- We Latin Catholics celebrate the solemnity of All Saints. The festival in which we commemorate all the saints. Do we know what a saint is? Let’s go, guided by the word of God, to find out.
The liturgy hails the thrice Holy God. Proclaim, we do it in the Gloria, Christ “as the only saint.” Celebrate and celebrate the saints. We also tend to talk about the “holy gospels”, about the “holy week”. We are called to be saints.
- Holiness, then, seems to be a complex reality that has to do with God himself, but also with worship and morality. It encompasses the notions of “sacred” and “pure”, however, it goes beyond them. It seems reserved to God, the inaccessible, however, it is constantly attributed to creatures as well.
- The Semitic word “qadesh”, holy thing, sanctity, derived from a root that means “to cut, separate”, guides us towards an idea of separation from the profane. Rudolf Otto explained it to us in 1917 in the book “Das Heilige”. Holy things are those that are not touched, or those that cannot be approached without certain conditions of ritual purity. They are loaded with dynamism, mystery and majesty in which we can perceive something supernatural. They provoke a motley mixture of fear and fascination, which makes man aware of his smallness in the face of these manifestations of what is seen as “numinous.”
- Holy God
- The biblical notion of holiness is, however, much richer. The Bible is not content with revealing man’s reactions to the divine and defining holiness as the denial of the profane. It itself contains the revelation of God himself. It defines holiness at its very source. In God himself, where all kinds of holiness come from.
- In this way, Holy Scripture raises the problem of the nature of holiness, which, after all, is raising the problem of the mystery of God and his communication with men.
This communicated holiness is, however, “derived.” Firstly, external to the people, in the places and in the objects of worship that it makes “sacred.” It is not real and interior except through the gift of the Holy Spirit himself.
Then love, which as Saint John tells us in his first canonical letter (4, 16), is God himself, and is communicated as triumphant over the sin that prevented the irradiation of his holiness.
- In the Old Testament, God is holy and appears holy. The holiness of God is inaccessible to man. For man to recognize it, it is necessary for God to “sanctify himself,” that is, for him to “show himself holy,” manifesting his glory. Creation, theophanies, trials, punishments and calamities (cf. Num 10, 1-13; Ezek 38, 21 ff.), however, also miraculous protection and unexpected deliverances, reveal in what sense God is holy. (Ez 28, 25).
- The holiness of Yahweh, first manifested in the majestic theophanies of Sinai (Ex 19, 3-20), appears as a power, at the same time overwhelming and mysterious, capable of annihilating anything that approaches it (Isa., 6 , 19s), but also capable of blessing those who receive the ark where it resides (II Sa 6, 7-11). It is not confused, therefore, with transcendence or with divine wrath, since it manifests itself in both love and forgiveness, as we read in the prophet Hosea (11, 9): “I will not unleash all the fury of mine.” wrath […] because I am God, not a man: in your midst is the Holy One”.
- The Holy God manifests himself
- In the temple, Yahweh appears in Isaiah as a king of infinite majesty, as the creator, whose glory fills the entire earth, as the object of a cult that only the seraphim can pay him. On the other hand, not even these are holy enough to contemplate his face, and man cannot see him without dying (Is., 6, 1-5; Ex 33, 18-23).
This infinitely inaccessible God himself changes the distance that separates him from creatures: he is “the holy one of Israel”, joy, strength, support, salvation and redemption of that people to whom he has linked himself through the Covenant (Is 10, 20; 17, 7; 41, 14-20).
- Thus divine holiness, far from being reduced to separation or transcendence, includes everything that God possesses in terms of wealth and life, power and goodness. It is not one of many divine attributes, but rather characterizes God himself. Consequently, his name is holy (Psalm 33, 21); Am 2,7; cf. Ex 3,14). Yahweh swears by his holiness (Am 4:2). The Hebrew language itself reflects this conviction when, ignoring the adjective “divine”, it considers the names of Yahweh and saint as synonyms (Psalm 71, 22; Is 5,24; Ha 3,3).
- “Sanctify” God
- But God is not content with being holy himself. He wants to be “sanctified.” Jealous of his exclusive right to worship and obedience to him, he wants to be recognized as holy, treated as the only true God, and to manifest this is for men to participate in holiness. This is precisely human wisdom.
