Advent is a time of hope and expectation. So to paraphrase our call to prayer:
For whom and for what should we hope.
The virtue of Hope takes many forms in our lives as we grow, learn and meditate on the world of the past and present. As children, we learned that hopes can be expressed in at least 4 ways as
- and visions for the future.
As a boy of the 50s, I Wished for a Red Ryder bee-bee gun.
Secondly, Prayers for peace were important in my grade school days right after World War II. A couple years later, we were praying for peace again during the Korean War. (I never noticed the pattern till much later.)
Third, Prophesy often expresses a implicit hope. My Mother did most of the prophesying – but not in the sense of speaking truth to power which carries that implicit hope. She prophesied the future. “If you and your brother don’t calm down, one of you will end up getting hurt.” She was right. My brother was bigger than I. I usually got hurt.
Finally, Visions. I have learned that hopes expressed as visions of the future are reserved for prophets and politicians.
In the Bible, the old time biblical heroes prophesied. In my younger years, biblical prophesy seemed restricted to foretelling God’s will for the future. (God’s will could be God’s hope/vision too. ) But prophesies often came imbedded with the hopes and visions of the prophet and were spoken to the kings and powerful people who very often felt threatened by those visions.
What’s more, the prophet attributed his visions to an angry God.
That stirred up enough uncertainty about the source of the words so that the prophet could speak truth to power before getting run out of town or loosing his head.
Case in point, take John the Baptist. His hope is imbedded in his “fire and brim-stone” rhetoric. He preaches repentance. So he hopes that those who hear him will repent of their sins and be saved. John is fairly successful in that he draws a crowd and baptizes many. True to his calling he has harsh word for Pharisees and Sadducees whom he judges are among the worst of the sinners.
As for his prophesies of “the hoped-for Messiah”, those visions sort of miss the mark. He prophesies that “the one who comes after” him will use his winnowing fan to “clear the threshing floor and gather wheat into his barn but the chaff he will burn in unquenchable fire.” John must have been disappointed, or his hope was transformed sometime later when John’s disciples returned to him after quizzing Jesus (Luke 7:20). They reported that Jesus was not the fiery reformer, but rather one who ate with tax collectors and sinners and warned against a hurried separation for the weeds from the wheat.”
A lesson here is that we can envision and hope for what we believe is needed, but the ultimate satisfaction of our vision might not be quite what we expect.
(My older brother got the Red Ryder bee-bee gun that I had been wishing for and he retired it after only one outing when he shot a bird in the woods east of town.)
Now Paul speaks in today’s epistle about the virtue of hope. In the passage from Romans, he says to his readers that
in their endurance and
in the encouragement of the Scriptures
they can find hope. Is it hope of salvation? Is it hope of survival? He seems to imply that his hope for them is – at least in part -- to enable them to live in perfect harmony with one another. He hopes that they live together in perfect love.
In our spiritual realm now 2000 years later, we are still at the same point as those early Christians – still hoping --- reading and rereading Scriptures. Our hope continues to be the same as Paul’s. The audience to whom we address our hope has grown larger than Paul’s – including not just Christians, but people of the whole world – Christians and non-Christians. That is progress. We hope that someday all humanity will live together in love, justice and peace. Paul’s hope provided a vision for his readers but, ironically, I believe that in the first couple centuries of Christianity we were much closer to that goal than we are today.
Now from this second reading, an insight we take from Paul’s vision is that some of our hopes will not go away -- will not be satisfied. In our hope for the Kindom of God, we must live without resolution. And although our progress toward our goal might be imperceptible. We must continue to hope. We are making progress.
Richard Rohr connects faith, hope and love by saying that love is always the goal. Faith and hope are just different shades of early love. Our faith is the willingness to live with mystery and hope involves willingness to live without closure – without resolution. Again in his kind reply to my email, he wrote that faith may come logically first, as the opening of the heart space, but there has to be some degree of hope that it would EVEN MATTER to open your heart – the needs to be some expectation of MORE out there.
I add that Paul’s hope and the expectation of MORE will always be our lure. Our hopes will never be satisfied. However, living in faith and hope move us toward the goal of perfect love that Paul envisions.
