"I believe God is everything....Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you've found It."
--Shug, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
If you are one of billions of Christians or millions of Jews around the globe this week, these days are holy days, an entire holy week in fact. Holy: a sacred time set aside from "normal" time for God; for falling back into ancient religious tradition and ritual. For returning to church or synagogue, maybe for the first time in a week, or maybe for the first time in a very long time. Gathering around a common table for a family meal, familial reconnection.
At their core all these celebrations, all these religious observances, all these traditions, come down to the holy. Searching for the holy. Maybe even finding the holy, God, in this life, sometimes. If we are blessed. If we look.
So beginning Thursday night and stretching into Sunday morning, many Christians will attend holy services that tell the story of the farewell, trial, death and resurrection of their teacher, Jesus Christ, some 2,000 years ago. On Friday night and for the next seven days, many Jews will mark Passover, with holy rituals and a sacred meal, that tell their story of being liberated by God 3,500 years ago, from slavery into freedom.
There's only one problem with such "holy" things.
That's the tempting cliché to imagine these "holy" times are only reserved for the especially pious, for the select and devoted few, for the particularly, obviously "religious" folks. In this limited definition to be holy and know the holy, is rare, unique, and mostly unattainable. So "holy" is the black clad nun on bended knee reciting rosaries for hours on end. An Orthodox Jew bowing again and again as ancient Hebrew prayers waft up to heaven. An orange robed Buddhist monk sitting lotus style, meditating in perfect stillness.
All holy, absolutely, close to God and yet....
Linguistically, the word "holy" is actually rooted in a much older Indo-European word, "kailo", meaning whole, as in complete. What if we humans saw holiness not as the province of the few but instead the search, the deep desire, we all have as human beings, as fellow children of God, for connection to something bigger and greater than us? Maybe all humans, regardless of faith or tradition, we are all holy.
All seeking holiness and wholeness: whenever we look for meaning and purpose in life beyond the immediate, the now. Whenever we look up into the stars at night and wonder just who or what brought everything into being. Perhaps we are holy when we feel love and give love and this action stirs a spirit so deep within us, something so much more than mere instinct or appetite. Maybe all things in this world are holy: not only set aside holidays or special seasons, not only ancient texts or centuries old sacred spaces, not only prescribed religions or systems of thought.
I like what the character of Shug, a jazz age blues singer in Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer prize winning novel "The Color Purple" says of her search for the holy and God: "Here's the thing....I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don't know what you looking for."
So may this be a holy week for all. Holy: for folks of faith who embrace again the God story given to them by their parents and grandparents and forebears. Holy: for all who seek wholeness and answers in the quest to figure out just what this life is all about, and just whom our Creator is calling us to be.
On this one day. This one holy day.