November 30, 2007. Rome. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
has published a new encyclical entitled Spe salvi (On Christian
Hope), now available at this link.
Several Legionary professors at
the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum have written brief commentaries introducing
the encyclical. Two of these commentaries are presented below.
Father Alfonso Aguilar, LC
Professor of Philosophy at Regina
Apostolorum Pontifical Athanaeum
“In hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24).
These five words sum up the whole encyclical. In the
light of the current problems of the world, do we
still have a reason to hope?
Pope Benedict’s answer is
clear: Yes, we can and should have hope, because our
“faith is hope” (n. 2). Two are the main questions
tackled in the encyclical: What is hope? And what type
of certitude does it give us?
For Pope Benedict XVI, hope
is not a nice ideal, because our faith is not
essentially “informative” – a doctrine. Hope is, rather, “performative,” that
is, a transforming or redeeming experience: “The Gospel is not
merely a communication of things that can be known—it is
one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark
door of time, of the future, has been thrown open.
The one who has hope lives differently; the one who
hopes has been granted the gift of a new life”
Jesus Christ brought hope to a hopeless world by
bringing us God: “To come to know God—the true God—means
to receive hope” (n. 3). Jesus brought “an encounter with
the living God and thus an encounter with a hope
stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore
transformed life and the world from within” (n. 4).
knowledge of a God who is Love, there is no
hope. Christ, the true philosopher and shepherd, “tells us who
man truly is and what a man must do in
order to be truly human. [...] He also shows us
the way beyond death; only someone able to do this
is a true teacher of life” (n. 6).
the Christian faith gives us a transforming certitude. “Faith draws
the future into the present, so that it is no
longer simply a ‘not yet’. The fact that this future
exists changes the present; the present is touched by the
future reality, and thus the things of the future spill
over into those of the present and those of the
present into those of the future” (n. 7).
The certitude is
about eternal life. But what is eternal life? Benedict XVI
reflects on this question in the light of man’s contradictory
state (nn. 10-12). “On the one hand, we do not
want to die; above all, those who love us do
not want us to die. Yet on the other hand,
neither do we want to continue living indefinitely, nor was
the earth created with that in view. So what do
we really want?”
|Father Alfonso Aguilar, LC|
Quoting Saint Augustine, the Pope answers thus: “Ultimately
we want only one thing—‘the blessed life’, the life which
is simply life, simply ‘happiness’”. We, however, do not know
what this happiness is all about, and we wouldn’t like
an eternal life that is “an unending succession of days
in the calendar”. The Christian hope is about eternal life
understood as “plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a
moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists, [...]
in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”
hope in eternal life cannot be individualistic, because salvation is
“communal” and “has to do with the building up of
this world” (nn. 13-15).
In order to transform our world, we
must understand it. At this point, Pope Benedict makes an
acute analysis of the spirit of modern age (nn. 16-23).
It is an age based on “faith in progress,” which
the French Revolution and Marxism tried to establish exclusively through
science and politics. Marx’s fundamental error “is materialism: man, in
fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and
it is not possible to redeem him purely from the
outside by creating a favorable economic environment.”
By contrast, true salvation
and true Christian hope is based on God, who is
Love (nn. 24-31). “It is not science that redeems man:
man is redeemed by love.”
Now, how to make hope an
everyday, concrete and transforming experience? The final section of the
encyclical is dedicated to practical suggestions. Four “settings” in which
we can learn in practice about hope and its exercise
are proposed: prayer, action, suffering, and the Last Judgment (nn.
Following John Paul II’s tradition, Pope Benedict ends his encyclical
with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Star of
Hope,” who is our guiding star in the often dark
and stormy voyage of life.
Father Fernando Pascual, L.C.
Professor of ancient philosophy
at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum
The encyclical “Spe salvi” of
Pope Benedict XVI explains a central nucleus of Christian hope:
salvation has been offered to mankind through Jesus Christ.
does true Christian hope consist of? It is incorrect, says
the Pope, to limit hope to a subjective attitude, to
a desire for good without guarantees. Hope implies welcoming a
gift that is offered, a gift that is God himself:
“God is the foundation of hope; but not any god,
but the God who has a human face and who
has loved us to the extreme, each one in particular
and humanity as a whole” (n. 31).
The modern world, by
|Father Juan Pablo Ledesma, LC.|
contrast, has left aside Christian hope to seek, through progress,
a continual improvement of earthly life. It has forgotten heaven
to build perfect happiness on earth. But it was deeply
mistaken: reason, freedom, money, and science are not enough to
rid the earth of evil between men (n. 16-22). Science,
as much as it can help humanize the world, also
“can destroy man and the world if it is not
guided by forces outside itself” (n. 25).
For this reasons, the
Pope invites Catholics to remember that “the true, great hope
of man that resists the weight of all disillusionment can
only be God, the God who has loved us and
who continues loving us ‘until the end’” (n. 27).
“Spe salvi” is a song to the Love of God,
a Love that, through Christ, offers us reasons to walk
the path of life with hope. Looking toward eternity, desiring
a definitive encounter with Love, already draws us closer in
time to true life. There does exist a heaven where
justice and love triumph forever. That is why the followers
of Jesus of Nazareth believe, hope, and love.