Holy, sacred, divine, spiritual, religious, blessed are comparable chiefly as epithets applied to persons or things associated with religion or worship and therefore either regarded with special reverence or veneration or thought of as having a character apart from what is material or secular. Their choice is often a matter of idiom rather than of meaning inherent in the term.
Holy (compare HOLINESS ) usually implies some quality or some attribute in the thing itself which makes it either suitable for use in worship or an object of veneration. As the strongest of these terms in its suggestion of a claim upon one’s reverence, it is the only one directly applied to the Supreme Being in praise or laudation.
It also forms a part of some titles of the godhead or of a person of the Trinity. It is also applied to some persons or group of persons as a mark of highest reverence or esteem; thus, the Holy Family consists of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus; the Holy Father is a frequent designation of the Pope; the Holy Synod is the governing body in some Orthodox churches.
The term is comparably applied to particular things with a similar implication of reverence and esteem; thus, the central Eucharistic service of Christian churches is often called Holy Communion; Palestine is known as the Holy Land; water blessed for use in religious services is holy water; Holy Week is a week set apart for especially pious observances. In more general use holy is often the word chosen when one wishes to impute to what is so described some inherent character that dissociates it from what is mundane, material, or transitory.
Sacred (see also SACRED 2 )differs from holy chiefly in implying a character given to a thing by blessing, dedication, consecration to religion or worship or to the uses of religion or worship, or by its being devoted wholly to such ends or uses; the term therefore usually suggests an opposition to what is profane or exists for profane uses; thus, the vessels used in a Eucharistic service are preferably called sacred vessels; sacred as opposed to profane history is biblical history or history dealing with biblical characters or biblical events; sacred as opposed to profane literature may denote any or all of the books of the Bible or sometimes any or all writings (as the Bible, the Talmud, and the Koran) which are regarded by various religions as sources of revealed truth.
In more general use sacred applies chiefly to what one treasures as a thing apart, not to be violated or contaminated by being put to vulgar or low uses or associated with vulgar or low ends.
Divine in its oldest and most definite sense implies either the character of deity or an origin from or an association with deity; thus, “divine being” implies both a difference from “human being” and from “angelic being” and the possession of the nature or essence of deity.
In its weaker senses divine may suggest a supernatural or a superhuman character or origin or, in hyperbolical use, a perfection that is above that which is found on earth.
Spiritual implies an opposition in character or in quality to what is bodily, material, earthy, or mundane; it may suggest incorporeal existence or independence from the merely physical or sensible or a definite relation to the soul or spirit in its aspiration toward or dependence on a higher power or in its perception of eternal values.
Spiritual in some chiefly technical legal and theological uses is more or less equivalent to ecclesiastical and then usually implies an opposition to temporal or civil.
Religious ((for the application of this term to persons, see DEVOUT )) implies an opposition to secular and a relation of some kind to religion; thus, religious history is the history of a religion or religions; religious literature is not the same as sacred literature but has a character that is determined by religion or by religious belief or feeling; religious music, unlike sacred music, is not necessarily suitable for use in services or prayer, for, although it includes sacred music, the term may also apply to music not composed for church use but animated by feeling or prompted by themes associated with religion.
Blessed basically means consecrated and usually also suggests a supremely sacred character. In its derived senses blessed means beatified and supremely happy because enjoying the sight of God in heaven.
In general use blessed may mean no more than enjoyable, pleasant, or satisfying.