Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever! 

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

There is something so very attractive about holiness – about being holy – and yet how so impossible it feels to be attained by us mortal sinners – by this mortal sinner.  There is a beauty to the holiness of the saints that so speaks to those endeavoring to walk by faith, yearning for Heaven, longing for the Kingdom of God, and yet there is an other-worldliness about it that makes holiness seem, well, far-fetched and beyond our experience – my experience (Ps. 95 [06]:9).  “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us . . . [perfect] holiness in the fear of God.”  

As I was studying the lectionary texts for today, reading and praying, I consulted a Biblical dictionary, looking up the word holiness.  And, when I found the entry it directed me to “see God.”  I had to smile and chuckle to myself because God has a sense of humor.  In that entry’s re-direction to another entry where I would find my answer, God was telling me in His own way what makes absolute sense.  If you want holiness, if you want to define holiness, if you need an image of holiness – “see God.”  That says it all, doesn’t it?  If we want holiness, if we want to be a holy people all we need to do is “see God,” to look to Him.  And, when holiness is attained or is being attained (as the case most likely is) by the grace and mercy of God, what is it except others “see God” in us and through us.  “’Blessed are the pure in heart,’” our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ says, “’for they shall see God’” (Beatitudes).  And, likewise, God shall be seen in those who are pure in heart.  

As we read Holy Scripture, it doesn’t take us long to catch on that God in and of Himself is holy and that we are not.  There is a major chasm between our “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal” and us sinners.  Holiness belongs to God, but not to us, at least, not by nature.  There is purity possessed by God that we do not possess as men and women because of sin that has corrupted us.  The very Name of God is holy in and of itself quite apart from anything we can do.  That’s what we say and believe when we pray in the Our Father “hallowed [holy, sanctified] be Thy Name.”  And, in that same petition, we are asking our holy God to make us holy in His holy Name and by His holy Name, that His Name might be made holy in us who are unholy as we revere Him, as we glorify Him, as we yield ourselves to His true Word (Jn. 17:11-12, 17).  “Beloved,” St. John writes, 

now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 Jn. 3:2-3).

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Holiness is something we cannot do without!  Indeed, without it, Sacred Scripture says, we cannot hope to see the Lord (Hb. 12:14).  Still, if we’re getting the sense of holiness being well beyond us, of defying human explanation, that’s good, because it is!  In fact, one of the elemental definitions of holiness, of the word holy, is to be “set apart,” that is, “sanctified for divine purposes.”  When something is holy, it means that thing, like a blessed icon or antidoro (blessed bread), has been sanctified and set apart for divine purposes.  It is now completely and totally devoted to the sacred, and so is no longer treated like a common thing, but is handled differently.  This is certainly in keeping with God Who is not only holy, that is, pure and perfect, but w-h-o-l-l-y Other, wholly apart from us and beyond us.  God transcends us.  In fact, holiness isn’t simply or merely an aspect of God, among numerous others.  It is what He is.  God’s nature, God’s essence, is holy, just as surely as God is love.  “Holy is the Lord our God” (Ps. 98 [99]:9; 1 Jn. 4:8, 16).

Our holy God calls each of us who bear His Name to be holy and He makes us holy.  Hear that: God calls us to holiness and He makes us holy.  From the very beginning, God expected and commanded His called and chosen people to sanctify themselves and to be holy because He Himself is holy.  There is no other reason for holiness except God.  “’Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’” (Lv. 19:2).  The people of God could be no other.  God sanctified them by calling them to Himself and He made them His very own treasured possession (Ex. 19:5, 16; Lv. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; Dt. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; 1 Pe. 1:13-16; 2:9-10).  And, because that was the case, they were now different from others, not better, but different, set apart for God, made holy.  This holiness had spiritual, ethical, moral, and physical implications.  They were not free to do with their bodies whatever it was they felt like doing.  They were not free to marry or form unions with other nations who were incompatible with their faith.  Their behaviors were to reflect the Presence of their God Who tabernacled among them.  God’s holiness, therefore, precluded certain occupations because those occupations or behaviors were incongruent with Who God is as the holy God of Israel.     

