Friday, September 08, 2006

Reading Tillich 4: Sainthood

The term "saint" has been misunderstood and distorted; saintliness has been identified with religious or moral perfection. Protestantism, for these reasons, has finally removed the concept of sainthood from religion. But sainthood is not personal perfection. Saints are persons who are transparent for the ground of being which is revealed thorough them and who are able to enter a revelatory constellation as mediums. Their being can become a sign-event for others. This is the truth behind the Catholic practice of demanding miracles from every saint.
Systematic Theology I, 121.
I have often wondered what a person belonging to a tradition where saints play a central role feels about this definition. It strikes me as very accurate. I have met a few person in my life and read the works of several others that I would consider saints. What Tillich points to is exactly it: the encounter which such a person become a revelation of the divine that grabs me and transforms me. It has little to do with moral perfection, although to be transparent for the ground of being, that is to be truly genuine and at ease with one's identity, tends to lead to a certain moral solidity I would think.

I one's had a long discussion with one of the brothers in Taizé about saints in today's world. We were both of the opinion that people look for something different in holy people today that a hundred years ago. Whereas earlier people looked for something removed from the human situation in a saint (i.e. moral perfection) today we look for deep honesty in holy people. An honest that involves the realisation that moral perfection is impossible in this world. This realisation becomes a point of connection between us and the saint, which lets us appreciate the honesty, the "transparency
for the ground of being".

The saint also seem to be a person that has been able to create a unified narrative of his or her life. The saint has been able to reconcile the negative experiences with the positive and seen a sense, a meaning in it all.

Which leads me to think that what the world needs today more than anything else is more saintly people.

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