10 December 2012

On the Infused Virtue of Hope: A few random thoughts


Our Lady of Hope
The infused virtue of (supernatural) hope is often confused a type of new age 'hope', that looks at everything in a sort of Polly Anna, rose-colored glasses sort of way that is not out of one recognizing the goodness and omnipotence of God.  While it is good that the Christian looks "at the bright side" of future circumstances, (or unknown things of the present), it is pleasing to God when it serves to its own end, and lacks the purity of Will --- that is, the intention within the heart of the hopeful to trust all to God because God is all good --- whatever the outcome.  Ambivalence is not the same as hope, but it is necessary for the Christian to assert his hope in the Divine Giver, and not the Gifts as one might believe things ought to be.    The ability to hope in this manner is a gift from God, one of the 3 theological virtues (i.e.:  Faith, Hope, Charity) infused in a soul at Baptism.  If one sins against hope (which then, also removes charity), or against faith (which then removes also hope and charity), one can be reinstated, as it were, in supernatural grace by a valid** (** validity determined by form and matter) Sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation.

(Random) Thoughts on Hope:
  • The infused virtue of hope is related to purity, and purity is related to the gift of knowledge.  A soul that practices penance and mortification can increase in purity, going well beyond merely the temptations to commit grave sins of the flesh.  The higher degree of purity has to do with ordering the will to God even to give up or at least, detach from the movement of the will by impulses of the senses (e.g.: a person who is a picky eater due to orientation of taste will have a difficult time with growing in this virtue beyond a certain point).  Another way of growing in purity is to practice uniting one's sufferings to God.  (This is why physical suffering can potentially be most efficacious in the spiritual life.)   The increase in purity disposes the will to become more open to an increase of the Gift of the Holy Ghost of knowledge.  St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, had a tremendous gift of knowledge because he also had a tremendous purity.
  • When one judges rashly, or even worse, calumniates against another's purity or even their hope in God, one acts against the honor due to that person as it was given to them by God (infused).  
  • "The Holy Spirit never impels to action without at the same time enlightening the soul. In every act of any of the Gifts there is both a sudden illumination and a swift surge of love . . . The Holy Spirit unites in due measure science and sanctity, truth and love, a complete sanctification in truth. His movement, moreover, imparts certitude and security, since it has not natural or human norms, but divine knowledge and action as its measure and rule.” (SWIFT VICTORY, Walter Farrell, O.P. & Dominic Hughes, O.P. p. 18)
  • “Although the soul acting under the Gifts is free and merits in each act, it has no dominion over these acts. It cannot summon the Holy Spirit when it wills, nor can it decide to perform acts of His Gifts whenever it chooses. Its exclusive function is to prepare itself for His working, to remove, by His cooperating grace in the virtues, the obstacles to complete docility. The great mystics could not experience contemplation when they willed but only when it was given them by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Their ascetic lives removed obstacles, and their living Faith and intense Charity disposed them to receive the actual graces which would stimulate the Gifts into action.” (ibid. p.20)
    This, in turn, increases the disposition of the soul to receive an increase of supernatural hope.

  • The children's story of the Tortoise and the Hare offers a great parallel to how the sin of presumption can kill holy hope, and why hope as a virtue is much different than the passive, neo-pagan 'think hopeful thoughts and good things will come to you.' -- since the virtue of hope has not created things but God as its objective.  Even hope for a good temporal/material outcome can be virtuous, but only in so far as that temporal outcome is intended for betterment of the soul's progress to God, who always knows best regardless of the outcome (remember:  God also has Perfect and Permissive will, Who wills for our eternal salvation). The hare was born in a better position than that of the tortoise; the hare was built to be able to run fast, flee dangers, and to better fend for himself.  He presumes in this gift, however, seeing that his neighbor, the tortoise, is without the same abilities.  The tortoise knows that he is lacking these abilities, but he does not presume to lose the race, but minds his lowly state and persists in running the race as best he can.   He does not give up or look back, but persists in fortitude towards his goal at the end, moving only forward towards the finish line.  This is where, naturally speaking, the unlikely occurs:  The tortoise wins the race, despite his natural setbacks.  Whatever our upbringing or position, we should always mind ourselves as the tortoise, and NOT a hare.  We should be mindful of our obstacles, regardless of our state in life, or even our place in the spiritual life, or our learned knowledge of any sort (including that of the faith).  We are nothing from the very beginning but dust.  There is nothing we can truly attribute to ourselves but sin, for even our own efforts of learning are nothing to attribute to ourselves, as everything, everything, is a gift from God.  Every opportunity, position, status, family, along with sickness, death, poverty --- all come from the good Lord.   You can not give as much to him as he has given for you.

"Give me grace to amend my life, and to have an eye to mine end, without grudge of death, which to them that die in thee, good Lord, is the gate of a wealthy life." St. Thomas More