Tag Archives: history

Hope is the Hardest

I often think (and write) about Hope.  “The Little Girl Hope” was inspired by a French poet and a little neighbor of mine. “Hope Without Faith” was an early attempt to figure it out.

St. Paul recognized its place as one of the three theological virtues: “So Faith, Hope, and Love abide, these three.”  He then clarified that “the greatest of these is Love.

This is from the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, his justly famous ode to love.  “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…”  You know the rest.

He is of course correct.  Faith that does not result in love is nothing, because an unloving faith is a false faith.  Faith is what produces love, and love is faith in action.  Faith is input, love is output.  Hope works the same way.  Hope is another output of faith.

The greatest of these is love.” But the hardest of these is hope. For me, anyway, these days.

Of course, there is no hope without faith. That is why we so eagerly grab for easy false faiths.  But hope built on false faiths is false hope.

Talking to a friend about this recently, he responded that for him, love was the hardest.  But I know him, and he is as loving a person as I have ever met.  And I know he is deeply worried about the future of the world and the church.  He is a model of Christian love, but he struggles with hope.

I too struggle, always tempted by the despair that is one of the worst of sins.  True and solid faith will assure hope and banish despair. But my faith is anything but solid.

The temptation to despair is fed by every horrible, sad, tragic, foolish, and cruel event I see around me, every headline, every politically correct act of insane self-destruction.  The whirlwind that drives the collapse of everything that is good in our imperfect western civilization is enough to test even the strongest of faith.

Perhaps it is because I love the world too much.  It has taken me a lifetime to value and appreciate the wonderful beauty of the earth God has given us.  And even more, to love the great, good and brave things that many people have done and accomplished and given to the rest of us.  Our culture and history has so much of value and beauty.  But will it survive the current collapse of our society?

We are assured that God and his mercy endure forever.  But we are also assured that our world will pass away.  And that troubles me.

Perhaps it is because I have a family, including two young grandsons.   It is the grandsons for whom I worry most.

My heart breaks at the thought of the world they are entering.  Will they ever get to read Shakespeare or Dante, or listen to Bach or Vaughan Williams, or pray in a magnificent gothic cathedral?  Will they ever see a statue of a saint or hero (without reading an explanatory plaque detailing his shortcomings)?  Will they ever see a movie about a real-life hero instead of a mythical “superhero”?

God has blessed them with a loving mother; and their father is the kind of man every boy deserves as a role model.  But outside their home they face a society which increasingly sees boys and men as problems to be solved (to put it very mildly).

So I struggle for hope: hope that these two young men-in-the-making will have a chance to take their places in this wonderful, woeful world that God and our fathers and mothers have made for us.

I can only hope.  And pray.

And I’m not even good at that.

LUCRETIUS – The Consistent Atheist

I have just read a book that has achieved a rather impressive audience recently: The Swerve, by Harvard Professor of Humanities Stephen Greenblatt.  Accurately subtitled “How the World Became Modern”, it is a look at the re-discovery and modern embrace of Roman Epicurean philosopher-poet Lucretius and his epic work On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura).

Little is known of Lucretius’ life. One historian writes that “Lucretius was probably a member of the aristocratic gens Lucretia, and his work shows an intimate knowledge of the luxurious lifestyle in Rome. Lucretius’s love of the countryside invites speculation that he inhabited family-owned rural estates, as did many wealthy Roman families, and he was certainly expensively educated with mastery of Latin, Greek, literature, and philosophy.”

In chapter 8, Greenblatt  summarizes Lucretius:

Everything is made of invisible particles, eternal, infinite in number but limited in shape and size, all in motion in an infinite void.  The universe has no creator or designer.

Everything comes into being as a result of a swerve [i.e. random motion]; the swerve is the source of free will.

Nature ceaselessly experiments. The universe was not created for or about humans; humans are not unique. Human society began not in a Golden Age of tranquility and plenty, but in a primitive battle for survival.

The soul dies; there is no afterlife; death is nothing to us.

All organized religions are superstitious delusions, and invariably cruel.

The highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain.

The greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain; it is delusion.

Understanding the nature of things generates deep wonder.

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