
Incense, like candles, has many different meanings and is used for a variety of reasons. As early as the book of Exodus, God commands Aaron, the brother of Moses, to burn incense on a special altar in the Temple, something that was also done with animal sacrifices. As a result, the burning incense became a symbol of God’s presence and of sacrifice. On Sundays, when the priest censes the church at the beginning of liturgy, he is making the presence of God known to all who are there. When he censes the Holy Gifts, he is reminding us of the sacrifice Jesus made and of the bloodless sacrifice we offer every Sunday. When the priest censes the clergy and the laity, those who are not ordained, it symbolizes the rising up of our prayers in the presence of God.
Prayer, incense, and candles are all things that help us connect to God. While incense and candles are physical representations of our connection, prayer is the way we spiritually connect; how we talk with God. Your relationship with Him should guide all of the decisions you make. The closer your relationship with him is, the happier and fuller your life will be. Prayer does not need to be done by rote. Many people start with a personal prayer and finish with one that they have been taught or vice versa. A spontaneous prayer is as valid as the “Our Father” or the “Jesus Prayer” because it comes from your heart. The goal of prayer is to speak to God about the good, the bad, and everything in-between. Ask Him for help, give Him praise, share your hopes and dreams through prayer. You can have no better friend than God.
During this activity, you need to silently focus on the presence of God in your life and in the lives of others. Use this time to become closer to Him and work towards that personal relationship. Think about the child on your passport. What do they need? What do you wish for them? What is your prayer for their lives? You have been given a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Go off on your own, do NOT sit with your friends, and find a place where you can really focus and pray. When you have decided on your prayer for your child, write it down in one to two sentences and continue your conversation with God until the time is done and we tell you to return to the fire. We will stand together as a group as one by one you go up to the fire and read the prayer for your child. When you have finished reading your prayer, place it into the fire, allowing it to rise up in the presence of God and give the next person a chance to share their prayer. Together, we will do as it says in Psalms chapter 141, verse 2, “Let my prayer be set before you like incense; the lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice.”