cyril_alexandriaI am come to cast fire upon the earth: and how I wish that it were already kindled! And I have a baptism to be baptized with: and how am I straitened, until it be accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50).

“One of the Seraphim was sent unto me, and in his hand he had a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs from the altar, and he touched with it my mouth, and said, Lo! this has touched your lips, and it shall take away your sins, and cleanse you of your iniquities” (Isaiah 6:6-7).

What interpretation then are we to put upon the coal which touched the prophet’s lips, and cleansed him from all sin?

Plainly it is the message of salvation, and the confession of faith in Christ, which whosoever receives with his mouth is forthwith and altogether purified.

And of this Paul thus assures us; “that if you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

We say then that the power of the divine message resembles a live coal and fire.

And the God of all somewhere said to the prophet Jeremiah, “Behold, I have made My words in your mouth to be fire, and this people to be wood, and it shall devour them.”

And again, “Are not My words as burning fire, says the Lord?

Rightly therefore did our Lord Jesus Christ say unto us, “I am come to throw fire upon earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

[…] And the fire being once kindled was soon to seize upon the whole world, immediately that the whole dispensation had attained to its completion: as soon, that is, as He had borne His precious passion upon the Cross, and had commanded the bonds of death to cease.

For He rose on the third day from the dead. And this He teaches us by saying, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!”

And by His baptism He means His death in the flesh: and by being straitened because of it He means, that He was saddened and troubled until it was accomplished.

For what was to happen when it was accomplished? That henceforth not in Judaea only should the saving message of the Gospel be proclaimed.

Comparing this to fire He said, “I am come to send fire upon earth:”—-but that now it should be published even to the whole world…:

“Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to observe all those things which I have commanded you.”

Behold therefore, yes see, that throughout all nations was that sacred and divine fire spread abroad by means of the holy preachers.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Sermon 114.

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