One prominent theme of the season of Advent is the virtue of hope. In preparing for Christmas, we foster hopeful expectation for the coming Messiah. We remember God’s promises and God’s faithfulness with hope-filled hearts. This is a good time, then, to meditate on the virtue of hope, with the help of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Spe Salvi.
In general hope orients us to a future goal. It is aiming for the goal with a certain confidence that the goal can be attained, though it is not yet attained. With the theological virtue of hope, we aim at the ultimate goal of human life, that which makes life worth living: “[T]he present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey” (Spe Salvi 1).
There has been plenty of confusion in the modern age of what exactly we should aim for. With enough reflection we come to realize that nothing in this world will satisfy us, because the world is finite: “It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for him, something that will always be more than he can ever attain” (30). What will satisfy us is nothing less than union with God.
An amazing thing about the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are what they tell us about the present- with the gift of sanctifying grace, we are already given a share in the divine life. Even in this life, we can begin the eternal life with God we are hoping for: “[T]here are already present in us the things that are hoped for: the whole, true life. And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty. . . . [Faith] gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a ‘proof’ of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a ‘not yet’” (7).
Theological hope transforms our current lives: “Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere” (36).
It is easy for things in this life to pull our attention away from what ultimately matters, from our ultimate goal, and from the grace already given to us. So, in this season let us often remind ourselves of our hope, as we celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.
Br. Paschal Strader, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE