Saint Paul writes about our “sanctification” as if we would know what he is talking about. In the original Greek, the generic meaning of “sanctification” is “the state of proper functioning.” To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A well is “sanctified” when it is used as a source of water. A wineskin is “sanctified” when it is used to store wine. For us, eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are “sanctified” when they are used for the purpose God intends. A human being is “sanctified” when they live according to God’s unique design and purpose for their life.[i]
When we wake up each morning, we can presume God’s presence, and power, and provision. We have been kept alive for as much as one more day to know God, and to love God, and to serve God as only we, uniquely, can do. [ii] We wake up each morning on a mission to bear the beams of God’s light, and life, and love as only we, uniquely, can do. It’s why we are still alive. Which turns life into such an amazing adventure. This is the core meaning of “sanctification”: living our lives according to God’s unique design and purpose for our life.
Momentarily we will join together in singing about “sanctification,” the Sanctus: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might…” We not only worship and praise the God of all power and might, but also receive the God of all power and might in the mystical form of bread and wine. “Behold what you are; may we become what we receive.” These are the words of Saint Augustine from the 5th century.[iii] “Behold what you are” you a living body of Christ, in whom Christ is uniquely alive and working. “Behold what you are.” And then, “may we become what we receive,” which is the Body of Christ, in the form of the consecrated bread and wine from the altar. “May we become what we receive,” which is for us, individually, to become ever-more like Christ who, in our baptism, comes to live within us. It’s about our life-life process of “sanctification.”
Our “sanctification” is an invitation for our cooperation, our co-operation, in God’s sanctifying work to make us whole, to make us holy.[iv]
i] Insight about “sanctification” drawn from Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (2001), by Walter A. Elwell, ed.
[ii] This is a paraphrase of Saint Ignatius’ “Foundation and First Principle” in his Spiritual Exercises.
[iii] Saint Augustine (396-430), Bishop of Hippo, modern-day Algeria.
[iv] The Old English hælþ: “wholeness, sound ,or well,” from the Old Norse helge “holy, sacred,” the Old English hælan “to heal.”
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