Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
and who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false,
and does not swear deceitfully.
Psalm 24 : 3-4
So the RSV renders it. But the Jerusalem Bible glosses verse 4b: ‘who desires not worthless things.’ I know that the RSV is generally more accurate as is the NASB, my other go-to translation. Neither captures the ordinary, everyday misdirection of our hearts as straightforwardly as the Jerusalem Bible. It was ‘desire’ that caught my attention (as I read the daily Mass readings on universalis). How often I find myself desiring ‘worthless things’.
I can’t help but think about this in the time that often becomes the “run-up to Christmas”. Not Advent proper, but the time of decorating, buying, wrapping and meal-planning that occupies mind and body so much of the time between mid-November and the 25th of December. Probably because I have four children, I am less apt to be setting my heart on the treasures and trinkets that might delight me on Christmas morning. But shifting the focus to what will delight them on Christmas morning doesn’t turn my heart fully in the right direction: what delights me most on Christmas morning is their delight, and I find myself thinking about the trinkets and toys that will guarantee it. Telling myself “it’s not about me; it’s about the children” doesn’t change the fact that I am looking to that momentary delight and focusing on how to obtain it.
Not, of course, that their delight is improper–and it is certainly a step in the right direction for my own heart to wish for that more than for anything else. I hope, however, that in the midst of the shopping and wrapping, the cooking and tree-trimming, that I will find my heart yearning to see Christmas because of the One whose coming we celebrate, and whose presence will delight our hearts for all eternity.