15. Ashes of my Pain

by Romola Parish

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Commentary by the artist

Romola Parish writes:

Fire is an important image in the Bible, particularly in terms of purification and holiness. Offerings are burnt, Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, Moses encounters the burning bush, the Hebrew men survive the fire in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, and in the New Testament, fire symbolises purification and the coming of the Holy Spirit – we are refined in the way that a lump of grubby greenish malachite is transformed into bright, pure copper.

Many have said that this image is reminiscent of Foxe’s Protestant martyrs being burnt at the stake for heresy, the expression of sublime transcendence indicating a soul willingly giving itself up to God. Whether or not it does, it is primarily an image of personal transformation rather than destruction, where the pain, disappointment and sin of our earthly lives is refined by the fire of God’s love. The ashes are the burdens and rubbish shed out of our lives, and which we can leave behind. On the left the dark flames with their black streaks are the impurities drawn up out of us through the power of Christ’s death on the Cross, leaving a purer white fire to reach out into the world, bearing Gods love, and the Good News.

This is the essence of what happens when we allow all parts of our lives to be open to God’s love and grace. Nothing is untouched by the fire – nothing can escape it, and nothing can remain unchanged by it. We can allow that fire to burn strongly, to apply the bellows as it were, or damp it down and let it smoulder. You decide.

Vicar’s reflections

Andrew Bunch writes:

Charcoal has the great ability to purify the air that we breathe. In Romola Parish’s work “Ashes of my pain” we get a glimpse of what happens in our lives as a result of a Divine encounter. The way we understand the pain that we have experienced in life is transformed by our encounters with God. Gradually hurt is transformed into compassion and our human understanding of the way love operates begins to have new life. Resentments start to fall away, and a new sensitivity comes into our own life. We become more sensitive to the moods of others and able both to interpret vague suggestions into a deeper understanding to be shared. As our resentments are burnt off, our vision and sensitivity are cleared, and we become capable of being more fully ourselves in a spirit of love.