Finally, if Paul were to select a piece of scripture for the Roman Christians for their encouragement, the scripture that Paul might have selected could have been today’s passage from Isaiah. Isaiah is very much centered on hope. Isaiah prophesies a just, wise, and powerful ruler who slays the wicked. (Sounds like John the Baptist.) Isaiah’s Messiah would come bringing justice and peace.
However, the prophet embellishes his vision of a peaceful kindom that will be ushered in by this ruler -- the root of Jesse. The vision seems outrageous -- unbelievable!! Isaiah links:
Wolf and Lamb,
Leopard and Kid goat,
Calf and Lion,
Cow and Bear,
Lion and Ox,
Baby and Cobra,
Child and Adder
All are living together in peace.
Isaiah is trying to encourage Judeans in a seemingly hopeless period in their history. In the prior chapter of Isaiah, he has chronicled the Assyrian invasions. The brutal Assyrians threatened Israel and Judah four times in a span of 50 years while the Book of Isaiah was being written. And those Assyrians were just the enemy-du-jour.
But think of it. Although the prophet seems to go beyond credibility, for the people of that age in Judah, as with people in any war zone even today, having hope for peace with the invaders or occupiers was and is as unbelievable as the startling metaphors of peace between natural enemies. But isn’t this type of outrageous metaphor a vision – a hope -- which will be remembered and pondered by the listener. It provided a measuring stick for how thoroughly the Kindom was to embrace justice and love as its goal.
In my past teaching experiences, I often thought of doing something shocking that would make student remember or ponder what I thought was vital. I remember one professor I had who wanted to make a point in his Shakespeare course. He prefaced his remarks by picking up the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, carrying it over to a table in the front of the room, and dropping it on the table. Bang! With the class totally stunned, he proceeded.
Quite often students have to be woken up to understand when a high point is being delivered. (My math students especially! They had to be woken up. They affectionately referred to me as “Flash”! You’ve heard of Flash Gordon in the comics? Well, they meant “Flash Boredom.”)
Seriously though, the most shocking I got in this regard was to tell my students to image me as standing on top of a table while I got ready to emphasize something.
The Isaiah passage shows us that our hopes can seem outside the box. We must hope and dream Big!
So to that end, I leave you with two of my outrageous hopes/visions for the future. The first comes from Karl Rahner and the last is strictly my own!
Rahner prophesies: “The devout Christian of the future will either be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will cease to be anything at all.”
After 16 or more years of the practice of centering prayer, Bev and I do not consider ourselves as mystics, but we know our experience has had a significant effect on our daily lives. In centering prayer, one seeks a mental state that is not dominated by thoughts. It is a prayer of intention to open ourselves to a God who provides us constant and silent direction. This prayer form is our affirmation that we spiritual beings who are dependent on the loving God who lives within each of us. We pray and hope for the deep experience and an evolving of consciousness of which Rahner speaks.
(“Christian Living Formerly and Today” in Further Theology of the Spiritual Life I, Theological Investigations, vol. 7)
My own vision is more outrageous.
I believe that this idea will resonate here at the Spirit.
I hope that in some age our Pentagon will be transformed into the home of a federal department for social work and justice with an international scope. That is as outrageous as the Peaceable Kindom, but more possible. We don’t have to change all of nature – just human nature.
For this I hope and pray. Lord, hear my prayer!!!
[End of Homily. The rest here are note and thoughts mulled over in the writing above. ]
So to paraphrase, “For whom and for what shall we hope”
Hope is just one of many virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit like faith and love and justice that are the focus of our reading, our homilies, our intellects, our hearts,…
Thank you for such an intelligent and sincere question. I do suspect that both faith and hope are intertwined as they both "drive" us toward love. Faith may come logically first, as the opening of the heart space, but there has to be some degree of hope that it would even matter to open your heart, some expectation of MORE out there. So hope might come experientially first, or we would have no desire or expectation that it is worthwhile to open up our heart space. Both, of course, are the fruit of the INDWELLING HOLY SPIRIT, who operates personally and individually in each soul, so who knows what PROMPTS we each need, or can receive first?
The fortunate thing is that you understand the goal, which is always love, and really both faith and hope are just different shades of early love.
