Searching for Holiness and Glory

And holiness: How is the teenager in the mall arcade going to conceive of holiness? Or his parents, for that matter? Will the scholars tell us about holiness? Is it a presence in their imaginations?

To be sure, holiness attaches to religion. But is the modern churchgoer hailed by holiness in his church? The drift toward informality and good cheer in all aspects of modern life makes invoking the idea of the holy a difficult task. In Protestant churches, there being no altar, no tabernacle, no incense, and no sanctus bell, the burden must be carried by intangibles -- the text of great hymns, perhaps, or the sonority of the minister's voice. In Catholic churches, attempts to make the Mass familiar, friendly, informal, and affable may at times vitiate the idea of the holy.

A civilization could do worse than ask itself how things are going when the idea of the holy, or of glory, seems remote or strange to its citizens.

11/9/2010 5:00:00 AM
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