The quest for holiness goes through two doors, justice and mercy. You may go through one door to the other. Mercy may lead to justice or justice may lead to mercy. In any case we walk through these doors on the way to holiness.
We do not leave off prayer but it, too, is not alone, but is connected to action. Prayer which does not lead to action, or action which does not lead to prayer, is hollow and alone – even if that action is deep internal work on the self.
Repentance is the engine for this movement. Simply put, if you know you are headed in the wrong direction you stop, turn aside, and reorient your steps. You look for the light. You walk toward the light.
Holiness is not an end so much as it is a path. To keep moving when the temptations everywhere are to stop and bask in the goals you’ve achieved: this is difficult. We want to stop with our limited understanding of God but to do so is to lose our openness to the radical Newness that God brings to our lives.
Holiness is thus an attitude or an inclination, a leaning toward that which is ever leaning toward you, a sensing of the insoluble yet firm mystery within and beyond life. We know this mystery as God but no word can define or limit the boundlessness of the mystery. This is not the same thing as saying that we have no revelation to give shape and substance to the word; the revelation is our starting point but it is a guide and not a limit.
Because of our humility before the Mystery of God, the search for holiness leads to a natural asceticism. Once you see that the quest is the most important move you can make, a stripping-down takes place. One prepares for the journey by carrying as little as you can get by with. This is perhaps even more true mentally than it is physically, in that you must strip off the distractions one by one – which we call the passions. We use passion in the twin and good sense of drive and desire, but we also see the dark side of passion, where distraction may make more sense as a description.
The Jesus-prayer is both a guide and a barometer for this quest for holiness. It is a guide for repentance and it is a barometer of our internal readiness and availability for the Presence of the Mystery of God. Sink into it, my friends, and you will find the path for the quest.