Friday, 1 March 2002

Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean
wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
        Psalm 51.7
Having watched the adverts à la Julian Clarey I decided it was time for me to wash my danger whites!  (That would be my cassock-alb and my surplice.)  It had been made more urgent by a rain-washed burial at Worsbrough Village which left mud splashes half way up my back.  In our house it’s not a case of picking up DAZ, we use Fairy non-biological (though for some reason my skin never seems to look any younger).  Now I’m just waiting for the reaction when Beccy discovers the surplice in the ironing basket.
I write this at the start of Lent, which time is a good reason in itself to go to the laundry.  We consider our lives and get rid of the grubbiness as we prepare for the celebration of Easter.
But that raises the question - What does holiness really mean?  Is it a case of being whiter than snow (and perhaps we should be wary of the non political-correctness of such a statement) or should it something rather more dynamic.
To be holy means to be set apart for God.  Jesus was holy because he dedicated his life to God’s will.  During Lent we remember this not just in his saying NO to temptations but in his saying YES.  Yes to justice, yes to liberation, yes to the potential that was often stuck inside people and struggling to get out; and he did this despite the danger to himself.  That is why Lent is also as much a time for taking things on as for the usual tradition of giving things up. 
The whiter than white people of Jesus’ day thought he was far from being holy, which just goes to show how superficial standards can become.  Just occasionally (if only) children finish the day with their clothes slightly dirtier than they were when they put them on in the morning (hence the Fairy non-bio); and if they didn’t you would wonder what they had been doing all day.  The Christian faith calls us to be holy, but that holiness usually involves us getting stuck in and maybe getting our hands dirty.

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