What is hope? Clearly it is something good that anticipates a good future, combined with confidence in overcoming the challenges of attaining this goal. As one of the three theological virtues of the life of grace – faith, hope, and divine love – hope is about desire for the greatest good, namely heaven.
What, then, does it mean to desire heaven? As St John Henry Newman reminds us, in a sermon on the Ascension, heaven is a place and not just a state. Hence St Thomas Aquinas uses very concrete and corporal images in his prayer for the attainment of heaven.
As well as praying that God will grant him knowledge of God and enjoyment of the divine majesty, Aquinas prays for a glorified body endowed with beauty of splendour, an abundance of divine riches, a river of delights, a delightful garden beneath his feet, a multitude of dwelling places, the cheerfulness of spring, the brilliance of summer, the fruitfulness of autumn, the gentle repose of winter and the sweet companionship of the saints and angels.
These are all goods that Christians can properly desire for themselves and can have a confidence of attaining if they follow faithfully Christ’s counterintuitive path of the beatitudes, and refrain from the spiritual adultery of mortal sins that extinguish grace. Even then, the life of grace can be restored by repentance and the Sacrament of Confession.
Hope therefore turns out to be the most natural of the theological virtues, insofar as there is a great human yearning for everlasting happiness. I have found products that offer, for example, to warm my soul, “snacking Nirvana”, bliss, paradise, or literally “heaven”.
Given that modern advertising is largely parasitic on hope, we need to remember and tell others where and how such desires are truly satisfied.
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