Hope is an enormously important, if widely neglected and misunderstood, virtue.
What have we to do with the allurements of a passing world when, already baptized into the world to come, we cannot belong to this one? Why be anxious about duration or delight in this world when our hearts belong to another? And if everything there is is arranged to meet our deepest longings, to quench our most ardent and immortal thirsts, why tarry in the antechamber of joy? "To those who live by faith," says Newman,
everything they see speaks of that future world; the very glories of nature, the sun, moon, and stars, and the richness and the beauty of the earth, are as types and figures witnessing and teaching the invisible things of God. All that we see is destined one day to burst forth into a heavenly bloom, and to be transfigured into immortal glory. Heaven at present is out of sight, but in due time, as snow melts and discovers what it lay upon, so will this visible creation fade away before those greater splendors which are behind it, and on which at present it depends.
Thus, as Eliot announces in Four Quartets, "In my end is my beginning."
When we ponder the meaning of such realities, literally, the Last Things ever to be remembered, we are engaged in an essential exercise that bears on the whole content of Christian hope. And hope is an enormously important, if widely neglected and misunderstood, virtue; to enter upon the study and practice of it will lead one to the heart of the Christian mystery. Nothing more sharply distinguishes one's membership in the Body of Christ. Put it this way: the perspective of Catholic belief is one that not only looks at the past, reposing its confidence upon the person and promise of Christ, but also gazes expectantly into the future, venturing all on the Christ who awaits us at the last.
Regis Martin. "Living in hope." excerpt from The Last Things: Death Judgement Heaven Hell (San Francisco: CA, Ignatius Press, 2011).
Reprinted with permission of Ignatius Press.
Regis Martin has served as a professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville for sixteen years. With both a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Martin is the author of a number of books, including: Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God, The Last Things: Death Judgment Hell Heaven, What Is the Church: Confessions of a Cradle Catholic, and The Suffering of Love: Christ's Descent Into the Hell of Human Hopelessness. He resides in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife and ten children.Copyright © 2011 Ignatius Press
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