Two Thousand Years of Hope

The second theological virtue in the words of some of the Fathers of the Church. Certainty in the future because of a present reality. Cues for reflection arising from Fr Giussani's address to the 2002 Meeting in Rimini, Italy, “Fountain of Hope.“ All the wealth of the Tradition lives again in a present experience


John Chrysostom
1. What we have in hand is not as sure as what pertains to hope, and our present life is not as sure as the future life. We see the former with our eyes, and see the latter with the eyes of faith; we have the former in our hands, and the latter is entrusted to God’s promises. But His promises are much more efficacious than our hands. Present realities are subject to every sort of variation and upheaval, to the point that often we take their burden onto ourselves but then we fail in our purpose. This is not the case with the other kinds of hope; whoever takes them upon himself obtains, without doubt, also their reward, because “hope does not disappoint.” And God’s promise and gifts have the prerogatives of the One who promises them.
(From Homilies on Genesis 9, 3-4)

2. Paul said, “Hope does not disappoint,” and another sage said, “Consider the past generations and reflect: who has ever hoped in the Lord and been disappointed?”
I, someone will say, have hoped and was disappointed. Wait a minute, my friend, before you rebuke the Holy Scriptures! If you were disappointed, it is because you hoped in what you should not have, or you gave in, or you were not constant to the end, or you became discouraged. You must not do this! When you see the worst coming, do not be downcast, because hoping is this above all, remaining steadfast when you are in the midst of difficulty. Who was more unfortunate than that barbarian people, the Ninevites? And yet, when they were already caught in the snare and were awaiting the fall of their city, they did not fall prey to desperation but performed a severe penance, so that God revoked their condemnation. Do you see what strength hope has? And what about Jonah? While he was in the belly of the whale, did he not perhaps think about his return to the temple and Jerusalem? You, too, then, even when you may look death in the face and have threats as grave as these hanging over you, do not despair. God is able to find a way out of even impossible situations. This is why a sage has said, “From morning to evening many things change, and everything is easy before Him.” Have you not seen the squire hungry in the midst of abundance and the widow in abundance during a famine? It is right when the situation becomes difficult that you must hope, because it is then that God shows His power; not when things are at the beginning, but when the situation is desperate to human eyes. This is the moment when God comes to our aid. He did not spare the three youths immediately, but only after they were in the furnace, nor did he save Daniel before he went into the lions’ den, but seven days later. Thus do not look at the reality that is getting desperate, look rather to the power of God, who gives valid hope in desperate situations.
(From Commentary on the Psalms 117:2-3)

Isaac of Nineveh
Hope in God arises from the faith of the heart; it is good and is accompanied by discernment and knowledge. There is also a completely different kind of hope, which draws its origin from iniquity and is false. True and correct hope in God is the hope of one who does not worry at all about the things that perish, but turns completely to God night and day. This man prepares for himself what will be truly necessary, and this is the true and wise hope. Conversely, the man who has his heart completely immersed in earthly realities is dissolute and refractory to every virtue. When he happens to find himself in straitened circumstances or on the ropes, so to speak, because of his own iniquity, with what courage could he possibly say, “I will place my hope in God, who will free me from every trouble and will come to my aid”? In this category are the foolish, whose minds are never turned toward God, but who, when they are surrounded by tribulations, lift their hands to Him with confidence. Someone like this needs to be burned over and over again, so that a little at a time, he may learn his lesson and mend his ways. On one hand, then, he must not lie down in idleness and say, “I have faith that God will take care of whatever I need,” as though he were one who spends his life in the works of God; on the other hand he must not be so rash as to throw himself to the bottom of the well, showing that he does not hold God in any consideration. Instead, after his fall, he will say, “I place my hope in God, and He will free me.”
(From Ascetic sermons 27: Hope in God)

