III Lent Wednesday – Esaias

For the Lord Hath Spoken

The Lenten Readings from Esaias 

III Lent Wednesday – Esaias 10: 12-20

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Thus saith the Lord:  And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have finished doing all things on Mount Sion and Jerusalem, that I will visit upon the proud heart, even upon the ruler of the Assyrians, and upon the boastful haughtiness of his eyes. 13 For he said, I will act in strength, and in the wisdom of my understanding I will remove the boundaries of nations, and will spoil their strength. 14 And I will shake the inhabited cities: and I will take with my hand all the world as a nest: and I will even take them as eggs that have been left; and there is none that shall escape me, or contradict me. 15 Shall the axe glorify itself without him that hews with it? or shall the saw lift up itself without him that uses it, as if one should lift a rod or staff? but it shall not be so; 16 but the Lord of hosts shall send dishonour upon thine honour, and burning fire shall be kindled upon thy glory. 17 And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and he shall sanctify him with burning fire, and it shall devour the wood as grass. 18 In that day the mountains shall be consumed, and the hills, and the forests, and fire shall devour both soul and body: and he that flees shall be as one fleeing from burning flame. 19 And they that are left of them shall be a small number, and a child shall write them.  20 And it shall come to pass in that day that the remnant of Israel shall no more join themselves with, and the saved of Jacob shall no more trust in, them that injured them; but they shall trust in the Holy God of Israel, in truth. 

In commenting on verse 17, “And the light of Israel shall be for a fire,” St. Ambrose teaches us that here the holy prophet Esaias speaks of the Holy Spirit Who will be revealed to the apostles in the form of tongues of fire at Pentecost:  

And Esaias shows that the Holy Spirit is not only light but also fire, saying, “And the light of Israel shall be for a fire.”  So the prophets called Him [the Holy Spirit] a burning fire, because in those three points we see more intensely the majesty of the Godhead; since to sanctify is of the Godhead, to illuminate is the property of fire and light, and the Godhead is customarily pointed out or seen in the appearance of fire: “For our God is a consuming fire,” as Moses said [Deuteronomy 4:24; also see Hebrews 12: 29].   –St. Ambrose of Milan, On the Holy Spirit 

Once again we see how the Holy Fathers view the entire Old Testament as a vast ensemble of prophecies which will be fulfilled not only in the economy of the Incarnate Word, Our Lord Jesus Christ, but also in all of the other great mysteries revealed in the New Testament, including, as we see here, the revelation of the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  

St. Ambrose here reminds us that the power of the Holy Spirit is understood as both fire and light.  The fire of the Godhead consumes what is impure in us, and His light then illuminates both our discursive and spiritual intellects.   

Our stricter fasting during Great Lent is designed to allow the fire of the Godhead to cleanse us of the passions, while our increased prayer and spiritual reading then allow His light to illumine our purified minds.     We need both:  Prayer and study without ascetical discipline lead to delusion, for it takes fasting and prostrations to remind us that we are mere dust and ashes, and therefore to humble our minds to perceive things – both divine and human – as they really are.    But without prayer and study, ascetical discipline leads to self-satisfaction on the one hand, when we succeed in our discipline,  or gloominess on the other hand, when we fail.  One demon is driven out by fasting, but seven more worse than he will occupy the soul if she is not filled with the fragrance of the knowledge of God brought through prayer and reading. 

O All-Holy Spirit, cleanse us of our sins and passions, and enlighten our minds with the knowledge of Christ and the joy of our salvation.  Amen. 

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