- If God meticulously regulates the details of sacrifices (Luke 1, 7) and the conditions of purity necessary for worship (Lev. 12-15), if he demands that his holy name not be profaned (Lev., 22,32) , I know why well-celebrated worship makes its glory shine (Lev., 9, 6-23; 1 Kings 8, 10; cf. Lev., 10, 1ff.; I Sa 2,17; 3,11ff.) and manifests its majesty. However, this worship has no value unless it expresses obedience to the law (Lev 22,31ff), deep faith (Mt., 20,12), personal praise (Psalm 99, 3-9): fearing God , sanctify it (Is 8,13).
- God sanctifies
12.. God, sanctifies, communicates holiness. Sanctifying and consecrating people, places and objects, to varying degrees. Dedicated with precise and determined rites, they are prohibited for profane uses.
He also has a holy people. Chosen and chosen among all nations. It is Yahweh’s private property. A town of priests. A holy town. In the midst of which he appears holy, he promulgates the law and manifests himself in worship. He is therefore “the Holy One of Israel.”
- It is necessary for Israel to sanctify, with its response to God’s free choice. It is necessary that he purify himself, that he wash himself of all impurity incompatible with the holiness of God, before attending the theophanies or participating in worship (Ex 19, 10-15).
- But, to the valley, it is only God who gives purity, through the blood of the sacrifice (Lev 17,11) or by purifying his heart (Psalm, 51). The prophets never tired of insisting that sacrifices for sins were not enough to please God. Justice, obedience and love were also needed (ISam 1, 4-20; Ma 6, 4-9). Hence the well-known commandment: “Be holy, for I, Yahweh, am holy.” Holiness that goes beyond cultural purity and encompasses all aspects of life.
- Men and holy foods
- The sanctification of men is susceptible to progress in the Old Testament. Only those who have gone through the test and have a part in the eschatological kingdom of God can be called “saints” (Dan 7:18-22). The wise men who have feared Yahweh (Psalm 34:10) will be the “little remnant” of those saved from Zion whom God has “registered for survival” (1Sam 4:3).
- In the New Testament, the apostolic community assimilated the doctrines and vocabulary of the Old Testament. Thus God is the Holy Father (Jn 17:11), the transcendent Pantocrator and the eschatological judge (Rev 4, 8; 6, 10). His name is Holy (Lk 1, 49) as well as his law (Rom 7, 12) and his covenant (Lk 1, 72). Holy are also the angels (Mk 8, 38), the prophets and the hagiographers (Lk 1, 70, Mk 6, 20, Rom 1, 2). Holy is his temple, as is the heavenly Jerusalem (1Cor., 3, 17; Rev., 21,2).
- Since God is holy, those whom he has chosen must also be holy (1Pe 1, 15 = Lev 19, 2), and the holiness of his name must be manifested in the advent of his kingdom, just as we say in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6, 9). Although it seems that it was the experience of Pentecost, manifestation of the Spirit of God, that properly originated the specifically New Testament conception of holiness.
- Jesus, the Saint.
- The holiness of Christ is closely linked to his divine filiation and with the presence of the Spirit of God in him: “conceived of the Holy Spirit, he will be holy” and called the son of God (Lk 1, 35; Mt 1, 18 ). In the baptism of John the “dearly beloved Son” receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38; Luke 3:22). He expels impure spirits and they proclaim him “the saint of God” or the “Son of God” (Mk 1, 14; 3,11), two expressions that are now equivalent (Jo., 6,69; cf. Mt., 16,16).
- Christ, “full of the Holy Spirit” (Lk 4, 1), is manifested by his works; miracles and teachings. They do not want to be only signs of power, which lead to admiration, as signs of his holiness; Before him, one feels like a sinner, as before God himself (Luke 5:8, cf. 6:5). Christ, “holy servant” of God” (Acts 4, 27.30), despite being the author of life, suffered death, he is par excellence the “saint” (Acts 3, 14).
- It is through this path that Christians experience the holiness of God in following Christ Jesus. “Thy will be done. Give us the true bread of his word. Forgive us as we forgive. Do not abandon us in the trial and deliver us from the Evil One”: Here is the program of the sanctification of the Christian.
In this is the true worship of the living God who does not need “goats or calves.” This is the spiritual and true worship offered by the priests of the New Alliance.
The saints of God are the “living stones” of the spiritual building that is the true Temple of God: “Be holy as I am holy.” Here is the challenge!
Mgr. Jaume González-Agàpito