You may remember last weekend, I wore rose vestments for Mass… yes, that’s rose, not “pink.” Well, maybe Fr. Martin wears pink, but I wear rose. The rose-colored vestments, just like the rose-colored third candle on the Advent wreath signify hope. While Advent is a season of penitential preparation for the coming of the Lord, it is also a season marked by great hopefulness and anticipation.
You may recall that hope is one of the Theological Virtues, along with faith and charity (love). These supernatural virtues are given to us at baptism and must be nurtured and cultivated throughout our life. Faith is the virtue by which we firmly believe all the truths God has revealed. Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbors as ourselves for the love of God. Hope is the virtue by which we firmly trust that God, who is all-powerful and faithful to his promises, will in His mercy give us eternal happiness and the means to obtain it. Hope is necessary for salvation.
The season of Advent, leading us into Christmas is a dark one. The greenery of the summer has turned grey and brown. The temperature has dropped. The days have gotten shorter. Winter is upon us. Similarly, the world in which we live is dark, and depending on how you look at it, it may be growing darker. There is the threat of terrorism in our world from radical Islam. Our nation still struggles to deal with issues of race and public safety. We still experience senseless violence in schools and other public places, often due to mental illness. Innocent human life continues to be taken shortly after its natural beginning and before it’s natural end. The stability of the family continues to be threatened. And in many respects, we still face much economic uncertainty.
One sure thing about the darkness of winter is that we know, eventually, the light and warmth of spring will come. The same must be true as we confront the darkness of our world and the difficulties we experience personally in our lives. Our world is very much in need of hope. We as Christians have good reason for hope and should be able to show it and speak about it to those around us. God is faithful, and in the end, He has the power to take the evil that surrounds us and bring great good from it. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the darkness that surrounds us, we neglect to see the Lord right there with us in the midst of it. Hope is not letting go of this truth.
The opposite of the virtue of hope is the sin of despair. Despair is when we essentially give up on God, his love for us, and his willingness to forgive our sins. Often despair creeps in when we have fallen into serious or mortal sin. One sin leads to another, and we drift away from the Lord and the Church. The Evil One traps us in a downward spiral. Hope and the call to conversion is the answer.