“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” --Abraham Joshua Heschel
It is the holiest of holy rituals I practice, and have practiced, twice a month, on Monday nights, for the past twelve years. Almost without exception, save for a rare skipped evening, I never miss it. Monday night dinners: me sitting at the supper table with three very good friends, for hundreds of Mondays now. My dinner mates are always Kathy, whom I’ve known for almost thirty years; her husband Kevin, my friend for near 20, and Dillon, their son, who’s sat next to me at dinner from the moment he was born 15 years ago.
No matter what is going on in our collective lives, no matter the wacky weather or crazy schedules, or the dramas of daily existence, on holy Monday, the four of us always, always, gather together and break bread. Review our just finished weekends. Talk about life, politics, family and faith. Drink steaming cups of tea and check in.
Those dinners are holy, one of the holiest times of the week for me. Holy: set apart, cherished, and singular. Holy: a faithful ritual that defines and shapes my life. Holy and transcendent: these meals are a little slice of heaven on earth where I experience face to face the love of others, the love of God, and the love of life.
Yes, I know as a pastor, I m supposed to be all about holiness, but guess what? You are probably more of a holy person than you know too. You need holiness. We all do.
It is tempting to see holiness as just the stuff of chanting monks with smoky incense, a whisper quiet church service, or the faithful streaming into mosques and temples for Sabbath, a holy day. That fits. This week Christians around the world will celebrate an entire Holy Week. But to be “holy” is always about so much more than ancient doctrine or religious practice. Religion at its best is holy. But life is holy too.
Holy: whole, contained, and very good.
All humans crave this wholeness and holiness. It’s just that we forget sometimes. Forget we want and need some things in life, some people in life, some rituals in life, some relationships in life to be sacred, protected, honored, and revered, like my weekly meal. Like weekly worship or daily prayer. Like weekly time with a loved one: date night with a spouse or breakfast with a friend at a local diner. Like the long run we take every morning as dawn awakes, or a long walk in the quiet of the woods on a Saturday morning with the dog.
To be holy means we intentionally claim precious time for thought and rest and relationships. To be holy means we humbly recognize that there may be something greater than ourselves in the universe, that maybe life is not all about “me”; that there is more to existence than our five senses. More to living than just scratching every itch, feeding every appetite, or satisfying every desire.
Something holy is always calling out to us. The hard part is listening and responding to this deep need to be holy. Holiness is hard work.
We live in a world of intense energy and unrelenting forward movement, the twin foes of holiness. We are up in the a.m. then rush off to work or school. We push through a torrent of meetings and emails and texts and competing demands. We commute back home on a crowded highway or cramped train, try and gather for dinner (if we can find the time), then it is off again to more activities and commitments and finally back home to bed…and then? We do it all over again. Not very holy or whole.
Such busyness is the enemy of holiness. Busyness tries to convince us that meaning comes from doing. Busyness sweeps us along in waves of frenetic grasping, from one thing to another and another and another. Busyness splits life into a million pieces. Busyness is the golden calf the world worships.
Holiness is the opposite. Holiness finds meaning in being. Holiness recognizes that our souls need nurture too. Holiness dares to say, “Enough already!” Holiness is still. Holiness stops. Holiness pays attention. Holiness takes practice.
God knows we all need to be holy, and not just for one week or season or holiday, but also for this day. Every day can be a holy day.
See you at the table.