Pope Benedict ushered in this theme with his second encyclical, Spe Salvi..
1. “SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the 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.
Then I opened the to the first entry my new Advent and Christmas meditation book, Advent and Christmas Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton.
The Gift of Hope
It is currently said that hope goes with you, and lends to youth its wings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to you. Youth is pre-eminently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged; God has kept that good wine until now. It is the from the backs of the elderly gentlemen that the wings of the butterfly should burst.
Two days ago I wandered over to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. With over seventy chapels in addition to the main church and the crypt church there is always room to explore. I found myself on the lower level in the Chapel of Our Lady of Hope.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Hope, dedicated May 29, 1994, is a gift of actor and comedian Bob Hope and his wife Dolores in memory of Mr. Hope's mother, Avis Townes Hope.
Tradition holds that Mary appeared to six small children in the sky over a barn in the village of Pontmain, France, Jan. 18, 1871. The children and the townspeople were troubled by the prospect of war. As Prussian troops drew closer, Mary instructed the children to pray fervently and assured them of an end to the conflict. Filled with confidence, the villagers gathered with their pastor in supplication at the site of the apparition. Three days after Mary's appearance, the opposing forces withdrew. A week later, the clash formally ended and all the villagers who had enlisted to fight returned safely. In 1900 a shrine church was consecrated in Pontmain, France and entrusted to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The devotion was introduced in the United States in 1953 by the Oblates, who established a similar shrine at their mission house along Lake Champlain in New York.
It is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the cultural forces that oppose our Faith. It is easy to get discouraged by the lack of fervor for the Faith that seems predominant in the pews. It is tempting to throw up my hands and say there are just not enough parents making the Faith a part of their family life. It is easy to worry about the choices my children are making as they sprout wings.
Yet it is hope that gives me the fortitude to stand up to the culture. It is hope that keeps me plugging away at adult religious education. It is hope that pushes me to me be the family faith cheerleader for other parents. It is hope that allows me to trust the values instilled in my children to carry them through their teen years and beyond. It is hope that gives me peace.
Again from Spe Salvi:
Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well. So now we can say: Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content. In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.
UPDATE: Jen continues my encounter with the theme of hope in her current post.