Saved in Hope: Pregnant with Faith

Saved in Hope: Pregnant with Faith

Dom and I are slowly working our way through the Pope’s new encyclical, Spe Salvi during this advent season. Part of the reading the other night caused us to pause, think, and discuss. I’m not sure I can capture in words the glimpse I had, the flicker of insight; but I’ll try.

First, Pope Benedict writes: 

In the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews (v. 1) we find a kind of definition of faith which closely links this virtue with hope. Ever since the Reformation there has been a dispute among exegetes over the central word of this phrase, but today a way towards a common interpretation seems to be opening up once more. For the time being I shall leave this central word untranslated. The sentence therefore reads as follows: �Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen�. For the Fathers and for the theologians of the Middle Ages, it was clear that the Greek word hypostasis was to be rendered in Latin with the term substantia. The Latin translation of the text produced at the time of the early Church therefore reads: Est autem fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentium�faith is the �substance� of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen. Saint Thomas Aquinas[4], using the terminology of the philosophical tradition to which he belonged, explains it as follows: faith is a habitus, that is, a stable disposition of the spirit, through which eternal life takes root in us and reason is led to consent to what it does not see. The concept of �substance� is therefore modified in the sense that through faith, in a tentative way, or as we might say �in embryo��and thus according to the �substance��there are already present in us the things that are hoped for: the whole, true life. And precisely because the thing itself is already present, this presence of what is to come also creates certainty: this �thing� which must come is not yet visible in the external world (it does not �appear�), but because of the fact that, as an initial and dynamic reality, we carry it within us, a certain perception of it has even now come into existence. [emphasis mine]

What grabbed me, of course, was that word “embryo”. Hold, on a minute… here’s a metaphor that I can relate to. (As Sophia wiggles and squirms and pokes and jumps in the darkness within me.)

The kingdom of God that I hope for, long for, is present in me in embryonic form, because of the faith I profess. I cannot touch it or see it, and yet I can sometimes feel the hints of its presence. God’s presence, hidden in me, unheard, unseen; but not completely unknown. Faith is not something I do it is something God does in me. He is within me, a living presence, just as surely as Sophia is. And he is changing me, if I let him. Just as much as this pregnancy is changing my body, the presence of the living God will transform me.

In her meditation on “The Mystery of Christmas” St Teresia Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) says:

Let us place our hands in the hands of the divine Child, let us speak our ‘yes’ to his ‘follow me’. Thus we shall be his and the path shall be open for his divine life to pass over upon us.

This is the beginning of eternal life in us. It is not yet a blessed entrancement in the light of glory. It is still the darkness of faith, but it is no longer of this world; it is already a stance in the kingdom of God. When the ever blessed Virgin spoke her “Fiat’, it was the beginning of the kingdom of God on earth and she was the first handmaid. And all who before and after the birth of the Child recognized him in word and deed—St Joseph, St Elizabeth with her child, and all those standing around the manger—entered into the kingdom of God.

Thinking today at mass, after receiving communion, about Mary carrying the infant Jesus in her womb and realizing that he is right now within me, real, living, present. Not in the exact same way, no, but just as present, just as real. That is what the incarnation means: God is with us. Mary is the first Christian, the first to fully embrace that faith, to carry the Christ child, to live that hope. But we can follow her example, we too can carry the Christ child to the world. We also are citizens of the kingdom of God.

St Teresia Benedicta continues:

Anyone who adhered to the Lord carried his heavenly treasure invisibly within himself. His temporal burden was not removed from him, on the contrary, many others were added. Yet what he bore within himself was an exhilarating strength which softened the yoke and lightened the burden. This remains true today for every child of God. The divine life which is enkindled in the soul is the Light that came into the darkness—the mystery of the Holy Night.

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1 comment
  • Are you familiar with the Dubliners?  My wife plays Celtic fiddle (as well as bluegrass, some rock, and of course classical violin), and one of the songs she plays with her guitar partner is “Whiskey in the Jar.”  I’ve sang it with them a few times.  Kind of a fun song, though more of a stereotypical “Irish drinking song.”  Come to think of it, the CD I have it on is called “Irish Drinking Songs.” grin