by Monk Moses the Athonite
Today is the Sunday of All Saints, and who thinks about how the main purpose of our life on this earth is to acquire holiness? Yes, we exist to become saints.
The failure of this achievement is the greatest tragedy of human existence. But how is holiness considered today? What is our stance before it? How do we view it? How do we live it? How can we find it and not lose it? How do we use it, perhaps even exploit it?
Holiness does not eliminate the human personality. It does not violate human freedom and will, uniqueness and the sacredness of the human person. Holiness is not unmanned and the manufacturing of an identical statue. Many have a false perception of holiness. The most fragrant books of the lives of saints give us numerous and beautiful examples from the West to the East, among women and men, young and old, educated and illiterate, married and unmarried, clergy and laity, closed and open types of personalities.
Generally, holiness, being divine and sacred, causes awe and respect, admiration and fascination, but we must say that sometimes myths and exaggerations and inauthenticity is sometimes interwoven. A saint is considered completely detached from everything mundane. The source of holiness, self-holiness and self-goodness, is God. By sharing in Him it is offered to us. The early Christians were called saints in order to be reminded of the purpose of their lives. Holiness today is considered remote, otherworldly, impossible. It is a gift to the elite aristocracy of the spirit. Holiness has been given a purely moralistic dimension that does not characterize the status of the substance of a Christian.
Holiness is not a championship match, a supernatural feat, an awesome act of prowess, the acquisition of a winning record. Holiness is not an illuminated sign, a glowing halo, a spectacular display, a needed advertisement, the diffusion of applause. Rather, holiness loves to live in obscurity, ingloriousness, forgotten, silence, repentance and humility. Holiness is communion with All Holy God, not a human achievement. Holiness is true balance, authentic health, a meaningful relationship with God. It is the obedience to His command, that we become holy as God is holy. The will of God is our sanctification.
By holiness is meant following Christ to Gethsemane and Golgotha. Holiness is not transmitted, not earned by merely reading books and lengthy discussions in living rooms. It calls out that we must give blood, in order to receive the Spirit. We must persistently fight and be patient, to defeat the wild beast with many heads called pride. The saint overcomes selfishness, love for the flesh, ambition and love for money, with love for the divine, love for people, philanthropy, brotherly kindness, philoprogenitiveness, and the virtuous life.
The saints, according to the late Elder Justin Popovich, are the centuries old authentication of the gospel, the extensions of Christ. They have proved by practice that the virtues of the gospel are feasible.
Many pilgrims to Mount Athos today seek great saints in order to have their problems solved. In other words, we want the saints and Christ and the Church out of pure self-interest, to spend our lives undisturbed and well. This shows that there is a magical conception to holiness, the holy sacraments and the Church. This is how Orthodoxy becomes religionized. Elder Paisios would tell us that the saints would love Christ even if there was no paradise in the afterlife!
True holiness, because unfortunately there is a pseudo-holiness, is not a powerful projector, a loudspeaker, lights, clicking, decoys and promotion. It is hidden, whether it be on Athos or in the city or in the village. It thrives in secrecy, humility and the goodness of the honorable, the loyal, enduring illness, rejection, failure, grief, criticism, irony, and so on. Holiness may be in the minority and the exception, but it exists. This is very important and a message of great hope.