Hope: A Theological Virtue

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And now faith, hope, and love abide.

Paul ends a well known passage of Scripture with these words. He goes on to claim that the greatest is love, but the three taken together — faith, hope, and love — are known as the theological virtues. They are virtues that go above and beyond the classical virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, courage), derived not from the natural state of human life but from a developing relationship with the divine. Today, it would seem odd to call these virtues, and even more odd to call them theological, since does not hope (or love or faith) abide in cultural without the need for God? To begin to understand this, we must begin with time.

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Becoming an Amateur

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But what do I love, when I love Thee? — Saint Augustine, “Confessions”

We become like what we love. So runs the psychology of the ancients. In the process of loving, we behold, admire, and seek to grow similar to those things we love. If you want to be virtuous, love and habituate yourself to be like the virtuous person you know. If you want to be an artist, love what is beautiful. If you love what is beautiful, you might become much more than an artist. You might just become a beautiful soul.

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The Violent Center of Christianity

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“Death, then, contains the germ of life. There is no life on the communal level that does not originate in death. Death can appear as the true godhead, the confluence of the most beneficent and most maleficent forms of violence.” — Rene Girard

If there is one phenomenon that goes beyond human understanding, it is death. It is the undiscovered country, which rests on the other side of the farthest shore. And in our modern society, it is even more mysterious, since it is so professionalized. There are two general feelings towards death: those who embrace it as rest and as the beginning of something new, and those who recoil against it as the shroud of the unknown and the loss of everything known. Either way, death is a violent interruption of the course of the human experience.

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When Love Speaks

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” — Jesus

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. I remember exactly where I was when I found out: walking into US History class, if you believe me. While this blog mainly focuses on European affairs, I would be amiss to neglect the importance of this day for our modern world. September 11th opened the 21st century; what had the promise to be a century of peace has quickly become in the subsequent years one of wars and unrest. they attack; we attack back. We attack preemptively to defend ourselves against “real and present” dangers. But in doing this, have we departed completely from Jesus’s challenge to those who would follow him: love your enemies? What would happen if love speaks a softer word to our world?

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