Presence of God – O Lord, strengthen my hope, for he who hopes in You will never be confounded.
Faith makes us know God; we believe in Him with all our strength but we do not see Him. Our faith, therefore, needs to be supported by the certitude that some day we will see our God, that we will possess Him and will be united to Him forever. The virtue of hope gives us this certitude by presenting God to us as our infinite good and our eternal reward. Faith tells us that God is goodness, beauty, wisdom, providence, charity, and infinite mercy; and hope adds that this God so great, so good, belongs to us. He wants to be not only our eternal possession and our eternal beatitude, but even here below He wishes to be possessed by us through charity and grace, even now He invites us to live in intimate union with Him.
We look at the infinite God who is perfect and immensely higher than ourself, a weak, miserable creature, and we wonder: How can I ever reach Him and be united with Him, who is so infinitely beyond my capacity? And hope replies: You can, for God Himself wishes it; it was for this reason that He created you and raised you to the supernatural state, giving you all the help necessary for such an arduous undertaking. The Council of Trent affirms that we should all have “a very firm hope—firmissimam spem—in the help of God,” help which He has formally promised to those who love Him and have recourse to Him with confidence: “Ask and it shall be given you,” Jesus said; “Seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you…. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask Him?” (Matthew 7:7,11). The “good things” promised by Jesus are those contained in the act of hope: “eternal life and the graces necessary to attain it”; this is the object of hope and what we must ask for before everything else.
“Clothe me, O God, with the green garment of hope. A living hope in You gives the soul such ardor, so much courage and longing for the things of eternal life that, by comparison with what it hopes for, all things of the world seem to it to be, as in truth they are, dry, faded, dead, and without value. Give me then, a strong hope, O my God, so that it may strip me of all the vanities of the world, that I may not set my heart upon anything that is in the world, nor hope for anything, but live clad only in the hope of eternal life. Let hope be the helmet of salvation which will protect my head from the wounds of the enemy, and will direct my gaze to heaven allowing me to fix my eyes on You alone, my God. As the eyes of the handmaid are set upon the hands of her mistress, even so are my eyes set upon You, until You take pity on me because of my hope. Grant that I may set my eyes on naught but You, nor be pleased with aught but You alone. Then You will be pleased with me, and I shall be able to say in all truth that I receive from You as much as I hope for” (cf. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, II, 21,6-8).
“In order to understand the greatness of Your divinity, O Lord, I need faith; and in order to accomplish anything, I need hope, for if I did not have hope of possessing You some day, I would not have the strength to labor here below. I no longer desire the things of earth, although I have never hoped in them. I do have a lively hope of obtaining, not the things of earth upon which worldly people usually set their hopes, but only You, my God.
“O God, give me a firm hope, for I cannot be saved unless this virtue is firmly rooted in my soul. I need it in order to implore pardon for my sins and to attain my end. What delight hope gives to my soul, making it hope for what it will one day enjoy in heaven, and by permitting it a partial taste here on earth of what it will savor, understand, and possess eternally, which is You, my God” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
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Art for this post: St. John of the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.