Living the Mystery of Hope
Greg and Linda Crowhurst
The light has just caressed the tops of the trees. I have been sitting here in the dawn for some time, long enough for the birds to adapt to my presence. High above, surely soaked with dew, I watch the Swifts dive, circle and swoop through the pure morning air. The roses hang heavy and dripping. A rare pair of Greenfinches flit, thrillingly, through the cherry tree, filling with delight. I have been seated here long enough for the peace to find me. I am content. I read once that the meaning of “holy” is to be at home. (O’Donoghue 1998)
I am at home yes, yes, yes, this moment could not be more holy or eternal.
Just the other day, I was running around in jubilant circles, yelling out “yes!”, the dog going crazy wild and my wife’s eyes full of joy. I had been shortlisted for an international arts prize. What a high! Gosh it was so extraordinary, so intense, if only I could bottle it, hold onto it for ever…especially the sight of my wife’s eyes.
But like these glistening roses it will soon fade away. You just can’t place your hope in a constant dopamine hit, whether it be the experience of being shortlisted out of 2000 applicants , having your tweets or posts liked and shared or being admired and seen. There is always the next achievement, the next post, the next high to seek, in an ultimately frustrating cycle of “what next” that is unlikely, at least in my experience, to lead to fulness of life.
The predominant zeitgeist today seems to be “Heal Yourself (and if you don’t you are an undeserving failure)”, “You Can Do/Be/Have Anything”, “Awaken Your Personal Power”. It is incredibly powerful to think you can have anything you want. I will readily testify to the effectiveness of personal transformation work, that is how I was able to summon up the resolve get my act together and enter the Arts Competition in the first place. However in the context of one’s whole life, being positive is nowhere near enough. Passing, fleeting emotions do not, in themselves, sustain holiness, by which I mean the sublime sense of being at home.
A new day is just beginning. But what will it bring? Who could have imagined the Pandemic? Even now, how safe are you, if a neighbour pops in, a delivery has to be signed for, or you have to take the dog for a walk or go to hospital ? What about the potential impact of climate change and the exponential threat of even more deadly pandemics in the near future?
It is surely no exaggeration to observe that these are unprecedented times. Catastrophe, literally threatens us on every level right now, in every moment. Is this really what our hope in rationality, science, politics and progress has led to? If so it is shockingly unrealistic.
It is in this context that we must find hope to survive and grow.
Plunkett (1995) contrasts “holy hope”, hope that is rooted in God with “rational” hope in materialism and “intuitive” hope in self.
My wife is chronically ill and disabled, three decades of total isolation, intense suffering and continual struggle and a complete reliance on God have taught us how to look both with eyes of hope towards the future and to live fully in the present.
It is the bleakest place to feel no hope. Hope, we have learned through many difficult years, is not of the head, but of the heart. Hope is not about information, rather it is about goodness and faith.Hope is of the Spirit, it is always moving, constantly blessing and lifting us up, so that we always prevail, no matter what. At the same time hope is imbued in stillness and the here and now.
Christ did not come to teach us dogma and rules, rather he was more concerned with feeding the poor, setting people free, bringing goodness to people’s lives, bringing healing, freeing us from fear, praying for the will of the Father, which is ultimately Love and Mercy, to be done.
In order to find hope, particularly in the most desperate of places Christ teaches us to see with new eyes, to hear with new ears. It may feel as if things are dire and getting worse, yet in God we can always find Hope. We may never be able to define hope but we can feel it and live in its mystery.
When all roads seem empty, even when light is fading, may we hold on with all strength to hope, not the hope of achievement or the hope of gaining something specific, but much more than that; let us hold on to the hope that God brings to us, to the inner peace, not of the world and to the fundamental sense of our internal goodness, of life,of love, of beauty.
May we remember that God is always with us. Even if we feel him not, even if we forget in the midst of suffering and pain, we can never be alone for Christ has already touched us, reached out to us spiritually from the Cross and blessed us unimaginably with hope: hope that all things are possible with Him, that miracles do happen and that there is a way forward, even if we cannot see it clearly or at all.
It is here that we must strive to remember that God knows us in our hearts. He always sees a much higher, wider, fuller picture than we can ever perceive.
This then is the Hope that we strive for daily. This is the Hope which touches us. This is the Hope we hold on to, especially when everything seems to be going wrong. This is why we cannot remain in darkness, for Christ is the Light and each new dawn reminds us of this.
Hope lights up the path head of us, a path held in love, compassion, goodness. Possibility is illuminated even if the possibility seems tiny or insignificant from the outside, any change, any goodness that touches us in the depth of suffering is a strength and a blessing.
May our trust in the Lord and our Hope in His goodness bring unimagined comfort and blessings.
O’Donoghue J (1998) Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, Bantam Books
Plunkett D (1997) “Communicating Values”, Birmingham, Maryvale Institute.