“Hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil.” (Heb. 6:18b – 19)
Every year we celebrate the solemn event of Christ Risen. This action of the Lord Jesus provides the very foundation for our encouragement to grasp the wonderful gift of the Virtue of Hope.
There is an anecdote about the three Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) being portrayed as three persons walking along together alongside each other and they are holding hands. The persons representing Faith and Charity are adults, while the person representing Hope is portrayed as a child skipping between them. The adults are clearly representing the more mature and evolved experiences of life which have shaped their understanding and application of the gifts of both Faith and Charity whereas Hope is shaped by innocence and the thirst for a reality that goes beyond experience. In the image of the anecdote it is the child-like figure of Hope – full of questions and seeking ’what next’ – that holds the hands of Faith and Charity, binding them together and urging their forward progress but, at the same time, depending upon them for support and confidence.
We do well to remember the sequence of events that the Gospels set before us on these days. These events are observed in sequence and time-frame. We have the opportunity to ‘re-live’ those days in a reflective manner and so gain perhaps more benefit. This can be so important in our present days particularly as we try to learn from Jesus and see what path ahead of us is necessary to renew ourselves.
When the Lord Jesus entered the Holy City for the last time he was greeted with such a huge crowd of admirers who demonstrated their acceptance of him and their welcome. On that first Palm Sunday those closest to Jesus might have felt somewhat overwhelmed and anxious about what this welcome might mean – nothing like this had happened to them before. Jesus’ previous visits to the Holy City were not always the most trouble-free and pleasant of occasions! The next few days were spent making the additional preparations necessary to celebrate the festival of Passover and we hear of arrangements being made, tasks being assigned and the necessary shopping being done.
Gradually the circle around Jesus condenses and more time is devoted to deep and meaningful conversation and the development of an intimacy among Jesus and his disciples that seems to be much deeper than elsewhere in the Gospels.
Then there is the celebration of the Passover – a highly ritualised religious observance which, this time, Jesus uses to introduce a new phase in the history of the lived experience of the Father-God and His People. He establishes the two Sacraments of Eucharist and Holy Orders and, very powerfully, prays for the Apostles and the rest of us too as recorded in Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel.
This followed by betrayal, treachery, false witness, abandonment and disgrace. The next day is filled with confusion, rejection, abuse, despair and desolation. It ends so badly with public outcry against Jesus, his cruel crucifixion, his death and burial. Then there is deep silence.
Finally there is an astonishing new beginning. Jesus lives! He is Risen from the Dead. He confirms his disciples in their astonishment. He reawakens in them the spark of eternal life that is his message for them and fans it into a flame. He excites them into embracing His mission as His witnesses. He affirms the gifts of Faith and Love that He so often demonstrated and binds them together with the gift of Hope.
We are His disciples in this present age and His gift remains to inspire and illuminate us as we discern what must be done in this present age. We can only rely on these gifts to inspire and encourage us too into fruitful and cleansing action because that remains the mission Jesus shares with us. It can only happen if we focus completely on the person of Jesus.
As the Letter to the Hebrews teaches us: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain.” May the light of the Risen Christ enliven the gift of Hope in us.
+Max L Davis