What does Holiness Mean in Our Time?  Continued

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.

“When the stars come out it dawns on me / There is holy ground underneath my feet / Surprised by joy / Awash in love / Just one taste of grace / And I’m overcome.” “Surprised by Joy” by Carolyn Arends.

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. 

Indomitable courage and joy under constraints: Hong Kong demonstrators hold their first authorized post-COVID protest under strict restrictions. NBC News.

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).  

Baltimore Ceasefire Peace Walk March by communities calling for an end to gun violence, 8/6/2017. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

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?

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

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

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8 thoughts on “What does Holiness Mean in Our Time?  Continued”

  1. Avatar

    “Sharing the Joy”

    Excerpt from another post written today. —

    It is incumbent on those who ‘see and experience’ the living God to live and share their experience with others. The magic, the Mystery of ‘nothing’ being greater than something comes by ‘the way of the Way’. We have to remove the mindset and heartset that we have and hold ‘of the world’ that gets in ‘the way of the Way’. That is why daily spiritual devotion is so important. We need to show up every day and consciously seek out a life that is a bigger and larger life that we can imagine. And we do so knowing the power structures in society pay lip service to what we do by ‘the way of the Way’ unless it comes to become a force that threatens it. And we know how that plays out. And that is part of the choice we make by ‘playing the game of life’ with someone else’s rules – we eventually stand out and manifest the power ‘not of this world’. Doing so is frightening to those ‘without eyes to see’ but welcoming to those who are thirsting for something better than what the world has to offer. — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    I’ve often been called courageous by those whom know me. However, just as often in those courageous moments what I have experienced is feeling vulnerable. This has taught me, that it takes courage to be vulnerably open in heart and honest in speaking one’s truth, first with oneself and then with another. This may not FEEL like courage, but a willingness to be vulnerable is indeed a CHOICE and an ACT of being courageous.

    With regards to Mathew’s comments about self hatred projected onto others, as being one of the root causes of evil in this world… I agree. This past year I have done alot of inner-work on self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-love. It’s not that I hated myself, but rather my lower self can be quite self-critical, self-judgemental and self-condemning. I recognize and am much more consciously aware when the shadow side of my ego uses these dark arrows inflicted upon myself. Conscious awareness is the first step in freeing oneself from the suffering of this negative self-talk.

    Recognizing these moments, I then can choose to pick up the light arrows of self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-love. Each time I do so I find it a little easier to quiet this voice of the ego led lower self, opening myself to hear the voice of my higher self; which speaks forth a truth that liberates me a little bit more each time from that which tempts to constrict my heart. This too takes vulnerability and courage!

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      So beautifully stated. My experience exactly, and you have put it into words to share. When I choose to act from my Heart and Higher self, coming from a place of courage, of large heart; I am filled with Joy! I experience a freedom, uninhibited and full of Joy!
      Like you, after years of work and awakening awareness; I am aware of the other inner voices and make much different choices now, for Joy, freedom, love of self and because I love myself, I am capable of truly loving others.
      Thank you for your comment.

  3. Avatar

    “True Heart Self~Eternal Sacred Soul~Cosmic Consciousness~Loving Creative Flow of Diverse Oneness”… within, through, among Us in the Sacred Eternal Present Moment….

  4. Avatar

    Looking for the good in those who do evil. Releasing my own judgment. Looking for what might motivate others. Realizing that I don’t recognize or understand the pain that others have experienced, the pain that has led them to perform evil deeds. These things grow my heart. Forgiving those who have done ill (or what looks like ill to me) grows my heart. Waiting. Waiting for peace and justice. Realizing that while it may not come on my time table, God’s kingdom of justice and peace for all is coming to earth–and working for it. If that were not so, Jesus would not have asked us to pray “Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” God would not ask us to pray a fruitless prayer. So faith. Trust. These things grow my heart.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Yes, Michele, “These things grow my heart.”
      Have you ever wondered about your heart’s capacity to grow?
      Will your heart ever be filled? Do you have a limit for your loving? Is your capacity for loving infinite?

  5. Avatar

    Thank you. Is narcissism a form of self hatred that disguises itself as self love? Do people hate themselves without knowing it? If their consciousness has not been raised to true self love in God or Christ or Buddha where live of self and the other are one is self hatred the same as ignorance or is it different? Just some questions I have. Thanks. ????????❤️

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Hi Ed,
      I appreciate your questions and had my personal thoughts about how I would respond. Before doing that, I decided to check the Internet for a medical and scientific point of view. The search led me to the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan where I came across an article: “Why some narcissists actually hate themselves” I was directed to ‘bcc.com’ to read the full article.
      Here is a link to the full article and a quote from the article by Bryan Lufkin:

      A common misconception is that this behaviour stems from intense self-love, self-obsession and self-centredness. But the cause could be just the opposite.

      “Narcissistic individuals are actually really hamstrung by insecurity and shame, and their entire life is an attempt to regulate their image,” says Ramani Durvasula, a licenced clinical psychologist and professor at California State University, Los Angeles. “Narcissism has never been about self-love – it is almost entirely about self-loathing.”
      who referred the reader to https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210414-why-some-narcissists-actually-hate-themselves. – end quote

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