Getting to the Other Side of Holiness

Christ is risen!
I’ve heard many of our parishioners share what a blessed experience Holy Week was for them this year. All kinds of theories have been shared on why it may have felt different, but I think there’s only one reason why so many thought it was so wonderful. To me it was the result of what always brings blessings, either in our own lives or the lives of others. Holy Week was experienced differently because what many put into the week was different—it was more. More people coming to services. People coming for more services than they normally came for. More attention paid to the services when attended. More meaning gleaned from the richness of the readings and hymnography. More effort to do less outside of the services so they could be prepared for and reflected upon. As the old saying goes, the more you put into something the more you get out of it.

It seems so obvious as to beg the question of why I need to even say it, but let’s be honest: when we think of the extra effort we know we’ll need to put into something (anything, not just attending services) we often focus on the “more effort” part, and oftentimes that’s enough to stop us in our tracks. Don’t think this is your problem? Ask yourself the following questions:

–How many times have I said to myself “I should call so-and-so…” and then stopped myself when I realized either the difficulty that might come in the conversation or the busyness of my schedule?

–How many times have I ever intended to get some exercise, but then stopped when I thought of how much effort it was going to take?

–How often have I put off an item on my “to do” list at work/home/school when I realized it would be hard?

Of course we can all think of many instances when we have done all of these. And why? Because when we face efforts that appear—well, full of effort—we are seeing holiness from this side, not the other. You see, holiness isn’t confined to attending Holy Week services. A holy life is a whole life, full of all kinds of important things. Yes, there are the overtly “religious” things like coming to church, but there are many aspects to a whole (and therefore “holy”) life that don’t appear to be religious, but in a greater sense they are. Taking care of the needy, taking care of our loved ones, and even taking care of ourselves are all part of living a holy life. And the more important the things set before us to do, the more effort they often require. In the week before Holy Week, none of us said to ourselves, “Oh, how wonderful it will be once we pass through all of these services and are blessed and changed by them after the week is over.” As Lazarus Saturday got closer, we saw mostly a lot of effort and a lot of time in church. Because that’s all we see on the near side of holiness—the effort. We experience holiness completely unanticipated, on the other side of what will usually only look in advance to be a lot of effort. Now that Holy Week is behind us and we return to “normal” life, if we’re going to continue in holiness it means continuing to face up to the efforts of a whole/holy life, and doing things in spite of the resistance we feel to put out that effort. We do this through our efforts to care for ourselves through regular worship, daily prayer and a healthy physical, mental and emotional life. And we do it through our efforts to care for the needs of those around us.

So as we reflect back on Holy Week, let’s learn one more important lesson, apart from the myriad of lessons we received by the content of the week. God has laid before us a lifetime—no, an eternity—of blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace, treasure upon treasure. And while none of them can be earned, like all treasures they are unearthed only through dedication, persistence, and the willingness to do a lot of hard work. Because that’s what it takes to get to the other side of holiness.