What is Holiness? 

I purchased a hardcover copy of this book during an event at a local parish where I was lucky enough to listen to Dr. Hahn speak. His oration was incredible and I found myself eager to try some of his writing, so I picked up a copy of this book as well as one other. 

5/5 It is typically my hope that I am either intellectually or spiritually engaged when reading a piece of non-fiction literature. Scott Hahn's HOLY IS HIS NAME somehow managed to do both for me at the same time. 

The book's premise is fairly straightforward. In it, Hahn asks the question, "What does it mean to be holy?" And as a follow up to that, "What is holiness?" While many with modern sensibilities might naturally associate the terms with members of the church or perhaps simply those that "do good," Hahn argues that those conceptions aren't especially accurate and examines how even The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not provide a succinct definition of what it is to be holy. Readers are then taken on a journey through scripture from the book of Genesis all the way through to chapters of The New Testament which also examines additional church doctrines such as certain documentation that came out of Vatican II. Hahn has long had a stellar reputation as a profound theologian and adept writer, but I still found myself surprised by how engaged I was in everything he had to say. He supports each of his points with detailed citations to other works, both his own and those written by others in support of the specific lines from scripture that he is analyzing. He identifies distinct patterns and themes in the Bible in terms of how it references holiness and demonstrates how the very concept itself adapts over time before it is ultimately transformed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It's an examination that has genuine academic qualities to it, but is still deeply rooted in Hahn's faith which kept it from reading as stuffy or sterile. The journey he takes readers on is as spiritual as it is educational and that is something I don't think I have ever really experienced before. 

Hahn's writing flows from one chapter to another which made it hard for me to put down. Typically, I try to read these types of books one chapter at a time to let the concepts really sink in, but I found myself often unable to resist moving into the next chapter. This was probably helped by how short the chapters are, but I also imagine that I would benefit from rereading this at some point since I am sure I would be able to get even more out of it on second pass. I also found myself learning some new words from Hahn's rich vocabulary. While that may not always be a positive for everyone, I usually appreciate when this is the case and I felt as though the words Hahn selected were ultimately far more fitting to the statement he was making than a more common word might have been. This may still frustrate some people, but I very much appreciate when one's words are selected with care.

I'm a little ashamed to say that even when looking through religious literature, I still very much judge a book by it's cover, at least in terms of determining which books I'd like to own physically (vs. keep on my Kindle). This particular book has a really lovely cover that immediately drew my eye and makes me happy to have it as part of my small collection. I thought the interior formatting was just as nicely done with generous interior and exterior margins along with some nice typography choices that made the pages easy on the eyes while reading. The hardcover itself is nicely constructed and I think it would withstand plenty of handling for those who like to pass around this type of literature to family and friends after they've read through it once or twice.   

If you haven't read anything by Scott Hahn yet, then I would say that this is as good an entry point as any. He does make references to past works both within his writing and inside his citations, but at no point did I feel as though I was missing anything while reading. I would say that you don't even need to be a particularly astute Biblical scholar in order to appreciate the analysis done within these pages. 

(+) A comprehensive breakdown of the true nature of holiness which delves deeply into scripture.
(+) Hahn's writing is both spiritually and intellectually stimulating without ever getting too indulgent.
(+) Thorough footnotes and detailed citations.
(+) The hardcover edition is lovely and would make a nice addition to anyone's private collection.
( ) The richness of Hahn's word choices may frustrate some but were very much appreciated by me.


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