The yearning for holiness remains alive today. We live with a sense that we can be more than we are. We feel the pull of the transcendent and live with a call to be the person God intended. The ammas [the ‘Desert Mothers’, Christian ascetics in the 4th and 5th centuries] understood that holiness was founded upon wholeness. They teach us that we must shed our false self and allow our true self to emerge.
Laura Swan, The Forgotten Desert Mothers, p 157
WHOLENESS. What constitutes our wholeness? This is the question that lies at the heart of all questions, at the heart of all relationships and right living, and the saints who trod the path of life before us were women and men who recognised that we’re all of us caught up in a process of emerging. The pursuit of holiness and wholeness cannot be a rushed exercise. It’s our lifetime’s task. We shouldn’t be too quick to arrive at answers, still less to “provide” answers for others!
Wholeness and holiness will emerge in human persons at different times, in different places, and at different rates. Quick fix “evangelism” can be misleading, even dangerous at times, and destructive. If any of us need “saving” from anything it’s from those who want to draft out the terms and conditions of our wholeness for us. Wholeness will involve being our deepest, truest selves … and will therefore involve us in being distinctive, unique – and necessarily different.
Live and let live
The world’s religious and philosophical traditions, and the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion that I love and seek to serve, have no choice but to continue to grapple with the life issues that some find it so hard to be reconciled with, issues that are largely to do with diversity. We really do need to learn to live and let live. We really do need to be reconciled to the processes of emerging.
“We live with a sense that we can be more than we are. We feel the pull of the transcendent.” We are emerging – and we’ll know we’ve arrived in the fullness of the reign of God, or, if religious language isn’t helpful, we’ll know we’ve arrived in the state of wholeness, when we’re genuinely and wholly able to revel and delight in our gloriously gifted diversity.
Meanwhile, to return again to the wisdom of Sonny Kapoor, the young hotel proprietor in the fabulous The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel –
Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright now then it cannot be the end …