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God, His Unity and Perfection: The Holiness of God

This is the last in this series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,10:

1. God is the Holy One of Israel

God particularly delights in the name of holy.  Very often he calls himself the holy one of Israel: he wants that his holiness be his motif, and the principle of ours: be holy because I am holy, says the Lord.  His holiness, which is the consolation of his faithful, is also the terror of his enemies.  Whom do you attack, senseless low life? Whose name have you blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and cast proud looks? Against the holy one of Israel? While you carried yourself like a madman against me, your pride rose up to my ears; and here I put a brake on your mouth and an iron ring in your nose and I led you back on the road where you came. And elsewhere: the vigilant and the holy have come down from heaven (Isaiah 37, Daniel 4), it is an Angel if you wish: whatever he is, his power is in his holiness.  And the sentence leaves from on high: And he cried powerfully: cut down the tree, break off the branches, it is thus ordered in the assembly of those who are always awake, it is the sentence of the saints, their strength is in their holiness. And after: The kingdom is given to the people of the saints of the Most-High (Daniel 7) because he is holy and the all-powerful protector of holiness. The Pagans themselves well understood the power attached to the holiness of the divine name: the Queen said to King Belshazzar: There is a man in thy kingdom that hath the spirit of the holy gods in him: (Daniel 5:11 DRB) that was to say, the spirit of preaching and of divine efficacy.

2. The vision of Isaiah and of Saint John

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: (Isaiah 6:1-4 DRB) and his train filled the temple. Upon it stood the Seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they flew. And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory, And the lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.  See the holiness of God: see why he is called the holy one of Israel.  He showed himself to the prophet as the very holy one, the three-times holy one in his three persons: and the glory and the majesty which filled all the earth were the outbreak of his holiness. Holiness is his clothing, said David; and saint John, in the Apocalypse (Revelation 4) saw four animals which never stopped crying night and day: Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God almighty, who was and is and who is to come.  Note this cry above all: there is nothing which is published with a greater cry and with greater perseverance: nothing which breaks out more highly in all the universe than the holiness of God.

Holiness is the summary and like an abstract of divine perfections.  The Son of God himself in his last prayer, speaking to his Father, as if to encapsulate in one single word his perfections, calls him: my holy Father, my just Father: and we do not find in his Gospel that he gave him another title than these two which make one. Himself he was known under the title of holy and just: the holy thing which will be born in you will be called the Son of God.  The demons spoke like the Angel: I know who you are: the Holy One of God. Daniel had named him in spirit because of his anointing: the Holy One of Holy Ones. Isaiah called him the Just. Saint Peter put together these two qualities in saying: You have denied the Holy and the Just.

3. That Which is Understood by Holiness

Holiness is in God is an essential incompatibility with all sin, with all defect, with all imperfection of understanding and will.

  1. Injustice, iniquity, sin cannot be in him: he is the rule and the good by essence, without which he may have in him some kind of defect. He neither understands nor wants that it is necessary for him to understand and hear: his understanding and will are his nature which is always excellent. His moral perfection and his natural perfection are one: he is equally immune to defect by his being and infallible in his intelligence and will, by consequence incompatible with all sin and defect.
  2. It belongs only to him to purify soiled consciences from sin: he is holy and sanctifier: he is just and justifying the sinner, as Saint Paul says.
  3. He is incompatible with sinners and rejects them in front of him by all his holiness and all his essence. The morning, says the Psalmist, in the time when thoughts are the neatest and when one can offer first fruits to God, Lord, I will present myself in front of you and I will see clearly, in your light, that you are a God and do not want iniquity.  The evil one does not live next to you: and the unjust do not last in front of your eyes.  You hate all those who commit sins: you will lose all those who speak lies: the bloody man and the deceiver are an abomination in front of the Lord.
  4. Sinners uselessly attack by their rebellion: and, his holiness dwells inviolable in the midst of the impious, the blasphemers, the impure ones of which all the universe is filled by the malice of men and demons.
  5. He dwells holy, although to punish sinners he delivers them to their bad desires, because to deliver them is not to produce them. God only removes himself from an ungrateful heart: this removal is holy, because God removes himself justly from those who leave him and punishes their voluntary straying, in striking them with blindness. He makes all in man, except the first sin where his action does not mix. The one who permits this is not soiled, because he alone, he can take away an infinite good and greater than the malice of all sins together, as when he took from the malice of the Jews a sacrifice so holy which expiates all crimes.
  6. He purifies the just by a thousand trials: he places them in the crucible and the fire: in the fire of this life: in the fire of the other and nothing soiled enters into his kingdom.
  7. His holiness is the conviction of all men: Unhappiness to me, wrote Isaiah, after having seen the majesty of the three-times holy: unhappiness to me with my impure lips: in the middle of a soiled people.  I saw with my eyes the King of armies: Go, he says, and say to these people: Hear and not understand. Blind the heart of this people: weigh down their ears: close their eyes. It is the effect of the holiness of God, when it is scorned.

I will be sanctified in their midst in punishing them: I will wash my hands in their blood and my just vengeance will break out my holiness.

Holy things are for the holy, it is written another time before communion. There is only one holy: only one Lord: only one Jesus Christ, the people respond. Oh Lord! Sanctify us, so that we sanctify and glorify your name. In truth, in truth I say to you: I do not know you: go away from me, all of you who work iniquity.

Approach, penitent sinners: purify yourselves in the source of purity. If your sins are red like scarlet, I will whiten them like snow. What a marvellous change! The Ethiopian will no longer have black skin: she breaks out in a heavenly whiteness: the holiness of God has done this work. Be thus holy, because I am holy, says the Lord. Be saints, ministers of God and his altars, dispensers of his word and his mysteries, because God has chosen you to sanctify his people. People of God, be holy, because God lives in your midst. Sanctify your souls where he wants to make his dwelling and your bodies which are the temples of the Holy Spirit.


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