Saturday, January 26, 2008
Purity of Heart
by Walter Kim
Yesterday, I was busily working on a number of things for Sunday, when Daniel walks into my office and asks me what I think purity is? We had a brief chat and exchanged some thoughts. However, the question lingered for me...all afternoon and into the night, and I even woke up at 2:40 AM thinking about it. Actually, my son woke me up, and then I started to think about how to stay pure in heart toward him!
I've been reminded of a book by Soren Kierkegaard called, "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing." The book is a bit of theology, philosophy, prayer, and prophetic crankiness, all wrapped up in some beautiful prose. Although his treatise isn't specifically on Leviticus, the sentiment conveyed in the title and throughout the book truly is. What does it mean to be pure? It is to Will One Thing--God, the Eternal Holy One. For me, this title brings it all together. Skin laws, food laws, incense and sacrifice laws for day and night all reflect the desire to direct one's whole self--body and soul--toward God. Sin is that thing that cause us to veer from that One Thing. Purity is the reorientation of all life toward the One Thing. For Kierkegaard, there is a little bit of the eternal infused into every human, which seeks connection to the Eternal One. Thus, we are most human when we are "pure in heart to will the One Eternal Thing". I would humbly add one thing to Kierkegaard's one thing. Given Leviticus' (and indeed the whole Bible's) intense focus on community, I would say Living Leviticus has taught me that "purity of heart is to will the One (God) in the context of the many (his people)."
I want to end this reflection with a prayer found at the beginning of Kierkegaard's book: "Father in heaven! What is a man without You! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he does not know You! What is all his striving, could it even encompass a world, but a half-finished work if he does not know You: You the One, who is one thing and who is all! So may You give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills only one thing. In prosperity may You grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing. Oh, You that gives both the beginning and the completion, may You early, at the dawn of day, give to the young man the resolution to will one thing. As the day wanes, may You give to the old man a renewed remembrance of his first resolution, that the first may be like the last, the last like the first, in possession of a life that has willed only one thing. Alas, but this has indeed not come to pass. Something has come in between. The separation of sin lies in between. Each day, and day after day something is being placed in between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption. So in this time of repentance may You give the courage once again to will one thing."