Wednesday Word: Personal, not Individualist
“Holiness, then, is personal but not individualistic or turned in on itself.” The Rev. Paul Hunter, The Living Church, October 19, 2014
Fr. Hunter was addressing the Feast of All Saints back in '14 when he wrote this sentence. He pointed out that the saints of the church were rarely saints through individualistic behaviors. Saint Francis worked in communion with the monks of the order that would eventually bear his name. Saints Basil of Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus worked together to defend orthodoxy and defeat Arianism. Saint Patrick worked with local people to help build churches on existing sacred sites. Julian of Norwich, even though living as an anchoress, was visited by many people as a spiritual counselor. And there are many more.
I got to thinking about this sentence today as we begin dealing with another round of closures. Not in the context of the saints of the Church, but in terms of our spiritual and faith lives in the here and now.
In this time of church closures and continuing worship via online streaming, we run the risk of turning our worship and spirituality in on itself and making personal holiness individualistic.
One of the beauties of the Episcopal liturgy is exactly this – it's personal but not individualistic. When we worship, we are experiencing holiness on a personal level but it is not individualistic. You can see this in various parts of the Eucharist: we worship, we believe, we confess, we lift our hearts, we give thanks.
As we continue to live in these uncertain times, let us always remember that holiness is personal and that our spiritual lives inform our personal lives; but let us never forget that holiness is not individualistic. It does us no good to live a life of perceived holiness when that life only cares for the self. Our holiness should extend to the community and the communal.
When we can finally regather as this part of the body of Christ, one of the things we will celebrate will be the personal holiness of our people manifested through the wider community.