Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Hope

"Be filled with Hope: Jesus Christ is always victorious!" -Blessed Pope John Paul II

Christianity is an audacious assertion.  If you want to learn this lesson most sublimely, listen not to her advocates but to her critics.  Everywhere you turn you'll find people mocking, ridiculing, and all around belittling Christianity in anyway possible.  You'll find people marginalizing it, abstracting it, diagnosing it, disregarding it, and detesting it.  Critics will psychoanalyze, evaluate, speculate, and demonstrate; anything will be done, short of serious consideration, in hopes of quelling the audacity of Christianity.  Taken with its full brunt, Christianity is earth-shattering, it rewrites the foundations of the Universe itself, there isn't anything in the heavens or on the earth not utterly revolutionized by Christianity, and our critics know this better than we do.  We treat Christianity like any old warm blanket, they treat it like a terrifyingly and bizarre army.

Hope is the urge that drives you to ride in the face of all things.
And perhaps, among all the audacities of Christianity, one of the boldest and most necessary is hope.  Hope can be sentimentalized, yes, but hope is not sentimental.  Hope is brutal.  Hope is absurd.  Hope, in and of itself, is paradoxical.  "Hope," says Chesterton, "is hoping in that which is hopeless, else it is no virtue at all."  If I were to hate Christians, I would hate them for no reason other than their hope.  Hope would set aside even the greatest of worldly goods for even more.  If I were to hate Christianity, its because the Christian alive with hope would never have it well enough: he would always want a better, truer, and more beautiful world to live in precisely because that's what he hopes for.  His hope would fuel his unquenchable aspiration in ways the world cannot begin to understand.  Hope would not make him aloof, it would make him involved.

All human action is driven by the pursuit of three things:  goodness, truth, and beauty.  No human person will do anything unless they see some goodness, some truth, or some beauty in it.  No matter what, not even the most despicable or desolate of human actions is not done without some goodness, truth, or beauty within it.  The human soul will always desire these three things, and will desire them relentlessly.  He will hunt them, he will pursue, and he'll never be truly happy until he finds them, or rather, until they find him.  The pursuit of these great and transcendental values will lead, in its fullest sense, to one of two paths:  Despair, or Hope.

I strongly advise against this path, solely on the grounds that it sucks.
Despair, profound or silent, occurs when a person accepts that they're hungers are in vain.  And they're not too far off.  If you ever get so curious, bored, or saintly to read Ecclesiastes, you discover very quickly that the pleasures of the world, in and of themselves, are vanity and uselessness.  If you're not a Biblical type (yet), read Jean-Paul Sartre, who recognized that humanity in a Godless universe are damned to be free, damned to pursue goodness, truth, and beauty only to find it vain and purposeless.  Despair can be daunting or it can be silent, it might eat at the soul and keep you up at night, or you may never notice it apart from the ever so subtle feeling of uneasiness, of discomfort, of dissatisfaction.  You might be reading this thinking, "I'm happy and I'm not hopeful" but the fact you feel the need to reassure yourself betrays yourself.  You're not happy.  Not yet.  Otherwise, you would even bother the thought of defending yourself.  No, the whole world is, knowingly or not, in a sort of despair.

Just as light is brightest in complete darkness, so hope is boldest in a despairing world.  Hope rejects despair with bravado.  Hope looks at the world, not with despair and sadness, but with anticipation.  Romans 8:22 puts it beautifully: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."  Hope sees a world saturated with goodness, truth, and beauty, and rather than seeing it as vain and useless, sees it as a signature.  The hopeful person looks at the beauty of the world around him and yearns for the beauty of the world he cannot see.  He sees the abundance of truth and longs to know all things in the life yet to come.  He treasures all the goodness he finds and seeks perfect goodness in a place no eyes have seen.  Hope defies vanity and serves as a kick in the pants for a disparaging world.  Hope is annoying to the hopeless, because it dares, it goads, the demands.  Hope urges where nothing else could.  Hope fights.  Too many people treat hope like a warm and fluffy cat on their lap rather than the ferocious lion that it is.  I take comfort in being hopeful, but not in a restful sense.  Hope comforts me because it beckons me not to rest until I've conquered, until I've endured, until I've found my victory.  I will rest when I do not have to hope any more.

Hope, like Aragorn, is ready to kick
some @$$.

Christians, be hopeful.  You are not a sedentary, you are active.  You have toppled empires and uprooted kings.  You have defied armies and parliaments, persecution and destruction, defamation and degradation.  Your fathers lived and died for their faith, the Faith you now carry in your heart.  Do not let your soul rest yet, because you still have a journey ahead of you.  You're not home yet.  Hope!

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