It’s February. If you live where I live, this is the month with an unfortunate propensity for blizzards. Frozen, white, relentless, the weeks can seem to slog on. Flowers and cards just don’t cut it. You’re convinced you need a holiday – a real vacation with swaying palms, hot sand, dabbling your toes in the sea.
The word “holiday” is derived from the notion of “holy day.” It comes from the Old English word haligdaeg, which originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, holiday has come to be synonymous with “vacation,” meaning any special day of rest and relaxation, as opposed to normal days away from work or school.
A holiday, then, in its purest sense, might be seen as a devoted commitment to taking something beautiful and true from the ordinary; whereas a vacation might be considered an escape from the ordinary.
So which one do you really need? A holiday or a vacation? Relaxation and escape to somewhere else, or an opportunity to discover the holiness present within your own heart? Moreover, what is it that you truly desire? And how do you get at this holiness thing? Good question. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, addresses it this way: “We know that a desire for holiness is requisite in order to gain holiness; but if we desire holiness above all else, we shall sacrifice everything for it. We must be willing to do this, that we may walk securely in the only practical road to holiness” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 11).
Wow. That’s lofty. The only practical road to holiness is sacrifice? You may be thinking, “Hey, all this holiness talk is well and good, but look, I just need a break, OK? A week at the shore. Besides, with the year I’ve had, I deserve it.”
But consider this: Wherever you are, holiness is the only thing that brings energy, vitality, adventure, real rest, and real peace. As the Apostle Paul said, “[I]n him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Living in holiness, we live in Love. What could be warmer and more satisfying than that?
According to the dictionary, holy means: exalted or worthy of complete devotion; as one perfect in goodness; devoted entirely to deity or the work of deity; having a divine quality (holy love); venerated as or as if sacred.
We all need to feel some sense of what is sacred. In fact, if you do anything without a sense of the sacred, without true holiness, it can actually feel pretty empty. We all know what it means just to go through the motions – to endure life stoically and/or settle for mediocrity in work, relationships, church, community, and life in general.
What if, instead, you offered complete devotion to the highest good in your conversations and interactions? What if you deeply honored the simple truth behind each task you did, brought a more sacred grace to your place of work and home, to each e-mail you wrote, and welcomed gratitude into your every thought? What if you venerated Love’s will in each decision you made and recognized the divine in everything surrounding you?
If you did, you would become filled with holy joy. You’d literally be on holiday. Look! Did you see the blazing salmon colors dawning over the curve of the hill? Did you sense the quiet perfection in the still air of morning? Did you notice the kind smile of the person sitting next to you on the train? Did you hear the music, the vital beat and pulse of the traffic in the street?
But what about the day-to-day stuff? The mundane, relentlessly difficult tasks from which you believe you need to escape? How do you bring holiness to those things? Well here’s a thought: Why not embrace your bill-paying with a continual awareness of holy abundance? Change the flat tire with the energy and joy that come from God as divine Spirit? Pick up your groceries with a renewed sense of the nurturing, nourishing care of divine Love?
Why not? Holy joy beats complaining. Frustration, fatigue, and restlessness will not live through the winter, but holy joy goes on undiminished and unspent – fulfilling human happiness. In fact, holy joy always precedes happiness. Mrs. Eddy wrote: “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish, therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it” (Science and Health, p. 57).
So here’s the thing: Whether you’re lounging by the sea on a beach in the tropics, or huddling by a wood stove in a New England blizzard, you can, right where you are, be on a high holiday and commit to taking regular holidays. Every morning – indeed, every moment – you have the spiritual capacity to welcome holiness into your heart and see it bear fruit around you.
Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly Love,
With light and comfort from above; ...
Plant holy joy in every heart,
That we from Thee may ne’er depart.
(Simon Browne, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 39, adapt.)