On All Saints’ Day I’d like to draw our attention to the gift of holiness and its antithesis, sin.
Too often our language is about the accumulation of sin and holiness seems to be nothing more than a lack of sin in one’s life. Now this language isn’t entirely wrong, but if we use it exclusively I think it gives us some wrong headed ideas of what holiness means. Holiness is not a deprivation or the great with-holder, sin is. Holiness, which Christ calls us to, coincides with the call to have our joy, life, and peace complete and fulfilled. Here is a perfect example of how we have lost this focus.
In the early church Original Sin was called the Macula. This means the dark spot, aka a deprivation of light. Thus, when they would talk about someone being conceived with Original Sin, they weren’t saying that we have something extra tacked on, but rather that we are impoverished, we are missing something. This is why we say that in Baptism Original Sin is removed, not because the extra is shaved away, but because the darkness is engulfed in the light.
To strive for holiness is not a life of perpetual denial in order to avoid accumulating sin, it is to live in imitation of Christ so that the life, light, joy and peace of the Lord can fill us to the point that there is no room for the deprivation of sin. To use an image, our life is like a blacktop and the holiness God leads us toward with the gift of grace is the filling in of the cracks before water can slide into them. This water is not sin, it might be the pleasure of a good meal. But if that pleasure becomes central to me, enters into my interior, and then becomes abused because it is deprived of its right purpose and place in my life, it widens into the sin of gluttony. This is damaging, just as with the blacktop, if the water gets in then the deprivation of heat and light cause it to freeze, widening the crevasse and threatening the stability.
So this All Saints’ Day let us celebrate the call to fulfillment that we call holiness and remember the words of St. Theresa of Avila, “From sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!”