The Old City of Jerusalem was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981 (BBC.com, n.d.). A walk around the city, leads the pilgrim to the Western Wall, a vestigial artefact of the time when the Second Temple was still intact. The First Temple, built by King Solomon was razed down and destroyed around the time of 587 B.C. during the time of the annexation of Jerusalem by the invading Babylonians. The Jews were put into a long-drawn exile to Babylon. When they returned to Jerusalem during the historical period of the rule of the Persian King Cyrus, they began work to build the Second Temple. This Second Temple came to completion in 515 B.C. When the Romans came to Jerusalem in A.D. 70, this Second Temple was destroyed again. The Western Wall is the wall that once surrounded and enclosed the Temple, and is not actually from the Temple itself. Yet this fragment of history remains a powerful symbol of hope for the Jewish people today, that they would be once again be restored (BBC.com, n.d.).
The Scriptures from the Bible speak powerfully of this hope for peace, justice, and the coming of the Messiah. The prophetic books of Micah, Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah, express most saliently the longing for the Mashiach, the “anointed one” in Hebrew. This word can be traced etymologically to the ritual that required the pouring of oil on the head, during the coronation of a king (Skorka, 2018).
It is difficult for us to imagine how the Jews kept this hope alive, not merely for years but for thousands of years. The Talmudic sages write of one who would herald and bring consolation, and express a collective yearning for messianic times, when a king would arise to liberate the Jewish people from any fettering and enslavement by any dynasty or empire. In this hope, passed down from one generation to the next, there would be the establishment and enthronement of peace, and an unprecedented time of harmony, where the people could once again draw near to the Holy of Holies (Skorka, 2018).
For the Christian, hope is a theological virtue as its object is God and the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. Defined as a desire or yearning towards a future good with the expectation of eventually obtaining it, hope is only possible by the Grace of a certain Faith, which can be only implanted by God Himself in our hearts (Delaney, 1910). Each person was meant for Heaven, to attain Heaven, and to be reconciled with God. A person’s penultimate purpose is found only in God alone. Hope thus operates as an active pursuit of God and Heaven, and works upon the realisation that the attainment of Heaven is possible, but not yet guaranteed (Catholic News Agency, n.d.).
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, hope arises from the longing for something good that is “difficult but possible to attain.” There is no necessity for hope if what we want is easily obtainable. There is also no reason to hope when what we are longing for is completely beyond our grasp. Thankfully, St. Thomas Aquinas also observed that there are far more reasons to be hopeful “when we have friends to rely on” (1962, II-II, 17, 8). The Christian hope therefore, is not one that which is alone, nor is it crouched in timidity, but one which is predicated on the companionship of Saints and our Guardian Angels, and reliable and dependable companions in Hope – people who are cheering and rooting for us, people who want and desire our good, and people who rejoice with us, when we attain to that good that we set out to obtain.
Pope Benedict XVI writes in Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) (2008), “The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life” (No. 2). Scripture constantly exhorts us to lift up our heads in hope. As Psalm 71: 5-6 says, “You are my hope, Lord; my trust, GOD, from my youth. On you I have depended since birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength; my hope in you never wavers,” and yet again in Psalm 43:5 “Why are you downcast, my soul? Why do you groan within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my saviour and my God.”
A period of hoping usually corresponds directly with a period of waiting. Yet, implicit in this time of waiting, is also the confidence and trust that the Lord God will give us all that is necessary and needed to be with Him forever (CCC. 1817 – 1821).
Nonetheless, hope is a gift that needs to be cultivated in order for it to be nourished and sustained. Hope diminishes when we replace God our Maker with idols and lesser things; Hope is lost when we forget the truth of the boundless love of God – and how God our Father desires our ultimate happiness and joy; Hope is broken, when we replace the fact of God’s faithfulness that spans the generations with the lesser narratives, or worse the untruths and lies that there is no story at all (Wadell, 2016).
Perhaps we would need to reconsider what at the heart of things, is the object of our hope. Is our hope built on a fleeting mirage of temporary and transient things, or is our hope built on the light and the Truth of the Eucharist – where we are formed to become a people who would not settle for mediocrity, or anything lesser than God as the object of hope, but who would anchor our hope on to Christ.
We live in tumultuous times indeed, and more than ever, we need to shine a beam of hope in the darkness of a world filled with despair. What would our answer be if we were asked about the source of our hope?
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan
BBC.com. (n.d.). GCSE Jerusalem – Pilgrimage. BBC Bitesize. Retrieved November 27, 2021 from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zgg9mp3/revision/1
Catholic News Agency. (n.d.). Hope. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved November 27, 2021 from https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resource/55560/hope
Catechism of the Catholic Church. (n.d.) Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Delany, J. (1910). Hope. The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved November 27, 2021 from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07465b.htm
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. (2008). Spe Salvi. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
Skorka, A. (2018). The Hope of Peace: The Coming of the Messiah. L’Osservatore Romano. The Holy See, Vatican City.
St. Thomas Aquinas. (1962). Sancti Thomae de Aquino Summa theologiae. Rome: Editiones Paulinae, I – II.
Wadell, P. J. (2016). Hope: The forgotten virtue of our time. America the Jesuit Review. Retrieved November 27, 2021 from https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2016/11/07/hope-forgotten-virtue-our-time