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what is holiness?

Sacred refers to anything that has been set apart or devoted for the service or worship of a god, is deserving of spiritual regard or devotion, or evokes awe or reverence among believers. Objects (a “holy item” that is revered and blessed) or locations are often associated with the attribute (“sacred ground”). The basic element of religion, according to French sociologist Émile Durkheim, is the dichotomy between the holy and the profane: “religion is a cohesive system of ideas and behaviours pertaining to sacred objects, that is to say, those set aside and banned.” The holy, according to Durkheim’s theory, reflects the group’s goals, particularly unity, which are represented in sacred group symbols, or totems. The profane, on the other hand, is concerned with everyday personal issues.


Holy as a word denotes a person or a thing that is set apart for the worship of God and therefore is worthy of an individual’s respect. In some cases, the word Holy symbolises an individual’s inherent character. Holiness as a virtue is said to have originated from the presence of God, which is then translated to worldly things, places, times and persons that have been engaged in the divine service.

In usual comprehension of the terminology, Holiness is generally referred to in relation to a person or a specific relationship. In close contrast to sacredness, which relates to objects, places, or happenings, Holiness is more of an abstract idea based on the connection of one thing to another. For instance, a saint may be considered holy, but they would never be considered sacred. Additionally, some things can be viewed as both holy and sacred. An example of the same is the Holy Bible.

The English word holy is known to originate from the 11th century-old English word hālig, which is an adjective derived from hāl (‘whole’). This word is supposed to denote an entity which is uninjured, healthy, entire, complete and sound. In the Scottish comprehension hale represents health, happiness, and wholeness in its modern form of this Old English root. The word holy has appeared in Wycliffe’s 1382 Bible. In layman terms, the word holy is used to connote a person or thing which is said to be associated with divine power, such as the water used for baptism, which is more commonly referred to as the holy water.

Thomas Aquinas understands Holiness as a term that can denote a man’s attribute utilised in all his acts of God. Ranked among moral virtues, this is a virtue of religion which offers God his due service. Holiness is referred to in context with divine service by which an individual can make all his acts subservient to God. Holiness is the outcome of sanctification. It refers to the divine act by which God has independently justified a person’s existence. It is this virtue by which God has claimed an ordinary individual as his own.

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