All posts tagged: Hope

Marxism and Religion

According to Marx, religion has a dual role to play. Throughout the history of class society religion performs two essential functions: it buttresses the established order by sanctifying it and by suggesting that the political order is somehow ordained by divine authority, and it consoles the oppressed and exploited by offering them in heaven what they are denied upon earth. At the same time, by holding before them a vision of what they are denied, religion plays at least partly a progressive role in that it gives the common people some idea of what a better order would be. But when it becomes possible to realize that better order upon earth in the form of communism, then religion becomes wholly reactionary, for it distracts men from establishing a now possible good society on earth by still turning their eyes toward heaven. Its sanctification of the existing social order makes it a counter-revolutionary force. Thus in the course of building a communist society, the Marxist must fight religion because it will inevitably stand in his path. …

The Darkness of Hope

Recalling Mark 10 or its synoptic correlates,[1] we are often told to relate our faith to that of a child, surrendering our attempt at autonomy and resting in the security of being loved as the kind of creatures we are—namely, finite beings dependent on God for the beginning, continuation, and end of our existence. The model of a child has much to commend it. It contains not merely the virtues of unconditional love and trust but also the qualities of unflagging curiosity and boundless enthusiasm for repetition. Without discounting the attachment of this description to the virtue of faith, French author and poet Charles Péguy offers another suggestion for our imagination in his poems, where the personification of hope is the one who enlivens all with her childlike enthusiasm and with the simplicity of her dependence. Hope becomes the “rest” of the child, and Péguy links this virtue explicitly to the Resurrection, arguing that Christian salvation from the consequences of sin must, if it is to truly be the new life of the risen Christ, …

The Unremarkable Sunday in Advent

Second Sunday in Advent by John Keble And when these things begin to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. St. Luke xxi. 28. Not till the freezing blast is still, Till freely leaps the sparkling rill, And gales sweep soft from summer skies, As o’er a sleeping infant’s eyes A mother’s kiss; ere calls like these, No sunny gleam awakes the trees, Nor dare the tender flowerets show Their bosoms to th’ uncertain glow. Why then, in sad and wintry time, Her heavens all dark with doubt and crime, Why lifts the Church her drooping head, As though her evil hour were fled? Is she less wise than leaves of spring, Or birds that cower with folded wing? What sees she in this lowering sky To tempt her meditative eye? She has a charm, a word of fire, A pledge of love that cannot tire; By tempests, earthquakes, and by wars, By rushing waves and falling stars, By every sign her Lord foretold, She sees the world …

Charles Péguy’s Difficult Hope

Charles Péguy died with a bullet through the head on September 5, 1914. The First World War was but a few months old. Péguy is impossible to really characterize. He has a way of defying summarization, and so too do his poems. There is much too much between the lines, in the meandering prose, in the life. He was French, born of peasants in Orléans in 1873, and he considered himself a child of the Republic that had lurched into existence somehow in the 19th century after a couple turns at empire and emperor. He was convinced that his generation was the last of the real republicans, whom he traced backward with an impracticable, zigzagging line from 1848 to 1830 to the first breath of the first revolution.[1] Péguy can be understood, insists on being understood, by knowing something of the Dreyfus Affair. He bound himself to the event tightly and inexorably, and refused to relinquish it.[2] One Alfred Dreyfus, a captain in the military, was convicted of treason and thrown in jail for life …

The Hope of the Assumption

Glorious things are spoken of you, O Mary, who today were exalted above the choirs of Angels into eternal triumph with Christ (Entrance Antiphon, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) Elite athletes exist at the edge of the possible and the physically absurd. Last year, in Brazil, we learned this once again: The marathon runner, who pushes his or her body beyond human limitations to complete the 26.2 miles in the same time that it takes to drive a car from South Bend to Chicago. The swimmer, whose powerful legs and lungs, enables her to move through the water in record time, all the while performing with grace. The sprinter, who runs so swiftly, with such ease, that we re-imagine what the human being can do when formed according to such perfection. The gymnast, who defies all laws of gravity, in the vault, the parallel bars, the floor routine. At the end of the Olympics, do not all of us (no matter the lack of our own athletic prowess) in some way expand our imaginations to …