Does any of this sound familiar?  It should because nothing has changed since God first uttered those words to ancient Israel.  Our God is the God of Israel.  He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.  He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is holy and we are His treasured possession (1 Cr. 6:19-20)!  We are called to be His saints (1 Cr. 1:2) – His “sanctified ones,” His “holy ones” (which is what the word saint means) – and because we are His saints we are to be holy as He is holy.  In fact, God sent His very own Son, the Holy One of Israel, to make holiness a real possibility for us who are unholy.  Through His holy Son and Holy Spirit, God conveys His holiness – His otherness, His purity – to us in His holy Church in which our holy God dwells and walks among us.  It is in the Church we see our thrice holy God (Is. 6:3).  If we desire to be “like God,” which is what holiness is really all about, then we need to yield ourselves to His holiness.  And where do we do that?  We do it in the Church of God’s holiness.  We find it in the Church where Jesus Christ dwells.  It is here in the Church we touch the face of God and we see Him in a multiplicity of ways ordained by God Himself for that purpose: in the very penitent people devoted to Him, set apart by Him, for His Son to be vessels of His Holy Spirit.  In the liturgical services of the Church and her liturgical cycle of fasting seasons and feasting.  In sitting at the feet of the Master as disciples giving ear to His Word as it is prayed and preached.  In prayer itself, here and in the secrecy of our prayer closets, giving ourselves to “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy,” Paul says, “meditate on these things” (Pp. 4:8).  In the very Mysteries that convey the holiness of God to us, especially the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation.  In surrounding ourselves, or rather, being surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses of God’s holy saints in the icons of the Church (Jn. 15:1-17; Hb. 12:1).     

God’s holiness envelopes us and lives within us.  It involves us in toto: body, soul, and spirit (1 Cr. 6:19-20; 1 Th. 3:12-13; 5:23-24).  It involves cleansing us and purifying us – body and soul, flesh and spirit – from the filth of sin through God’s fiery Spirit of holiness, the Holy Spirit, Whose very Presence in us makes us holy.  

If we yearn to be holy, we need to make it a priority in our lives to seek the Kingdom of God above all else, no matter what, and to commit ourselves to the doing of God’s holy will (Mt. 6:33; Jn. 15:1-31; Our Father).  We are instructed by our Lord of this very thing in the Holy Gospel heard today (Lk. 6:31-36).  The very last word of our Lord we heard sets the tone for us in our quest for holiness, “’Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.’”  Mercy, as are compassion and righteousness and charity, is a manifestation of God’s holiness.  In St. Matthew’s Gospel, this is linked with perfection or shall we say, with “perfecting holiness in the fear of God”: “’Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect,’” Jesus says (Mt. 5:48).  What our Lord says is as much a command as it is the true goal of our lives when we pursue God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength (Dt. 6:5; Mt. 22:37; Mk. 12:30; Lk. 10:27).  God’s holiness cannot but help to rub off on us as we pursue Him “in the fear of God, with faith and love.” 

In short, beloved, “see God.”  If we follow what our Lord and His holy Apostles say, we shall “see God” and God, in turn, will be seen in us.  Holiness, beloved, is nothing less than what we Orthodox call theosis: our deification or divinization, our being transfigured by God’s sanctifying power that transforms our souls, along with our bodies.  This is what St. Paul says when he tells us in Colossians that our renewal is “according to the image of Him Who created [the new man]” (Co. 3:10), that is to say, “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ep. 4:24).  This is precisely what St. Peter offers us, isn’t it: that through the great and precious promises of our fearful God, in Whose holy Presence we bow down, we “may become partakers of [His] divine nature” (2 Pe. 1:4).  Holiness – the holiness of God – is for the healing of our soul and body infected and broken by sin’s power; it is the saving and sanctifying salve of the Holy Spirit.  This is God’s holy and good work in us, St. Paul says elsewhere, and he assures us, God will “complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ” (Pp. 1:6; 2:12-13).  

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  For “holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, unto length of days” (Ps. 92 [93]:5).

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever! 


2 Cr. 6:16-7:1

Lk. 6:31-36