Tuesday, November 27, 2007

not the Obama kind

from Carl Olson:

Pre-Pope Hope

Communio, the theological journal that Joseph Ratzinger helped found shortly after the Second Vatican Council, has posted a 1985 article by then-Cardinal Ratzinger titled, "On Hope." It is well worth reading for its own sake, but especially so considering the soon-to-be presented encyclical by Benedict XVI on the theological virtue of hope. Here is an excerpt, to whet the appetite:

Hope rests first of all on something missing at the heart of the human condition. We always expect more than any present moment will ever be able to give. The more we follow this inclination the more aware we become of the limitations of our experience. The impossible becomes a necessity. But hope means also “the assurance that this longing will find a response” If this experience of a void, of a desire which carries one outside oneself, comes to move the person to despair over self and over the rationality of being, then inversely this hope can be transformed into a secret joy that transcends every experienced joy and suffering. This way a person is enriched by the very need which causes him to conceive a happiness that he would never be able to experience without this decisive step. Hope could accordingly be described as an anticipation of what is to come. In it, the “not yet" is in a certain way already here, and so is the dynamism that carries one beyond oneself and prevents one from ever saying, "Linger a while: you are so beautiful.”
This means, on the one hand, that to hope belongs the "dynamism of the provisional,'' going beyond all human accomplishment. On the other hand, that through hope, what is "not yet" is already realized in our life. Only a certain kind of present can create the absolute confidence which is hope. Such is the definition of faith given in the epistle to the Hebrews: faith is the substance ("hypostasis") of what is hoped for, the certitude of what one does not see (11:l). In this basic biblical text both an ontology and a spirituality of hope are affirmed. It is recognized today even in Protestant exegesis that Luther and the exegetic tradition which followed him are misguided when in their search for a non-Hellenistic Christianity they transformed the word "hypostasis" by giving it a subjective meaning and translating it as "firm confidence." In reality this definition of faith in the epistle to the Hebrews is inseparably linked to two other verses of the same epistle which also use the term "hypostasis." In the introduction (1:3), Christ is presented as the splendor of the glory of God and the image of the "hypostasis." Two chapters further on, this Christological and fundamentally Trinitarian affirmation is expanded to the relation between Christ and Christians-a relation established by faith. By faith Christians have become participants in Christ. Now everything is going to depend upon maintaining their initial participation in his "hypostasis." These three texts fit together perfectly: the things of this world are what pass away; the self-revealing God who speaks in Christ is what endures, the reality that lasts, the only true "hypostasis." Believing is leaving the shadowy play of corruptible things to reach the firm ground of true reality, "hypostasis"--quite literally therefore, what stands and that on which one can stand. In other words, to believe is to have touched ground, to approach the substance of everything. With faith, hope has gotten a footing. The cry of waiting wrung from our being is not lost in the void. It finds a point of solid support to which we must for our part hold fast.

Direct link to the PDF file.

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