Hilary of Poitiers
Fear stems from the state of anxiety intrinsic to human nature, whereas the prophet hopes in the word of God. Now, hope does not regard present reality but the future. Therefore, he hopes in what is contained in the word of God, that is to say, in the announcements made by the prophets, in other words, he hopes in faith’s reward in the form of life in the Spirit. This hope, in effect, merits divine help and aid, which we do not deserve nor has anyone else deserved before us, except by having hoped that the God who is the Word of God would dwell in the flesh of our nature, or by having believed that He did dwell there. The prophet waits and hopes. He does not chase after anything that is immediate and temporary. Nonetheless, there are many who accuse and ridicule this aspect of our faith. Where, Christians, is your hope? This is why the prophet prays not to be confounded in his expectation but to remain confident and to receive the fruits of true life that he expects. For he knows that he does not yet live, even though he is alive. As the Apostle said, “Our life is hidden in Christ.” Therefore he says, “Protect me according to Your word and I shall live,” because he is dominated by the expectation and hope of the true life that has no end.
(From Commentary on the Psalms 118:15, 5-7)

Zeno of Verona
There are three foundations on which Christian perfection rests: hope, faith, and charity. They appear so closely entwined that they are necessary to each other. In the first place, then, we must resolve to have hope in future good, without which we realize that not even present good can exist. For if you take away hope, all mankind remains paralyzed; if you take away hope, commitment will cease in every field; if you take away hope, everything is finished. But hope comes from faith, and although it is set in the future, it rightly depends on faith. For where there is no faith, neither is there any hope, because faith is the foundation of hope and hope is the glory of faith: the reward obtained through hope is merited by faith, which indeed fights because of hope, but wins because of itself.
(From Homilies 1, 36, 1-2)

Ambrose of Milan
In Your word have I hoped, that is to say, I have not hoped in the prophets, nor in the Law, but in Your Word, that is, in Your coming. Therefore, do not disappoint your poor servant in his expectation, because I hope in You and hope does not disappoint. And if we find ourselves in tribulation, give us the patience to bear it. It is You whom I await! Patience does not overcome trial if we lack faith, whose root is hope. For how can you think to overcome trial if you are not able to face any adversity or danger in the name of Christ? This is why hope is the only thing that does not disappoint our hearts. Where there is hope, the battles outside us and the fears within us cannot hurt us. Hope always, then, and no one will disappoint you in your expectation. Our expectation is eternal life, our expectation is the kingdom of God, the companionship of the angels, spiritual blessings. Hope every day, because hope is something that never ends and never knows a pause.
(From Commentary on Psalm 118 15, 23-24, 27-28)

1. “You, O Lord, are my hope: You have made the most High Your refuge.” Mankind knew man’s death, but did not know resurrection. Therefore, men had something to fear but not something to hope. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ chose to rise again before anyone else, so as to give us, He who had imbued us with the fear of death for our discipline, the hope of resurrection. In this way, He gave us a glimpse of the reward of eternal life which was set aside for our future. He died after many had died, but He rose again before anyone. Dying, He underwent the same fate that many had already undergone; rising, He did something that no one had accomplished before Him.
(From Enarrationes in psalmos 90, 2, 4)

2. “We glory also in tribulation; knowing that tribulation brings patience; and patience trial; and trial hope; and hope is not disappointed: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.” Thus He has become our hope; He who has given us the Holy Spirit and makes us journey toward hope. For we would not journey if we did not have hope. As the same Apostle states, “For what a man sees, how can he hope for it? But if we hope for that which we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” And again, “For we are saved by hope.”
(From Enarrationes in psalmos, 60, 4)

From Fr Giussani’s address to the 2002 Meeting
My wish for you lies completely in this idea: “Here you are for us the midday torch of charity, and below among mortals you are the living fountain of hope.”

Among all the nations of the universe you are the living fountain of hope, an endless source of hope. Again and again, you offer hope as the meaning of everything: the light of lights, the color of colors, the other of others.

You are the living fountain of hope. Hope is the one station where the great train of eternity makes a brief stop. You are the living fountain of hope for, without hope, there is no chance for life. Man’s life is hope, it is hope that I invite your eyes to seek.

The figure of Our Lady is truly the figure of hope, the certainty that in the pavilions of the universe (as medieval people would say) you are the spring of water that can be heard running day and night, night and day.

May this living fountain of hope be every morning the most gripping and tenacious meaning of life possible.