…and gritty holiness

I was writing yesterday about Paris’  skyline and its many spectacular places of worship. The hotel where I stayed on my brief visit was right next to one of those historic churches – St Roch on the Rue St Roch in the First Arrondisement. It is a vast soaring edifice, and still bears the scars of bullets on its facade from the Revolution. To stand on the pavement and look up at it is to get a dizzying perspective on these implacable saints and their view of the frenetic street below.

However, on climbing the wobbly stairs in my small hotel and ducking into the little room under the eaves – I gained a completely different view through my tiny window:

Look carefully and you can see that the Bishop’s mitre is thick with Parisian grime, and that even his hands are black with the soot of ten thousand exhaust fumes. Saints are not quite so squeaky clean when you see them close-up, perhaps.

I’m not sure that its possible to inhabit the world and escape its grime altogether. Most of us bear the marks of the world’s grubbiness on close inspection. In the end, holiness is more about being used by God in the grime than escaping from it.

In Milton Jones’ little book, which I reviewed on here last week, he describes holiness as not being like the Sunday best cutlery, but like :

A Swiss army knife – remove a splinter, cut a rope, open a bottle – any time, anywhere, whatever the boss needs.

Is that your kind of holiness?