I hope that helps a bit, I suspect it was either Vanessa Guerin or Judy Traeger that you met at the conference. They both make those daily meditations entirely possible.
peace and good,
Center for Action and Contemplation
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Praying for peace in pre-school years --- an end to the war. Wishes for the Red Ryder bee - bee gun right along side. Time went on. Visions of the future. Wishes, prayers, prophesies, visions,….
The historical attack by Assyria in 701 BC was not from the north but from Lachish, south-west of Jerusalem (Isa. 36:2). According to Isaiah 10:32 the ASSYRIAN will “shake his fist at the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.” Then (ch. 11) “a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse.” A clear millennial scene follows, initiated by the destruction of the ASSYRIAN when “he [the Messiah] will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked (one)” (Heb. rasha, LXX asebe = “wicked one,” singular, Isa. 11:4, II Thess. 2:8. Cp. the masculine participle in Mark 13:14 designating a single individual —“the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to stand.” See the Greek original, and cp. NEB, “usurping a place which is not his.” Also Weymouth: “standing where he ought not to.”)
Pain might be necessary. Endurance might be necessary. Encouragement of prophesy – a vision of the future.
We struggle with peace.
Our vision does not have to be reached. Isaiah’s is really far fetched in the practical sense of nature. But it gives the poetical equivalent of “Think Big” “Think Outside the Box”
John the Baptist has a vision. -- an Jesus doesn’t quite fit his vision.
The Scripture for the Christians of Rome might be the passage from Isaiah which we heard today.
Despair, Resignation, -- Lack of hope in the homeless. The Palestinians.
Hopelessness is an issue also. Many people in the world live in hopelessness. Isaiah has just completed a description of the Assyrian invasion with decimated the Northern Kingdom.
h. It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck: Assyria would indeed trouble and oppress Judah, but not forever. Instead, the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. Because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit among Judah (represented by the anointing oil), the yoke of bondage would be destroyed.
i. Bultema thinks that because of the anointing oil should really be seen as because of the anointed one, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is the source of our victory and freedom from the yoke of bondage!
2. (28-32) A prophetic description of the arrival of the army of the Assyrians.
He has come to Aiath, he has passed Migron; at Michmash he has attended to his equipment. They have gone along the ridge, they have taken up lodging at Geba. Ramah is afraid, Gibeah of Saul has fled. Lift up your voice, O daughter of Gallim! Cause it to be heard as far as Laish; O poor Anathoth! Madmenah has fled, the inhabitants of Gebim seek refuge. As yet he will remain at Nob that day; he will shake his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.
a. Because of the word of comfort and encouragement in the previous section, Judah might think that God wouldn’t send judgment among them at all. This section, with the specific mention of many cities of Judah, is meant to show that God will indeed allow the invasion of the Assyrians, even though He will restore after the attack.
b. The listing of cities flows from the north to the south, describing the course of the Assyrian invasion. Nob is right on the outskirts of Jerusalem. This is as far as the army of the Assyrians came against Judah. They were stopped here when the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night.
i. “With a deft poetic touch, Isaiah told how the enemy moved through twelve different locations, coming ever closer to the capital.” (Wolf)
3. (33-34) The Lord humbles the proud among the people of Judah.
Behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, will lop off the bough with terror; those of high stature will be hewn down, and the haughty will be humbled. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.
a. Those of high stature will be hewn down: The Lord promises that His judgment will extend even against those of high stature. A mighty forest seems invincible and seems as if it will stand forever, but the Lord can cut it down. Even so, the Lord will cut down the proud and those of high stature among Judah. All that will be left in a once-mighty forest will be stumps.
b. And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One: The forests of Lebanon were known for their large, mighty cedar trees. God will judge the proud among Judah - and all the nations for that matter - and leave a once mighty forest of those of high stature as if they were just stumps. The bigger they are, the harder they fall!
A powerful king from a new family usurped the throne of Assyria in 744 BC. His name was Tiglath-pileser III, and he was very ambitious and very strong. He began taking the army out every year again, and he took it not just along the old route, but west again, where he conquered Israel, the Phoenicians, and many other small western kingdoms. In the later part of his reign, there was another Babylonian revolt, but Tiglath-pileser succeeded in putting it down.
