It is Advent. ‘Tis the season of hope – of waiting, of promise, of “not yet”. To celebrate, here are some great thoughts on hope by some of our forefathers.
Lewis helps remind us that hope is essentially about unleashing the inner yearning for total fulfillment, for Heaven. Through grace, we enkindle this yearning (a true gift of the Holy Spirit) and let it become our modus operandi.
Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep the promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy… There is something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality… If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world… I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of my life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same. (Mere Christianity)
Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not… a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It doesn’t mean we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… Aim at Heaven an you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither. (Ibid.)
Pieper outlines how hope is the confident expectation of my absolute, total fulfillment. In hope we become aware (in exquisite comfort) that everything I long for most deeply, I long for rightly, because one day that longing will be satisfied. But for now, I am not yet there. For now, I hunger and search with eagerness, perseverance and zeal. For now, I understand myself best as a viator, a pilgrim.
The concept of the status viatoris is one of the basic concepts of every Christian rule of life. To be a “viator” means to be “one on the way”. The status viatoris is, then, the “condition or state of being on the way”… it is the inherent “not yet” of the [human condition]… The “not yet” of the status viatoris includes both a negative and a positive element: the [current] absence of fulfillment and the [ultimate] orientation toward fulfillment… [Thus], the only answer that corresponds to man’s actual existential situation is hope. The virtue of hope is preeminently the virtue of the status viatoris; it is the proper virtue of the “not yet.” (On Hope)[Within hope] lies a No and a Yes. Who could say that he already possesses the being intended for him, that he has comprehended anything, that he has taken the measure of all existing things? And yet in contrast to this No there is a Yes: as much as our life and our knowledge are patchwork, they are nonetheless progress on the way… of the eventual achievement of… human existence. (A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart)
Fear of the Lord assures the genuineness of hope… Fear of the Lord keeps ever before the mind of one who hopes the fact that fulfillment has “not yet” been accomplished. Fear of the Lord is the constant reminder that human existence, although destined for and oriented toward fulfillment by the Highest Being is, nevertheless, perpetually threatened in the status viatoris by the closeness of nothingness… “Holy fear guards the summit of hope”… “They who fear the Lord trust in the Lord” (Psalm 115:11). (On Hope)
Although he should slay me, I will trust in him. (Job 13:15)
Another helpful reminder:
Hope is always directed toward something which we cannot achieve ourselves. Thus when we are talking about something which we can bring about ourselves… we are in fact not talking about hope. Furthermore – and this is the most important fact to bear in mind – human hope (not hopes, but hope, which is always singular) is directed toward an ultimate and perfect satisfaction of desire. What we truly hope for is: fullness of life; the restoration or healing of man; a homeland, a ‘coming home’, a ‘kingdom’; ‘Jerusalem’; the absolute satisfaction of all our needs; beatitude of a kind we have never known before. (The Art of Not Yielding to Despair)
Marcel brings to our attention that hope is a bold claim (an assertion) that I am not on my own, but that all of reality, to its deepest core, is actually one my side and is ‘for me’.
Hope consists in asserting that there is at the heart of being, beyond all data, beyond all inventories and all calculations, a mysterious principle which is in connivance with me… [To hope is to say that] it is impossible that reality in its inward depth should be hostile or so much as indifferent to [my good]. I do not wish [this to be true]: I assert it; such is the prophetic tone of true hope. (The Philosophy of Existentialism)
The only genuine hope is hope in what does not depend on ourselves, hope springing from humility not from pride. (Ibid.)
To hope is to put one’s trust in reality, to assert that it contains the very means of triumphing over [despair]… In this sense I say that all hope is hope of salvation, and it is quite impossible to treat of the one without the other. (Being and Having)
Hope, in this sense, is not only a protestation inspired by love, but a sort of call, a desperate appeal to an ally who is Himself also Love. (Ibid.)
And where can we best begin to foster our hope and to make it spark?
Prayer and hope are naturally ordered to each other. Prayer is the expression and proclamation of hope; it is “interpretative spei”; hope itself speaks through it. (Pieper, On Hope)
The zone of hope is also that of prayer. (Marcel, Being and Having)
And so, through prayer, our hope is made young and strong by our increased capacity to wait in confidence for the fulfillment of God’s promise. And by it, we utter the truest words known to hope:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.