The True Meaning of Holiness
Without this holiness at the centre of our personalities and characters, which I write of, what do we become? Simply vacuous hypocrites, turncoats and ciphers. He who aspires to real holiness of heart will not fail his kith, kin and above all Christ Himself.
1. First Remarks
Holiness is not reciting prayers, attending Church Services, honesty, or morally correct living, but these may co-exist with holiness. I say holiness lies more in lifelong modesty and realism based on faith in aims and personal claims. You will find holiness in meekness of outlook and what the Bible calls “poor in spirit” with an abhorrence of materialism. Yes the holy are austere and separate, as they live in Christ’s world, who was born into poverty Himself in the stable. Admittedly it is the explicit profession of theistic faith that matters to these holy people. The way the holy live their lives all over the Earth really counts in the eyes of our Maker and His Son.
I say Christ is the fountain of all holiness and He places great store on the spirit of self-denial and good neighbourliness whatever the individual’s religion or lack of religion. There are no barriers between believers and non-believers in Heaven, which is the summit of all holiness: Virtually all Holy men and women and believers in the main faiths believe in the after-life, namely the nirvana or paradise or Heaven. I say this cannot be glimpsed on earth but it does create the drive to holiness in believers. Non-believers do not recognise the after-life, as such, but they may still attain it even though they do not expect it. I am speaking, by analogy, with the greatly unexpected legacy which is still accepted by the legatee out of the bounty of the deceased. It may even be a charitable legacy.
2. Holy Men and Women
- Examples: I am concerned with the strictly non-religious meaning of holiness in these examples I cite, including Martin Luther King and Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. I suspect all the men quoted in this paragraph may have been religious to some degree, but their holiness is not per se religious it is truly human. Private life is not the test. It is the way these men raised to the public challenge that delivers the holiness. Clearly very damaging allegations in a public figure’s private life, if properly established, will lessen the holiness achieved, but not necessarily blot his copybook indelibly. I say the stain of sin may be washed away if that well known person shows due sorrow in certain cases. e.g. John Profumo the Conservative Minister ensnared in that sexual scandal in the early 1960’s.
- But I say Nelson Mandela is a special case who was divorced and remarried before he went into Robben Island hard labour prison in the 1960’s and then was divorced again. His life was dictated by the intense insecurity of being a fighter for his Country’s freedom and his severe imprisonment for near on 30 years moreover. He was a talisman for opposition to Apartheid in South Africa during his incarceration and that White Regime wished to manipulate his captivity and release. By his extraordinary example, charm and charity he won over all South Africans and watchers of South Africa worldwide in his Presidency. He was no orthodox churchgoer but still a truly holy man as is the unanimous view of Mandela’s character.
- Churchill had a long and blameless private life. What were his faults? Not knowing when to step down and bow out gracefully as Prime Minister, 1951-1955. Secondly and more importantly his command to his Admirals to bombard the Vichy French Navy at Mers el Kebir in North Africa early in World War II causing severe French casualties among their sailors is held against Churchill. The French Fleet was cornered and had to fight its way out. We were not at war with France, not even Vichy France.
It has been argued the French Admirals of the Nazi’s puppet regime, lead by Marechal Petain, could have scuttled their ships or they may have been brought to surrender and been starved out by these British Admirals. On this case Churchill’s overall conduct of this Naval encounter from London was seen as brutal and counterproductive. Was Churchill right to say this French Fleet would have been handed over to Hitler? I would say in all likelihood that was not on the cards at any stage. Churchill’s conduct did not endear him to these French Admirals with their mighty Fleet.
As the French say: “Ce n’est pas le guerre!” Next Churchill’s World War I idea to invade our enemy’s territory (Turkey) by seaborne landings close to the Capital: Istanbul (Gallipoli) in 1915 proved an enormous costly and foreseeable error brought about by his foolish desire to shorten the War in cutting a corner. Wishful thinking I would say. Such measures never work, certainly not in the Great War. Our troops including the ANZAC’s (Australasians) were forced to make frontal advances and assaults with no ground cover to speak of. Hidden German Officers directed the enemy artillery and machine gun fire to devastating effect. Our Allied casualties: dead and wounded were immense. The Royal Navy just saved the day by the re-embarkation of our men. Churchill must have rued pursuing his initiative which achieved no gains save significant Turkish casualties weakening this opposition to us in Palestine and Mesopotamia. Both were sideshows however.
