by Richard Pelfey
Growing up, I was around “holiness” a lot, but I never really knew what it meant. It was just synonymous with Church for me. We always sang “holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty” (or something like that). There’s Holy water, Holy week, Holy Communion, Holy moley, Holy Grail, Holy of Holies, Holy smokes, etc. It seemed to be just a word you put in front of something to show it was located inside a church or to add intensity.
For most of my life I’ve not really known what the word Holy means, only that it is associated with God. You know like “you better not break that, it’s Holy. Respect it. Matter of fact, don’t even look at it for too long”. Or “put the Holy water on so God don’t hurt you”. It seemed things had to be really old to be Holy as well. Sort of like the Hall of Fame, where you have to be retired for so long and have a little gray and maybe a belly going before you get inducted. Really, HOLY always just seemed to be a Biblical word like smote or unto, old-fashioned and of little significance. Oh, how wrong I can be. In reality this word is alive and powerful and deeply connected to our savior.
What is God? What can we definitely say about Him? We don’t know what He looks like or how He reasons. But there are some defined attributes of God, and it turns out Holy is the most significant of them. I heard the other day that on more than occasion in the Bible God is called ‘holy, holy, holy’ and that never does it say he is love love love (that was the Beatles) or just, just, just. So God’s holiness is placed above all else, and actually is intrinsic in everything that He is; Holy Wrath, Holy Mercy, Holy Sovereignty etc.
What, then, is holiness? A friend of mine defines it as white-hot, 100% righteous,moral purity. Light so bright that us fallen humans are unable to stand it (see: the face-melting climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark). Webster’s says “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness”. The Hebrew word for holiness,“kedushah”, mean separateness. This is more like our word sacred – meaning set apart for veneration. So the way I see it, Holiness is the essence of God, perfect in every way and set above and apart from our earthly imperfection to be venerated and revered.
I did a little research here. There are different levels of Holy places, all converging at “Kodesh Hakodashim”, the Holy of Holies – the earthly HQ for God. In it dwelled His presence inside of the Ark which was in the middle of the Holy room which was in the middle of the temple which was in the middle of Jerusalem which was in the middle of Israel—well, you get the point– it was at the center of it all. It was the holiest space on the planet, the belly button of the universe. This place was so full of the Holy purity of God that it would kill anyone who got too close. Maybe not so much as punishment but just because it is too much for our fleshly bodies to take. Back in the day one person, the high priest, could go in there once a year to offer blood for the atonement of sin. He’d tie a rope to himself and if he came out alive he’d be glowing. He would actually risk his own life to go in there and make the blood sacrifice for his people. It was at this center of holy power where forgiveness used to happen.
We don’t have to do that any more though. Now, the holiness of God is within us through the one-time blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have become children of the holy light, and it flows out from inside of us to be spread into the world. When we have the presence of Christ within us, his holiness radiates out of us through our actions; naturally and without thought, we become examples of holiness. We are set apart for the world to experience and receive. The holiness of Christ is like a gentle magnet that pulls us away from temptation and towards righteousness. We can’t ever be perfect enough to experience the full spectrum of the light, but we get enough to be better people. Everything that God does in our lives and in the world around us is permeated with His Holy essence, and if we stay open to receive, it keeps our spiritual batteries charged. The holiness of God is infinite and inexhaustible, so we need not worry about running out of juice; He wants us – no He requires us – to let our lights shine bright like the stars of the universe. The more we do this, the more people can get hooked up to the Holy power grid.
I have more thoughts on this, so check out the blog tomorrow for HOLY PART 2. – Peace