The Thirst For Holiness and Joy and Combating Evil

For several weeks we have been dealing with the theme of Holiness and how Joy, in a time of cynicism and despair like ours, is one sign of holiness. 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his own words: “He loved, he laughed, he cried.” A mini-documentary on South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prelate and his teaching on the key to joy. Guardian News

The theme of Holiness arose because we were meditating on Evil and Rabbi Heschel, as we saw in a previous DM, offered this advice about combating Evil: 

The Biblical answer to evil is not the good but the holy.  It is an attempt to raise humanity to a higher level of existence, where humans are not alone when confronted with evil.  Living in ‘the light of the face of God’ bestows upon humans a power of love that enables one to overcome the powers of evil.  

It seems that digging deep for joy in the midst of darkness is indeed “living in the light of the face of God” and hopefully does indeed empower us to overcome powers of evil and remain in the fight without totally burning out.

Susannah Heschel, James Lawson and Andrew Young discuss the relationship between Rabbi Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Excerpt from Steve Brand‘s documentary on Heschel, “Praying With My Legs”

So we continue our meditations on Holiness and once again invoke Heschel who proposes that “holiness is the most precious word in religion.” 

Of course, what holiness means may vary in different cultural and historical times–evolution and history carry their own demands and call us to new depths of response. 

Frederick Turner, author of the amazing book Beyond Geography, which tells the story of America from the point of view of the indigenous peoples, offers this observation about holiness or the lack thereof in contemporary culture:  

Twentieth century culture is full of an angst, an unsatisfied and inexplicable yearning, which we can now identify as a thirst for things like glory, sanctity, conscience, and heroism which were forbidden to us by the doctrines of existentialism.

“Angst.” Photo by Callum Skelton on Unsplash

We have repressed greatness, and in its place we suffer great longing.  In place of stories about holiness, we have substituted drugs. 

As the doctrines of materialism triumphed first among intellectuals, then among the population at large, so did the use of opium, cocaine, mescalin, and cannabis.  

But drugs cannot do our transcendence for us—they “destroy the tension and the hunger and thus process of transformation.”*

Much of the quest for drugs is to numb pain.  But how much of the quest for drugs is a quest for transcendence and therefore holiness?  

To be continued.

*Frederick Turner, “Escape from Modernism,” Sacred Interconnections, ed. David Griffith (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1990), p. 157.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, pp. 304ff.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Sunset celebration” Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you think there is a kind of “yearning for holiness” that culture has repressed and that humanity wants to grow and expand and serve?  And that “’holiness’ is the most precious word in religion”?

Recommended Reading

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

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9 thoughts on “The Thirst For Holiness and Joy and Combating Evil”

  1. Avatar

    What a relief to know and believe that the gift of JOY carries with it holiness. This is not living without mistakes and perceived sins (some of these imposed by culture). It is gift. and It is holy. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Holiness and Wholeness are tethered. Women have been deeply wounded, oppressed, suppressed, due to holiness being defined by egocentric patriarchal/heirarchal religion, which has deeply fragmented the feminine psychy.

    Christine Paintner in her book, “Birthing the Holy”, is beginning to recreate the image of Holy. Here is a new Litany to consider in our exploration of redefining the Holy, desiring to be birthed from within.

    She Who Companions The Mystics
    She Who Is Whole Unto Herself
    She Who Losens Constrictions
    She Who Is Chosen
    She Who Is The Portal
    She Who Shows The Way
    She Who Awakens The World
    She Who Knows
    She Who Supports Our Discernment
    She Who Is The Alchemical Container
    She Who Calls Us To Listen To Another Voice
    She Who Retreats Into Quiet
    She Who Companions Our Descent
    She Who Allows The River Of Grief To Flow
    She Who Infuses
    She Who Stands On Holy Ground
    She Who Gushes Like A Fountain
    She Who Brings Forth God’s Greening Power
    She Who Is Clothed In A Mantle Of The Universe
    She Who Is The Revealer Of Hidden Things
    She Who Gives Birth To God
    She Whom Blooms Forth
    She Who Creates A Boundary
    She Who Lifts Up All
    She Who Claims Her Power
    She Who Pursues Reconciliation
    She Who Is The Source Of Delight, Cause Of Joy
    She Who Roots Down And Reaches Out
    She Who Lavishes Compassion And Mercy

    She is, was and ever shall be. She is you and me. We are Oned-With this Holiness, becoming Whole.

    1. Avatar

      So beautiful Jeanette and Matthew/DM.
      With joyful gratitude I receive your holiness. What is holy in me hears , feels and sees what is holy in you and others. Right there and everywhere the Spirit lives, moves and has Being. Human beings and all living beings move in this Being whether we are conscious of it or not. The work is to bring it into our consciousness through loving connection. From healing love comes joy and from joy comes belonging, community and compassion, serving and caring for one another.
      I found holiness through my relationship with Jesus and the Buddha. Christs humble holiness is birthing an ever evolving humble love into my being. In this love we thrive, we heal and are made whole. I found in opening my heart to commune with Christ, this love opened my heart to commune with Nature. The kind of love and belonging we need to save her and ourselves from destruction.

    2. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Jeanette, Thank you for sharing from Christina Paintner. It is heart lifting for me to read this Litany of She!

  3. Avatar

    Yes, I do feel there is a “yearning for holiness” in humanity, and that it has been repressed for a long time by our toxic and unbalanced patriarchal values, societies, and institutions in human history up to our present modern societies with its consequent and ongoing destructiveness and suffering of humanity, living creatures, and Mother Earth’s beautiful and graceful habitat…
    Fortunately, the Spirit of Divine Love, Compassion, Wisdom, Truth, Justice, Peace, Mercy, Healing, Creativity, Beauty, Joy, …of the Divine Feminine has Always been Alive and Present in our eternally evolving Souls, as inspirationally represented by past and present loving souls, in beautiful and sacred Mother Nature, and also in our eternal non-physical spiritual multidimensions of our co-Creative~Incarnational~Evolving multiverse Cosmos of Loving Diverse Oneness….

  4. Richard E Reich

    Speaking of drugs… I remember hearing You and Ram Dass debate at a huge conference in Southern California in sometime in the eighties. Of course, Ram Dass said his awakening to the transcendent, which is also immanent, was through taking psilocybin. And later he gave that up and turned east for the truth that verified his drug experiences. You and Ram Dass were debating two different positions concerning the self. You were stressing the need for young people to have a strong sense of self, while Ram Dass was saying we need to become selfless. You made the most sense to me…

  5. Avatar

    Great meditation (May 16th) and to add, Carl Jung wrote his last letter in 1961 to Bill W. (Co-Founder of AA).
    In it, he details the nature of addiction, the search for transcendence and the conclusion: « Spiritum vs. Spiritus »

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Jerome, thank you for your comment. It made me curious to look up Carl Jung’s letter Bill W.
      Thank you for that gift of Wisdom.

  6. Avatar

    First thank you for your books and these DMs. Your work has been a personal and professional resource for almost 40 years. This connection of joy and holiness is good medicine for me and a supportive reminder of what keeps faith and faithful living going amidst the powers and principalities of Empire. And, I can tell you that there are plant medicine prayers of First Nation Peoples and others utilizing mescaline, psilocybin, and other plant medicines that are tuning people in to what is joyful, healing, and truly important and ultimately interconnected. Those of us trying to renew what was lost in the West from church persecution of these prayers are witness to their potency as part of a resilient and growing life of action and contemplation. I encourage caution in lumping all drugs and all substance usage together as dysfunctional.

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