And the Nominees Are . . . Manchester By the Sea

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. Caveat: this review contains spoilers. When life is defined by the worst mistake you’ve ever made, how do you go on living? Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan poses this heart-wrenching question and several others like it in Manchester By the Sea, the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), an isolated janitor living in Boston who must return to his hometown after his beloved brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away unexpectedly, and, even more unexpectedly, names Lee the legal guardian of sixteen-year-old Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s only son and Lee’s only nephew. When Lee learns that Joe has not only named him Patrick’s guardian but has also provided funds for him to return to Manchester permanently, he recoils, making every attempt to find another way to provide for his nephew’s care. At first, this seems like the reaction of a selfish, irresponsible man who doesn’t want to be saddled with the burden of an unexpected, …

And the Nominees Are . . . Fences

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— Like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags Like a heavy load. Or does it explode? —Langston Hughes, “Harlem” Through a few short lines in his 1951 poem “Harlem,” Langston Hughes asks his readers to consider a response through brief but vivid imagery. Far from a whimsical thought experiment, these words capture the voices and experiences of an African American community whose bright American dreams have been too often lost amid the ugly shadows of racism. In director Denzel Washington’s Fences, adapted from August Wilson’s 1983 play, this societal sin forms the backdrop against which the richness of its narrative blooms. The depth of Wilson’s characters (and of the actors bringing …

And the Nominees Are . . . Hidden Figures

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. Oh, I’ll tell you where to begin: Three Negro women chasing a white police officer down a highway in Hampton, Virginia in 1961. Ladies, that there is a God-ordained miracle! —Mary Jackson, Hidden Figures And with Mary Jackson’s tongue-in-cheek prophetic diagnosis, Hidden Figures revs into full, Technicolor life. A sepia-tinged prologue has identified the central protagonist among our three musketeers—Katherine Johnson—whose patched-together wire-rimmed glasses are two windows into the kaleidoscopic world which she inhabits. For Katherine, the world is knit together in geometric forms; tetrahedrons, triangles, and rhombi camouflage themselves in windowpanes. For Katherine, numbers are the backbone of nature, and she spends each day counting the vertebrae. Her eyes light up when a teacher asks her to solve a problem and hands her the chalk. He doesn’t simply hand her a blunt stub of chalk, he hands her a sharp sword of possibility, with which …

Waiting in the Mystery of Hope

What surprises me, says God, is hope. —Charles Péguy, The Portal to the Mystery of Hope Every Advent I sit around a small prayer table with four-year-olds and contemplate the great mystery of messianic hope announced by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We wonder aloud what it is like to wait and long for the light. We wonder how the people of Israel felt when they heard the words of the prophet. We wonder what it is like to be in the dark and to see a great, bursting light. We wonder as we wander around the words of Scripture. Every so often the small voice of a child will chime a single word: “hope.” No lengthy explanation. No theological treatise. No empty platitudes. Small children do not feel the need to give an account of themselves. Just simple, unadorned, astonishing, little, expectant, “hope.” Hope is a strange thing, gathering in time and memory—memory of the past and, oddly, remembering into the …

Festive Silence

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a noisy time amid the constant din of advertisements, Christmas music, and planning for the holidays. In this atmosphere it can be difficult to quiet our souls in preparation for the coming of the Christ child. An ascetic plunge into silent preparation this Advent may seem like the only alternative to cranking the Christmas tunes to get in the spirit of the season. But perhaps there is a way in which a festive silence is necessary to suppress the noise occupying our spirit. This may be the silence we need to prepare to enter more fully into the festival of Christmas when it comes. This silence does not need to be thought of as a sort of Lenten “music fast,” but rather as a silence that encompasses the joyful hope of the coming of Emmanuel. Then, at Christmas, when God comes to dwell with us (truly a time for the festival to begin) we are prepared to receive him. Allowing God’s indwelling in our lives requires radical openness …