We readily and lustily sing " Holy God we praise Thy Name....". But we don't hear much about " holiness" these days. And I believe it is true that if many of us were to be nudged into explaining what it is, we might very quickly run out of ideas and words.
" Holy" - Well, I suppose that if we began to look for its meaning we would tend to look to Sacred Scripture. That would be a reasonable starting place for most people in the world. What does Sacred Scripture have to say?
It starts using the word " Holy" and the concept of " holiness" in the Book of Exodus . There it speaks of Holy ground, assembly, abode, sabbath, nation, place and garments - all, in the sense of being connected to, dedicated to or belonging to God. So each of these things is Holy because of its relationship with God.
In Leviticus which follows,the pace naturally quickens because , as its title suggests, the Book is concentrated on the role and activities of the Levites- the Priestly Tribe. Here we find the continuation of the designation of holy THINGS : a plate of gold, an offering, gifts , a crown.Then, at Leviticus 10 :3 we find a Revelation :
" I will show myself holy among those who are near Me....." and a short while later at 11: 44 :
"For I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls upon the earth." (Italics added)
|LEVITES - THE TRIBE OF JEWISH PRIESTS|
The Book goes on to refer to holy atonement offerings, altar, blood sin offering, anointing oil, salt, incense, cereal offering, things of the Lord, offering bread, persons who touch that bread, law, Myself ( GOD), you (ISRAEL) , I (GOD) , linen coat, Name (GOD'S), Yourselves (ISRAEL) , Priest and things.
For emphasis let us also specifically quote Leviticus 19: 2 :
" ....You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy...."
Leviticus takes us a step further in understanding the nature of, and reason for this holiness:
" You shall be holy to Me ; for I the Lord Am Holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you shall be mine."
The whole of the Scriptural understanding of holiness rests on these foundations.
The New Testament adds to the Revelation of holiness the knowledge of The Holy Spirit of God and His action in the world and this occurs in each of the Gospels , in Acts and in the Epistles.
Even Satan himself attests to Jesus as " the Holy One of God" ( Mark 1:24 and Luke 4: 34).
Saint John in his Gospel refers to God the Father as the Holy Father.And Acts refers to Jesus as the holy servant.
Saint Mark refers to Saint John the Baptist a the holy man. He also refers to the Holy Angels. In Acts and in the Epistles we see the early Church increasingly familiar with the concept of holiness, with references to holy blessings, scriptures, " dough and root", kiss, Apostles and Church and brethren.
|HOLINESS IS ACKNOWLEDGED IN THE SENSE OF THE SACRED|
Holiness and Saint Thomas Aquinas are both equally alien to the post-Conciliar New Church, which finds both " confining" and stifling the development of their ideal revolution.
But, as so often, it is Saint Thomas Aquinas who has already analysed " HOLINESS" and found within it two distinct elements : separation from the
general society and dedication to God.
It would be fair to say that in the general society and in the modern mass media, "HOLINESS" would be assumed to equate with a sort of dreamy otherworldliness of ever-uplifted eyes pining away at some distant promise in the skies, and perhaps implying feet scarcely touching the ground.
Nothing could be further from the truth taught and experienced by the Catholic Church for over 2,000 years. Sure she has had her share of mystics,even those who experienced levitation, bi-location and were granted Heavenly visions. But for everyone of that privileged few there have been holy men and women with their feet planted firmly on the ground , their eyes fixed on the real world in which they worked, though their hearts were set on Heaven. Let us think of the holiness of Saint Peter the Rock who had turned to jelly under pressure but after receiving the Holy Spirit went about heroically proclaiming Jesus Christ. And Saint Augustine the convert tear-away single father, heretic who became the brilliant but humble Theologian devoted Shepherd who gave his life to Christ.And on and on to Saint Theresa of Avila who, though granted remarkable spiritual experiences, could still tuck in to a well-cooked Dinner in an inn, to the surprise of a Novice.And in recent times the exemplary holiness of the handsome gifted young man of his times, the really " cool " Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati. In every case , no matter what the circumstances of their lives they had preserved their spiritual separation from the world and were truly dedicated to God.
|BLESSED PIER GEORGIO FRASSATI|
Holiness is the progressive advancement toward the perfection of the way we were made : " In the image and likeness of God".
Toward that end we need to pursue both separation and dedication. Separation of our lives and spirits from the world in which we live, and dedication of our lives and being to Almighty God. Yet we must do this in the world , doing God's Will amongst His other children.
"For I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. "
Holiness is then the nature of God in whose image and likeness we were created , and which state was defaced in mankind at the time of the Fall,and now, with God's Grace especially in the Sacrificial Death of His Son and the activity of His Holy Spirit, we must work out our Salvation- separated from the spirit of the world and dedicated to our loving God.