I have heard the Spirit speak to me in her fire. The fire that refines is not to destroy us but instead to heal our wounds with spiritual gold. The Hebrew Bible has several references to the Spirit of God being the refiner’s fire—Malachi 3:2, Ezekiel 1:3, Zechariah 13:9, Jeremiah 9:7, and Daniel 12:10 which reads, “Many shall be purified, cleansed, refined…and the wise shall understand.”
The refiner’s fire burns hot. The heat can become so intense that the sun appears black—what Saint John of the Cross described as the Dark Night of the Soul. At those moments we are being prepared for our descent into the unconscious so that we might experience some of the most numinous imaginations of the psychic life. (Stanton Martin, The Black Sun) The Black Sun is a paradox; it is blacker than black while at the same time it shines with dark luminescence that opens the way for us to find a healing path.
In The Acts of the Apostles (2:1-21) we hear Saint Peter quote the Book of Joel (2:28-32); metaphorically, he is making a reference to the resurrection of Jesus as a path to our spiritual healing, our resurrection. For us to be able to see wisely and to understand our psychic resurrection, our salvation, we will have to experience our own metaphoric crucifixion, the Dark Night of the Soul, when the “sun shall be turned to darkness.” (Psalm 22:1)
Some of you may be familiar with the song “Black Sun” by Death Cab for Cutie. The lyrics of the song were inspired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which recognizes the beauty of broken things. The artist takes broken ceramics and repairs it with gold.
Front man for Death Cab, Ben Gibbard, describes the beauty of broken things, the beauty of suffering in the lyric of his song “Black Sun.”
There is an answer in a question
And there is hope within despair
And there is beauty in a failure
And there are depths beyond compare
There is a role of lifetime
And there’s a song yet to be sung
And there’s a dumpster in the driveway
Of all the plans that came undone
How could something so fair
Be so cruel
When the black sun revolved around you.
It would be nice if our only experience of the Holy Spirit were her gentle breeze that refreshes our soul. Or those times when she comforts us in our despair. Indeed, the Spirit does bring refreshment and comfort to us. But many us have experienced the Dark Night of the Soul when sun turned black. At those times, we can be oddly reassured, that even though we are suffering and feeling abandoned, forsaken, and our dreams may have been dashed on the pavement and thrown in a dumpster, we will be restored with the refiner’s gold of the Spirit, who heals our woundedness with spiritual fire.