Richard Rolle (1290-1349) writes, in his The Fire of Love, about the spiritual flame that feeds the soul: “I cannot tell you how surprised I was the first time I felt my heart begin to warm. It was real warmth, too, not imaginary, and it felt as if it were actually on fire. I was astonished at the way the heat surged up and how this new sensation brought great and unexpected comfort. I had to keep feeling my breast to make sure there was no physical reason for it.
“But once I realized that it came entirely from within, that this fire of love had no cause, material or sinful, but was the gift of my Maker, I was absolutely delighted, and wanted my love to be even greater. And this longing was all the more urgent because of the delightful effect and the interior sweetness which this spiritual flame fed into my soul. Before the infusion of this comfort, I had never thought that we exiles could possibly have known such warmth, so sweet was the devotion it kindled. It set my soul aglow.”
When I came to faith in Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in Boston, Massachusetts, I felt this flame within me. It was as though I was on fire and all the spiritual detritus within me had been burned away. I felt the embers flash into flame again, when on a Cursillo weekend, I sensed a call to the ministry. This time the fire was accompanied by light that seemed to surround me and encompass me. I entered seminary, and in my first preaching class, my professor, Gwyn Walters, told me he could feel the fire within me when it came through, as a “fire in my belly,” as I expounded on the Word of God.
Like Rolle, I have also moved through times when I felt “spiritually frozen…missing what I had become accustomed to…[feeling] myself barren.” Disappointments and overturnings in my life obtruded into my soul warmth, disturbing and quenching the flame. I was comforted then by Rolle’s assertion, that the flame, once kindled, is “irremovable” because it has taken hold of the heart.
Rolle notes us that no mortal could survive the heat at its peak if it persisted. “We must inevitably wilt before the vastness and sweetness of love so intense and heat so indescribable.” Yet at the same time, we long for more of this “honeyed flame;” we long to be “held in thrall with those who sing their Maker’s praise.”
The soul warmth within me continues to bring comfort and enlightenment and an overpowering sense of the presence and love of the living God. The fire still burns steadily and, often, fans into flame.
Have you experienced the “fire of love” as described in this post? Would you be willing to share your experience with me? I am working on a chapter about soul warmth and spiritual fire and would appreciate your input. Please respond in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, in advance, for any assistance you are able and willing to provide.