We grant to Churchill a very high place quite rightly for 1940-1941 and his leadership then was of the highest calibre. I have outlined two wartime blemishes: - he was erratic over the Turkish blunder and over-zealous at Mers el Kebir. Holiness may combine, I conclude, with human error. Churchill’s abiding holiness in defending Britain in World War II in 1940 leads us to excuse all his three failings. No one is perfect. If you live on the tightrope or the brink during two World Wars, as Churchill did, then you will be forgiven for the two mistakes I refer to in “the heat of battle”. Furthermore he would not let the reins slip in the early 1950’s on account of his adhesion to wartime Britain in the Second World War. He could not break the cord that bound him to Britain.
No one is whiter than white or purer than driven snow. If you were you would not be truly holy. Holiness grows out of human error, weakness and frailty of character. A lot of the modern military, political and social Western debate misses this point. We hate holiness and love the immaculate profile. Not my view!
3. The Heart of Holiness
This is the crunch, can you grasp the nettle of holiness in your life or do you back away into the shadows? Holiness in its heart is the depths and heights of that person’s being and soul. Your soul may die and you may live on in spiritual penury and desiccation. The soul must be fed on selflessness and obedience to our revered civil and criminal laws. But the soul chokes on the Eurocratic hegemony and holiness recognises this dichotomy: Europe against England and Wales. You cannot have both, if you are truly holy in your heart in my view. Thus I say holiness leads us to save our souls and secede from Europe. I do not accuse Macmillan and Heath of wrongdoing. They were both responding to the European wind and tide, as it then was, blowing and coming in to our shores.
Morality based on Christian virtue should be at the core of our hearts. In England schools caning and the birch for non-Capital crimes has been phased out, certainly since 1980, if not earlier. Hanging for murder was an integral part of our criminal justice up to the 1940’s and 1950’s under the old Assize Courts. Many say this caning and the birch were immoral in times gone by and today. I would not seek to reintroduce them. But as regards hanging for murder there is a vital insight here: That premeditated and coldblooded murder is so heinous and highly criminal, it demands the Death Sentence in my view.
If you do not permit the discretionary Death Penalty for murder to become part of our law you will cause victims of murder and their relations, with our criminal justice process, to be desecrated. Then the holiness drains away from all our criminal courts. The Blessed Cardinal Newman argued the resulting despair persuades to great sinning in his 19th Century poem:
“Next as he threads the maze of men Aye, must he life his witness when a sin is spake in Heaven’s dread face and none at hand of higher grace the Cross to carry in his place.”
“But if he hears and sits him still first he will lose his hatred of ill then fear of sinning after hate small sins his heart will desecrate and last despair persuade to great.”
Cardinal Newman: “Witness” from his Religious verses.
Why do I place such importance on holiness? Because without it we have no will power, strength of purpose or independence of thought leading to decision making. Christ is that fountain of love from which all these holy things come. I am using holiness in the non-religious sense. I wish to appeal as one man to mankind and yet I am a mere unknown essayist. Holiness knows no limitations. A truly holy person will not accept “no” for an answer. The holy man will never admit defeat. He will go on despite adverse odds. He will always remember his shortcomings, yet he will attempt the seemingly impossible.
Look at Churchill: He was the great opponent of defeatism in 1940-1941 and his critics, like Lord Halifax, were forced aside by dint of Churchill’s great drive to defend England from Hitler. This is the essence of holiness: courageous leadership on the small and greater levels. I argue holiness may be found in the individual first and foremost. Indeed it cannot subsist outside that person’s soul. This is why the priest, monk and nun demonstrate that holiness in seclusion within their religious order or priestly life.
I write of holiness as heroism. Those two words and meanings are interlinked. Each one feeds off the other. The heroic is holiness in action. Holiness has to lead to heroism in my polemic or it withers and dries up.