By the reign of Sennacherib in 705 BC, the Assyrian army again stopped going out every year on plundering campaigns. They had conquered everything near enough to rule, and even dominated Egypt. Now the kings concentrated more on providing services to the conquered people that would keep them from wanting to revolt. The Assyrian kings now built highways and bridges and water systems, established courts to settle disputes among their subjects, and encouraged scholarship and art with great libraries at their palaces. This was the time of the great kings Esarheddon and his sons Assurbanipal (in Nineveh) and Shamash-shum-ukin (in Babylon). (the prophet Ezra refers to him as "the great and honorable Ashurbanipal" (Ezra 4:10).) But Assurbanipal and his brother got into a civil war in 652, and by the time Assurbanipal won four years later, the Assyrian empire was terribly weakened.
Our most simple concepts – faith, hope, love, justice, peace, … So simple, but we mull over them all our lives. Growing in spirituality individually and as humanity.
Visions not affirmed. Not including pain. Hopelessness in learning to hope.
This "hope" is a firm, substantive "output" in a Christian's fleshly life, but it is a spiritual "output" providing a spiritual foretaste in anticipation of the fulfillment of spiritual promises of God. As a spiritual output, "hope" is realized by the spiritual parts of a Christian, being enjoyed especially in the "intellect," the "volition," and the "emotion" of the soul which will live forever with Jesus our Lord. Although "hope that is seen is not hope" seen by fleshly eyes, when this "hope" is received, it is "seen" by the "eyes of your heart."
Unfulfilled visions – still worth yearning for.
Visions may misdirected. The actual fulfillment of our vision might
Visions may be held too tightly.
Visions may be in conflict with those of others.
Our vision generally leaves out pain
Reaching the hoped-for outcome may not be without pain.
Vision of the future without closure?? Frustration when no progress is seen.
Realized in a way that is more sustaining.
Consciousness changes!!! Much more experience
Maybe in the Isaiah section:
In my past teaching experiences, I was often motivated to do something that would make student remember what I thought was vital. With at idea in mind, one professor I had who wanted to make a point in his Shakespeare course, prefaced his remarks by picking up the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, carrying it over to a table in the front of the room, and dropping it on the table. Bang! With the class stunned, he proceeded. The best I did in this regard was to tell my students to think of me as standing on a table. Now here is what the key concept… (I was a coward and I never actually stood on the table. So I never tested if this had much effect. )
Paul’s verse in 1 Corinthians 13:13
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
As we reach maturity and beyond, we find that we are still learning about all three.
Simple words – hardly need anything more complex.
Paraphrase a few lines I read in Richard Rohr’s Things Hidden (p 55 2008) Jesus praises faith even more than love. Because faith is that patience with mystery that allows you to negotiate the stages of thought from simple to complex to non-dual consciousness – where God knows and I don’t.
Love is the goal.
Faith is the process of getting there Faith is that patience with mystery. Faith is a moment by moment experience.
Hope generally involves our generating a vision of the future. Hope is the willingness to live without resolution or closure.
[In our spiritual realm 2000 years later, we are still there – still searching --- reading and rereading Scriptures. Hope is just one of many virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit like faith and love and justice and peace that are the focus of our reading, our homilies, our intellects, our hearts,… Like those other concepts, our understanding of hope is repainted for each of us at different events of life. I remember a classroom in grade school where my little mind pondered hope and its opposite hopelessness. In my happy little world, I could not conceive of despair which I wrongly defined just living in hopelessness. Many years later, I spent several agonizing months of seeming hopelessness that resulted by a bout of depression and anxiety.]
The cardinal virtues are the four principal moral virtues. The English word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, which means "hinge." All other virtues hinge on these four: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
Plato first discussed the cardinal virtues in the Republic, and they entered into Christian teaching by way of Plato's disciple Aristotle. Unlike the theological virtues, which are the gifts of God through grace, the four cardinal virtues can be practiced by anyone; thus, they represent the foundation of natural morality.
The three theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity.
Around each of these we build a vision of what we believe is a just and desirable outcome. Often the vision is not easily obvious. The issues in the Church as one example are multifaceted.
Formulating a vision is further complicated by the fact that we are not alone in our efforts. Other may have visions that oppose ours or at least differ.
Our vision generally leaves out pain