In the vernacular, “holy” has lost some of its meaning. Personally, I blame the shift in usage on the 1960’s television show. “Batman” – Robin over used the word by spouting it in front of any noun imaginable. The Biblical use is something else entirely. Holy is from the Hebrew word, “qodesh,” which means to separate. In usage, qodesh signifies divinity, as in the essence of God himself. God is holy; holy is God. God is separate from God’s creation; God is also intertwined into creation and makes it holy. According to a well-known theologian, the effect of “holy” is twofold: it is tremendous, fearful and so it repels man. Holy is, at the same time, fascinating and so it attracts man. In Greek, holy is “hagios” which means set apart, reverend, sacred, worthy of veneration. God is hagios because God is separate, reverend, transcendent, and worthy of praise. There are many spirits, but there is one Hagios Spirit. The Holy Spirit is transcendent and certainly worthy of praise and veneration.
In the Church, we have many things bearing the name holy – holy water, holy oils, Holy Saturday, Holy Week, and holy orders, to name a few. Once water is blessed and made holy, it is separate from other water. It is treated differently because it is no longer regular water. Holy Saturday is the day Jesus’ body spent in the tomb. It is a special, set-apart day from other Saturdays. Likewise, holy orders means men and women are called by God to be deacons, priests, and bishops in God’s Church. Notice that holy orders are not “to serve as” a priest, but rather “called to be…” Once water is made holy, it ceases to be tap water. Likewise, once a church is blessed, it is set apart to be a place of worship. That change, however, requires participation from God’s people from generation to generation. There are ancient houses of worship in Turkey that are now ruins that shelter sheep. I’ve stood in what was once a beautiful Russian Orthodox church. It has been stripped of everything and now stands as a shell with birch trees towering above where the roof used to be. Nevertheless, the place still felt holy – it repelled and attracted me.
This past Wednesday, we cleansed, blessed, and re-dedicated Saint John’s church to be God’s holy dwelling place and house of worship for all people. It is now a set-aside building. It has one purpose – the worship of God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Before we had academic awards ceremonies, theatrical performances, spelling bees, movies, graduations, and meetings in the church. Those days are over and gone. If someday Saint John’s has a spelling bee, we have Nale Hall to house it. Likewise with graduations, meetings and other secular ceremonies – we have a large, accommodating space to do those things. Thanks be to God for the riches of space we’ve been blessed to steward! Nevertheless, the church is Holy. It is set apart as one of God’s dwelling places. Thanks be to God that we’ve been blessed to steward God’s home!