“Holiness is not a personal achievement, It’s an emptiness,” says theologian Brennan Manning, “holiness is an emptiness you discover in yourself. Instead of resenting it, you accept it, and it becomes the free space where God can create anew.”
That quote, by Manning has been with me for years. It has inspired, engaged, and transformed my understanding of Holy. But to know Holy, I think I needed to first understand the spaciousness he writes about, and the paradigm rooted in “g*d” “ as shorthand for ‘outside the self’ that doesn’t have to be part of an exclusive blood pact made in a surrender as required in many wisdom traditions, including some Pagan. While Manning writes of a Christian g*d, and for years I knew that as “love,” as in 1 John 4:8 and 16: “g*d is love”; g*d as allegory to orthodox rules, binary systems, patriarchy and oppression is also what I have felt when I thought of g*d.
Coming out of difficult orthodoxy of my childhood religious experiences, g*d is love worked for me. I think it works for many. How many look past the bindings of orthodoxy and just say love? Even when love is predicated on dogma, like love the sinner and not the sin, many still slide into the love paradigm. But is that holy? Is that even something worth saving?
When I resigned myself to stop seeking personal achievement in ‘g*d as Love” I discovered a true emptiness. Maybe no one would love me? Maybe my love wasn’t holy. It is in that catechism of disbelief in everything, including the tenants of what I’ll call “popular Paganism” that I came to know love as Goddess. Holy She. There is no paradox in this space, beyond me. Alone, awesome, and complete within myself. Empty. Just the Goddess as the immanent divine who dwells within, and sustains the heart; flowing in, among, and around me.
It occurred to me that maybe the emptiness needed was no G*d in the storyline. That Goddess as pulsating, resonating, and generative Holy, from the Saxon root, “whole and complete” was, and more interestingly, alone, and didn’t require the myths, legends or archetypes that most of humankind had manifested on Her. Be it a Horned God, a Returning Sun King, or a child/ lover. What might the possibility be of Goddess as generative possibility.
Here’s that Brennan Manning quote again: “Holiness is not a personal achievement. It’s an emptiness you discover in yourself. Instead of resenting it, you accept it, and it becomes the free space where possibility can create anew.”
What might it mean to truly believe in the possibility of love, the possibility of justice, the possibility of peace? And, yes the possibility of holiness? Alone, awesome, and complete within ourselves?
For me, Goddess is that emptiness that becomes a god-shaped space, the space of possibility. The space I call holy. Holy is the Earth in her life giving splendor. Holy is the silence that is left when all I have is breath. Holy when we take time to nurture the quiet and invite the emptiness. Holiness is Goddess indwelling and the pulsating spiral of limitless that comes when we stop and listen, with nothing else to do in the moment, and nowhere to go.
The Goddess is not a personal achievement. She the opposite of how we frame achievement, and that is what creates the Holy. Holiness is the sweetness of making time to slow down, to sit and watch, to contemplate and reflect. Holiness is brought to life in emptiness. In the fruitful darkness of the reflection upon which all manifests.
As our community grows, and leans into the challenging issues of this day, how we walk immanent in the world as vessels of Goddess as containers of the holy feels pressing to me. We as a community have become more visible, more mainstream, and even more religious. The world watches as we move into sacred through public discourse. How we align and center our hearts to invite the possibility of love, justice, and peace. Are we ready to invite holiness? Let Goddess be the generative breath, and feel our parts come into alignment in that god-shaped space. What if we choose to cherish that space as holy emptiness? With attention and devotion, with spaciousness, and possibility to create new? Breathe into Holy Emptiness?
Are you breathing?
That is the breath, that hale-whole-wholeness-health-holy emptiness. Not personal achievement, but emptiness: the emptiness we discover in ourselves, the space where Goddess can create anew.
Let’s breathe together again. Just Breathe and just be holy now.
Images: Norm Halm Photographmaker