Hope is one of the three theological virtues. It is also one of the powers that make us human. Other of those powers include, honor, reason, virtue, and awareness of mortality. These are powers that set us apart from all lower creatures. Hope depends on memory of the past, is experienced in the present, and points towards the future. These characteristics are apparent after an even cursory trip reading of the psalter, particularly the psalms of lament, in which one hears of the current travails, a remembrance of what God had done in the past and the certainty that He will once again aid His people.
Erik Erikson, about whom I will say more in the next talk, located the roots of hope in the first two years of our lives, beginning at birth. We spend the rest of our lives honing and fine-tuning that hope. That ability, the grace of hope, the grace to hope, matures along with the rest of our body, brain, mind and spirit. Ideally our greatest hope remains the hope expressed in the Act of Hope that we learned in grade school.
"O my God,
relying on your infinite goodness and promises,
I hope to obtain pardon of my sins,
the help of your grace,
and life everlasting,
through the merits of Jesus Christ,
my Lord and Redeemer."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines hope as, "confidence in God's goodness tempered by fear of His justice, (it) is opposed to both despair and presumption." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church adds the following to the Catechism definition: " (hope is) the desire and search for a future good, that is difficult, but not impossible, of attainment."
Advent is a particular time given over to hope. It is a period of theological hope. It is also a time of distinctly secular hope. Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. It is like the Septembers of long ago, when the new school year represented a new chance at academic redemption--
THIS year I'm going to have my term papers done early,
THIS year I'm going to read ahead and be prepared.
THIS year . . . (fill in the blank)
The new liturgical year may bring a degree of freshness. The new church year may bring a sense of resolution to our prayer, our liturgy, and our preaching. THIS year I'm going to get it right.
However, just like the new school years of yore, when we found ourselves finishing a term paper on the school bus--again--our sense of resolution in prayer may not always last. Our hopes may crumble as we deal with the same old pressures, people, and stresses and fall into the same patterns of action, reaction, and, at times, inaction. But, we also have the opportunity to rediscover Jesus’ presence in a fresh way during this season of hope.
The Latin roots of the word advent: ad and venire mean “to come to.” But that translation does not convey the full meaning of Advent. Pope Benedict writes that advent is the translation of the Greek word parousia, which means presence, but even more specifically means arrival. Arrival is the beginning of another’s presence, it is not the fullness of that presence. Think about that.
Arrival is the beginning of another’s presence.
It is not the fullness of that presence.
The birth of a baby is only the beginning of a presence, a presence that began the moment the parents became aware of the pregnancy. That impending presence affected the parents, the grandparents, and the rest of the family immediately. The moment the parents become aware of the pregnancy things are suddenly different, expectant, and hopeful.
Presence is never complete. It is always becoming, it is always unfolding anew. Presence is always changing and evolving, whether or not the other is physically present. We have all been— and are even now being—influenced by the presence of others who are physically distant or even dead. Among those are: parents, teachers, mentors, and friends. Though they may never occupy the same physical space as us again, their presence in our lives is tangible and real.
The presence of others influences how we live our lives. It determines, at least in part, our decisions and our actions. The presence of others may soothe and comfort us during times of stress or may be a permanent source of anxiety and pain. Remember, it is impossible not to respond to another’s presence. Even “ignoring” another’s presence is a response to it. One example of persisting presence is that of Holy Father Ignatius. Over 450 years after his death, his presence influences our lives and our actions in tangible ways.
Jesus’ presence is an advent presence. It is an always active presence of “coming to” and of “coming into,” coming to our world and coming into our lives. He is present and we anticipate further unfolding of that presence in our lives. Jesus' presence is a real presence, particularly in the bread and wine consecrated on the altar. Carol Stoneking Bailey put that real presence into a context for those of us who are old. “The Eucharist is a sacrament of hope that is crucial for all of us, and especially the elderly, as a reminder that our lives are not bounded by death but by the resurrected and resurrecting Christ.” Jesus’ presence in all its dimensions, is, should be, and must be, the ultimate source of our hope.
Aquinas notes in his Shorter Summa "Hope presupposes desire. Before a thing can be hoped for it must be desired." It is unnecessary to elaborate on desire to a bunch of Jesuits. We end our first vow formula with it. We encounter it in the Principle and Foundation. We ask ourselves repeatedly what our deepest desires might be.
Today it would be good to spend extra time considering: "What do I desire?" And perhaps even praying for the desire to desire something that is currently lacking in our lives, particularly if that something is hope.
Profession of Perpetual Vows in the Society of Jesus
Almighty and eternal God, I, ______ understand how unworthy I am in your Divine sight, yet I am strengthened by our infinite compassion and mercy, and am moved by the desire to serve you. I vow to your Divine Majesty, before the most holy Virgin Mary and the entire heavenly court, perpetual poverty, chastity, and obedience in the Society of Jesus. I promise that I will enter this same Society of Jesus to spend my life in it forever. I understand all of these things according to the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.
Therefore, by your boundless goodness and mercy and through the blood of Jesus Christ, I humbly ask that you judge this total commitment of myself acceptable, and, as you have freely given me the desire to make this offering, so also may you give me the abundant grace to fulfill it.
The Principle and Foundation
Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.
For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty,
honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.
Winter Wonderland Photos.
The photos are of two types. The first were taken in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Campion Center yesterday afternoon. The choir from St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill gave a concert of splendid and splendidly performed music. It was the minister's job to set up the chapel. With an hour of fully lighted chapel it seemed reasonable to grab the tripod and everything else.
As the concert began flurries commenced outdoors. The weather got ugly later. This morning I woke to the sound of another SJ scraping (and pounding) his windshield. Ice.
The first is the tree in the rotunda. This was taken from the second floor. I tried a few from the fourth floor but the angle was difficult without an LED screen that would separate from the camera. Standing on a ladder while bending over a fourth floor balustrade is never a good idea.
The next is a shot through the two sets of doors into the chapel. The scattered lights are the reflection of the tree behind. This was a 15 sec exposure at f22 ISO 100 and 30mm. It was cropped.
This is the reflection from the large mirror hanging behind the organ in the first loft. A smaller mirror sits on the organ thus giving the organist an idea of what is going on at the altar. Couldn't quite get into the right position to take a shot in the smaller mirror without making a lot of noise.
The St. Ignatius Church Choir. Given that they sang at all the ordinations in New England at least a few of them sang at ours back in 2007.
This was the scene on the front porch this AM. These shots represent among the first in which I used an external flash. The holly berry looks like the component in one of those pseudo-martinis for people who really don't like gin.
Holly was frozen to the railing.
The following two are part of a tree in front (it was still raining and I didn't want to get the lens wet). The black and white, as titled, looks as if it could be the forest for the Glass Menagerie (first live play I ever saw at age 15 or so).
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD