Formed by a Flame: an Introduction on Fire and Theosis

Formed by a Flame: an Introduction on Fire and Theosis May 10, 2023
Flame of Sanctuary Lamp: Formed by a Flame
Photo by A. Laflamme

Welcome to Formed by a Flame, a weekly column where I reflect on life through a worldview formed by the flame of faith. I put my daily life, books and media, or anything else through the fire to see what is below the surface.

Theosis: Being Formed

In Christianity, the process of purifying, illuminating, and uniting to God is called theosis or “making divine”. That is the goal here at Formed by a Flame, to form our mind to see God in the everyday so that we can better know Him.

Fire and flames are the perfect symbol of our goal of theosis because it purifies, illuminates, and unites.

Purifying Flames

Fire changes whatever enters it, for better or worse. Metals can become stronger and more pure while other materials turn to dust.

When we look at the world with a Catholic worldview, we are constantly testing ideas against what we know to be true, good, and beautiful. Everything that has truth and beauty is of God, so we want to recognize that when we can, and discard the rest.

This doesn’t only apply to “Christian” media that is labeled as such. We should be able to engage in anything of this world that has elements of truth, and affirm the good while not condoning the bad. As St. Paul tells us, “Do not despise the words of the prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22).

Illuminative Flames

The light of a candle can reveal what was always right before us in the darkness.

Sometimes we can learn by seeing something we have never seen before. Other times, we see the same thing, but in a different light.

Illumination, or theoria, is the result of contemplating God and trying to see what is happening spiritually in addition to what we are experiencing physically. I have heard it described as seeing with the “eyes of your heart” or your “mind’s eye”.

When we have the light of faith, the world looks different than before. Consider the way the disciples on the road to Emmaus didn’t fully recognize Jesus until the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:31). It was mass, the Eucharist, and faith that opened their eyes in a new way.

So we can sincerely pray those classic praise & worship lyrics, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord“.

Unifying Flames

The spark of a weld can join together what once was two. Heat in a forge can melt down two metals to become an alloy.

If we want to unite ourselves with God, we need this flame to provide the heat.

Our hope is to fuse together with Jesus and begin to look more like him each day: in our actions, our thoughts, and our will. Here I hope we can talk about practical ways to do this!

Our Mission: Become Like God

Why did Jesus become man? See what four great saints tell us:

The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature‘; – Saint Peter
‘For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God’ – Saint Irenaeus
‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God‘ – Saint Athanasius
The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.’” – Saint Thomas Aquinas

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) – 460 (emphasis and separation added)

All of these quotes are a long way of stating our goal of theosis. We want to become like God. This is not in a selfish way of wanting power, but this paragraph above shows that this is Jesus’ mission as well. He wants us “to share in his own blessed life” (CCC 1).

We want to form the way we look at the world through our minds, and we want to form our whole lives to be more like God. As mentioned, we do this forming by the flame of faith.

Power of Fire

Fire is powerful. It can be dangerously strong, but we are drawn to it.

Flames can also show us the God’s presence and what is Holy: as in the burning bush, the pillar of fire in the desert, the apostles at Pentecost, and the red flame of the sanctuary lamp. This powerful presence is where we want to end up in the end.

Forming a new worldview is not easy. Luckily, we don’t have to do it alone. God wants it for us, so we should ask Him. He will provide The Spirit, symbolized by a fire, that will purify, illuminate, and unite.

Formed by a Flame

Thanks for reading this far, and I hope that each week we can practice the process of testing all things, seeing God around us with our “mind’s eye”, and drawing closer to God. Feel free to leave ideas in the comments of something you’d like to look at on a deeper level.

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Thanks for joining Formed by a Flame, a column formed by A. Laflamme.

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