We are meditating together on the meaning of holiness and signs of holiness in our times. This because we are also asking how best to combat evil—of which there seems to be a veritable surplus in our time– and a man and mind of the stature of Rabbi Heschel teaches that holiness is the medicine for evil.
One sign of holiness is Joy. Joy is not the opposite of suffering, it is something so big that it is bigger than suffering and even deeper. It rides into our lives on the back of love, it is a fruit of the spirit, a fruit of all that has brought us here, the Holy Spirit of creativity and birth and re-birth. It is resurrection in the fullest sense of that term. It does not banish suffering or evil but is bigger than both and bigger than us.
It may not banish depression but it undergirds it and is bigger than depression and keeps one going through darkness. There is a joy and peace “that the world cannot give” as Jesus put it. Holiness opens one’s heart to joy whatever the circumstances of life around and within us. Opening one’s heart to joy is opening one’s heart to growth.
Let us now turn to a second sign of holiness in our time. I think courage is a very distinct sign of holiness. When I see courage I know I am in the presence of holiness and of deep spirituality. When I see its absence, I know that spirituality is shallow or distant.
Courage and Joy go together after all. Aquinas says that joy “expands the heart” and fear restricts the heart. When we are afraid we close up and when we are joyful we want to share the joy, we call that celebration.
If joy expands the heart and makes it bigger, then it is part of courage which means, literally, a “big heart” (French: coeur large).
Courage is a large heart. Awe and wonder and gratitude and forgiveness expand the heart. The Via Positiva expands the heart.
Love expands the heart—as Martin Luther King Jr. said when he was asked one day how he can march through Skokie Illinois knowing that people wanted to kill him: “One must love something more than the fear of death if one is to live,” he said.
To be continued.
See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 304ff.
And Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 295ff.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: The third Selma Civil Rights March frontline. From far left: John Lewis, an unidentified nun; Rev. Ralph Abernathy; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche; Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; Rev. Frederick Douglas Reese. Second row: Rev. Joseph Ellwanger; between Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Bunche is Rabbi Maurice Davis. Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
What grows your heart?
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
Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society
Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science. A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics