The supernatural, infused, theological virtue that makes it possible for the Christian to expect with confidence to attain eternal life. The theological development of the virtue of hope has been less marked and less fruitful than that of faith and charity, although hope is mentioned in the Scriptures hardly less frequently than are the other two theological virtues. Classical treatises on hope contrast in their brevity with those devoted to faith and charity, but since World War II, perhaps in consequence of the turmoil of the war, the subject has received more adequate treatment. For the most part, however, what is human and natural in the notion has received more stress than what is divine and supernatural; and it is with the latter aspect, or the virtue of hope strictly so-called, that the present article is concerned. It considers hope first in itself and then in relation to analogous or connected realities.
Christian Hope in Itself
The word "hope," in its biblical and theological usage, sometimes signifies the act of hope (e.g., Col 1.23; Heb 3.6); at other times, the virtue (1 Cor 13.13) or the motive [e.g., Ps 69 (70).3, 5; Col 1.27; 1 Pt 1.21]; and at still other times, the object or thing hoped for (e.g., Rom 8.24; Gal 5.5), these different notions lending themselves readily to the metonymy so common in the Scriptures. Beneath this figurative language, however, are to be found the principles by which Christian hope is particularized and defined. Since hope as a virtue is an operative habit, it must be identified by the relation of its proper act to its proper object (see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 4.1; De Spe 1; hereafter all citations with the author unnamed will be to the works of St. Thomas). This portion of the present article must therefore discuss the object, the subject, the acts, and the habit of hope.
Object of hope. The term object, with reference to hope, may mean either that which hope seeks to obtain or the objective basis for regarding that object as attainable. The first is called the material or terminative object; the second, the formal object or motive.
Material Object. Christians hope to obtain from God all that He has promised to give them and all that they ask from Him with respect to eternal life. This embraces two things, namely, the ultimate end itself and the means that lead to the ultimate end.
The good promised by God and sought of Him in the OT consisted for the most part in the natural and material good of earthly life, such as health, long life, and victory over enemies. But supernatural and spiritual good was also promised and asked for, such as the coming of the Messiah, forgiveness of sin, and the service and love of God and its full possession in the future life (see Van der Ploeg, 481–507). In the NT, however, the eternal and imperishable good of the future life is primarily what is promised and sought, with the temporal and perishable goods of this life relegated to a secondary place. One is to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice (Mt6.19–20). The object of hope is the clear and intuitive vision of what is now the object of belief; it is the full possession of what faith presents and anticipates, the full development of that of which faith is the substance, or the foundation and beginning—the vision of God as He is in Himself (cf. Rom 8.24–25; Heb 11.1). If we had hope only for the things of this life, we would be of all men the most to be pitied (1 Cor 15.19). We hope then for entrance into God's rest (Heb 4.1–11), into the holies of heaven (Heb 10.19–23), the eternal dwelling (2 Cor 5.1,8) that Christ has prepared for us (Jn 14.2; Phil 3.20–21).
Prayer is a manifestation and interpretation of hope. The material object of hope is nowhere more admirably expressed than in the "Lord's Prayer," which, as St. Augustine declared, contains all that we should hope from God (Enchir. 114; Patrologia Latina 40:285). In this prayer the heavenly Father is asked to grant us eternal life (Thy kingdom come) and also the means necessary to attain it. The means are both positive and negative. Positive means of a spiritual kind are summed up in the doing of God's will, and temporal necessities to the end of eternal life are summed up comprehensively in the petition for our daily bread. Negatively, we stand in need of protection against the evils that could prevent the coming of the kingdom: the past evil we have done (forgive us our trespasses); the future evil we may do (lead us not into temptation); and the future evil of punishment we may have to suffer, especially the evil of eternal death (deliver us from evil).
The magisterium of the Church has also given expression to the object of hope. Since the object of hope is identified with the object of faith, inasmuch as faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Heb 11.1), the articles of faith and the definitions of the Church with respect to the object of faith, also indicate the object of hope. We not only believe in, therefore, but we also hope for the resurrection of the body and life eternal [H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum (Freiburg 1963) 10–36, 72, 76, 150, 443]. The Council of Trent insisted that we should hope through the mercy of God for the pardon of our sins and the infusion of His grace, the final aim of which is eternal life (ibid. 1526–28). Those regenerated by Baptism should preserve the robe of grace clean and immaculate to present it before the tribunal of Christ to obtain eternal life (ibid.
1530–31). Those who persevere in good works, innocent or penitent, should consider eternal life as the greatest of the graces promised by God to His children (ibid. 1545–49).
The liturgy reinforces the same lesson, particularizing and interpreting in concrete form the good things for which we turn to God. Its incessant plea is that God grant us eternal life and deliver us from eternal death; and to that end it asks health of body, pardon of sins, fidelity to grace, and final perseverance. It contains petitions for every kind of good and for remedies against every kind of evil. In the Roman Missal there are Masses and prayers for peace; against war, illness and persecutions, drought and storms, the snares of the enemies of our souls; and for humility, purity, charity, and the other virtues necessary to our spiritual welfare. The litanies are rich in petitions for deliverance from every kind of evil of body or soul and for every kind of corporal and spiritual good. We beg God to deliver us from eternal damnation, from a sudden and unprovided death, from the occasions of sin the attacks of the enemy, bad thoughts, ill will, every kind of uncleanness of body or soul, lightning, storms, earthquakes, plagues, hunger, and war. We ask Him to give and preserve for us the fruits of the earth, our homes and villages, our life and health and to bring about the propagation and increase of faith, and finally eternal happiness for each and every one.
The object of theological hope is thus the attainment of all true good and deliverance from all that is truly evil. This objective universality is characteristic of the theological virtues, which are primarily concerned with God but which, like God Himself, extend their radius of action and their dominion over everything. Thus faith is not concerned with God and divine things alone, but also with the whole of creation since it is God's handiwork. Charity does not consist in loving God only but extends its love also to ourselves, to our neighbors, and to all created things because they belong to God, being made in His image or committed to His service. In a similar way, hope not only aspires to the possession of God, but also reaches out to all the means of nature and of grace that lead to the possession of God and that free the soul from every temporal and eternal evil (see In 3 Sent. 26.2).
However, not all these things fall under hope in an equal way. There is a principal object, there are secondary objects, and there is an order between these. They pertain to hope analogically, the principal object being the supreme analogue and the other objects sharing in varying ways and degrees in its desirability.
Principal Terminative Object. The principal object of hope is the perfect and completely secure possession of God Himself for all eternity (Ps 72.25–28), the kingdom of God and His justice (Mt 6.33), the full possession of this kingdom (Mt 6.10; 25.34), the full vision of God as He is in Himself, so that He is seen face to face (1 Jn3.2–3). In a word, it is eternal life, eternal happiness, as is stated in the symbols of faith and the definitions to which reference was made above.
That God Himself must be the principal object of hope is evident from the above-noted parallelism between faith and hope. We hope for a thing unseen, i.e., something that is now an object of belief (Rom 8.24–25). On the other hand, we believe what we hope for (Heb 11.1). Therefore what is now not seen, what is now invisible and inaccessible, but which we hope to see face to face in the future life, is the object both of faith and of hope—and that is God Himself as He is in Himself (Jn1.18; 1 Jn 4.17; 1 Tm 1.17; 6.16; 1 Cor 13.2; 1 Jn 3.2–3).
The same truth is implied in the classification, based on the Scriptures and affirmed by the Fathers and theologians, of hope as a theological virtue. As such it must have God for its object, for it is by having God as its object that a theological virtue is distinguished from a moral virtue.
But further precision is necessary. God as eternal beatitude is the object of hope, but it remains to be determined whether the beatitude in question is to be understood in an objective, or a subjective (formal), or an integral sense—in other words, whether it is God, or the vision of Him, or both together for which we hope.
Some have held that the object of Christian hope is objective beatitude alone and that subjective or formal beatitude is necessary only as a condition sine qua non. This was the opinion of the Salmanticenses (Cursus Theologicus, "De spe" 1.1.4), but it is open to objection on the grounds that the object alone, without the possessive act, does not in fact beatify man. Eternal happiness is essentially something vital. It is eternal life, and this life for man does not exist in the object alone. Man's possession of it therefore must be something more than a mere condition of his beatitude.
Others, such as Durandus of Saint-Porçain, have held that the principal object of hope is only subjective beatitude, or the possessive act, although this demands and supposes the objective beatitude that is possessed. This view is unacceptable because man's formal beatitude is essentially something created and finite, since it is a vital act of man himself. If this were its principal object, hope would be a moral rather than a theological virtue.
A third position endeavors to synthesize these two extremes of opinion and sees the primary and principal object of Christian hope as including both the objective and the formal in a total or integral beatitude, an explanation that has been proposed in two forms. According to some—e.g., P. Lorca (De spe 2.7), G. Vázquez (In 1am2ae, 15.4), and F. Suárez (De spe 1.1.2, 4)— beatitude in both senses is equally contained, since formal beatitude is as essential as the objective to man's beatitude understood in an integral sense. Others—such as Cajetan (In 2a2ae, 17.2.1; 17.5.3–8) and John of St. Thomas (Cursus Theologicus, "De spe," 4.205)—held that beatitude in both senses pertains to the object of hope, but unequally and distinctly. Directly (in recto ) the object of hope is objective beatitude; obliquely (in obliquo ) it is subjective beatitude. Objective beatitude pertains to the object constitutively; subjective beatitude, connotatively. This explanation has the advantage of preserving the due subordination of the created to the uncreated and prevents a confusion of their relative value and importance. Moreover, it eliminates the possibility of seeing hope as a kind of amphibious or hybrid virtue, theological in reference to its uncreated object, but moral so far as its created object is concerned.
Object difficult of attainment. The attainment of the primary object of hope is extremely difficult and arduous for man, especially in his present state of fallen and weakened nature. Moreover, this difficulty amounts to sheer impossibility if one considers it only from the point of view of man's inherent and natural power. Between God as He is in Himself and the natural powers, cognitive and appetitive, not only of man but also of any intellectual creature created or creatable, there is a radical and insurmountable disproportion. God as He is in Himself infinitely transcends every creature. He is higher than the heavens (Jb 11.8; 32.12; Heb 7.26), greater than the heavens and the earth and all gods (Ps 46.3; 76.14; 94.3). His greatness is incomparable and inscrutable (Is 46.9; Ps 114.3; Jb 36.32). He is essential greatness (Ti 2.13; Lk1.15, 32; Heb 4.14; 6.13). His name is the Most High (Ps 17.14; 49.14; Lk 1.32, 35, 76; 6.28). "Thou only art Most High," as the Church declares in the Gloria of the Mass. God inhabits a light that is inaccessible to us: no one has seen Him or can see Him (Jn 1.18; 1 Tm 6.16). Only God knows Himself intimately. No one knows the Son but the Father nor the Father but the Son, and he to whom He has revealed Himself (Mt 11.27; Lk 10.22; Jn 6.46). Basing itself on these testimonies, Vatican Council I therefore taught that the hidden mysteries of God, and a fortiori His intimate being in itself, are naturally inaccessible to all created intelligence, whether human or angelic, in regard to both its simple existence and its intimate nature (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 3016). Not even when aided by the supernatural light of faith and theological science is one capable of seeing God face to face.
This radical and connatural impossibility of seeing God is further complicated in man's present state because his natural powers of both body and soul are greatly diminished (ibid. 371, 385, 1511). In his body he is subject to suffering, disease, and finally death (ibid. 371, 385,1511). His soul has lost its innocence and original justice; the light of his intelligence is darkened (ibid. 1616, 1644,2756), his will is weakened (ibid. 371, 378, 383, 396, 633, 622, 1486, 1521), and he is inclined to sin by the disorderly impulses of concupiscence (ibid. 1515). Furthermore, the wounds and weaknesses inherited with original sin are variously aggravated in different individuals by their own personal sins. And in addition to all this, man is beset by enemies, temptations, and dangers on every side, as is repeatedly stated in the liturgy (see, for example, the Collects for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, the 2d Sunday of Lent, and Monday of Holy Week). The primary object of hope is thus extremely difficult of attainment; moreover, it is impossible to attain if man's natural powers only are taken into account, for these, even if they were undamaged by sin, would be essentially inadequate for the attainment of a goal infinitely beyond the grasp of any created power.
Secondary object of hope. Everything that one hopes from God in addition to the principal object will be either a means leading to the attainment of God or a consequential or complementary result of having attained God.
Means Leading to God. These include whatever really contributes to the attainment of eternal life. Some means are positive and include the gifts of nature and of grace that are to be used; others are negative and include protection against the evils or impediments that hinder or prevent the attainment of God. In summary and in condensed form, the necessary means are expressed, together with the primary object of hope, in the "Lord's Prayer," as was said above.
The positive means belong to two categories because gifts of nature as well as of grace are necessary. Grace supposes, elevates, and perfects nature (Summa theologiae 1a, 1.8 ad 2; 2.2 ad 1; 62.5; 1a2ae, 99.2 ad 1; 3a, 71.1 ad 1). Eternal life cannot be attained without good works (Mt 5.12; 16.27; Ti 2.12; 1 Cor 15.58). But good works are not performed without human acts, nor are the latter possible without nature and the human person. Moreover, by nature should be understood human nature, complete and perfect, composed of a rational soul and a body, with the operative faculties of the composite sound and developed, and its complement of intellectual and moral virtues. A sufficiency of material good is necessary to conserve and develop individual and social life in a manner worthy of a rational being. All this is contained in the petition: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Mt 6.11). Bread here is taken as representative of whatever is necessary to maintain life on earth. Not food only is needed, but many other things as well, such as clothing, shelter, health, employment, transportation, refreshment, relaxation, all of which can be understood as petitioned under the general heading of bread. Yet the wise man asks of God only what is necessary to live honestly (Prv 30.8). External corporal goods should always be considered according to their true worth in the designs of God. Essentially they are means, not ends; they represent useful, not absolute, values.
Moreover, gifts of nature, while necessary and useful, are neither sufficient in themselves nor proportionate to the supernatural end that is eternal life. Of themselves alone they cannot enable man to gain entry into the kingdom of heaven. This cannot be denied without falling into the naturalist heresy of Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, later renewed by rationalism and semirationalism, and repeatedly condemned by the Church (cf. H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 226–227; Indiculus 243–245, 373–395, 3028, 3041, 2856, 2903–05, 2909). The ultimate end is essentially supernatural. Consequently, the natural powers and means of any nature, human or angelic, cannot suffice to attain it. Natural means, inadequate in themselves, can contribute only as conditions and as instruments and when used in perfect subordination to the proportionate and supernatural means.
The proportionate and supernatural means are all reducible to sanctifying grace, which includes all habitual grace, the Sacraments of the New Law (channels and instrumental causes of it), the infused theological and moral virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, sufficient and efficacious actual graces, and merit.
These supernatural means operate directly toward the attainment of eternal life, each in its own way. Habitual grace is like an entitative habit deifying the soul; and it is the root, as it were, and remote principle of meritorious acts. The infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit are the proximate principles from which these acts immediately flow. Actual graces put them in motion. Charity is the main principle, and the other virtues and gifts are secondary principles and subordinate to charity.
These means are condensed in the second petition of the "Lord's Prayer," that is, that we do God's will here on earth as it is done by the blessed in heaven. This conformity to the divine will is expressed in the elicited and commanded works of charity, which are precisely the works that are meritorious of eternal life.
Negative Means. These consist in the overcoming or avoiding of the evils or impediments that might hinder or prevent the attainment of eternal life. The negative means are parallel to the positive, because they remove or overcome obstacles opposed to the positive means. Some of the obstacles are hindrances to the supernatural means; others, to the natural means. The first are evils of fault; the second, evils of punishment. The evils of fault are past, present, and future sins, which stand opposed to grace and charity and therefore to salutary and meritorious action. The evils of punishment are the miseries, infirmities, and calamities of body and soul that may oppress a man and prevent his leading a life worthy of his rational nature. In the fifth petition of the "Lord's Prayer" we ask that the heavenly Father pardon our sins past and present; and in the sixth, that He permit us not to fall into temptation that will lead to future sin (Mt6.12–13).
Complementary Result of Attaining God. The secondary object of hope also includes what will result from essential beatitude as its complement, i.e., all the gifts of nature and of grace that will result in the blessed in consequence of their seeing God (for an account of these, see beatific vision).
Principal motive of hope. The motive or formal object of hope is the real and objective foundation of one's hope, i.e., the objective basis for the expectation that one will be able to attain what is hoped for. It is that which makes the attainment of the object possible. As the motive is something essentially correlative and proportioned to the material object, Christian hope will have a primary and principal, and a secondary motive.
The chief motive and foundation of Christian hope is God, and God alone. This is an explicitly revealed truth, frequently repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments. There is nothing more insistently stated in the Psalms than that the Lord is our only hope, our refuge, our defense, our strength and counsel against every kind of enemy and difficulty (Ps 7.2; 15.1–2; 16.6–9;32.20–22; 39.5; 61.2–10; 90.1–16; 145.2–6). In the NT it is also apparent that we must look to God alone for the realization of our hope—our liberation from all danger (2 Cor 1.9–10), the resurrection of our bodies (Acts 24.15), the salvation of our souls (1 Tm 4.10; 5.5). Therefore, God is called the God of hope (Rom 15.13); for He is the living God (1 Tm 4.10), who gives us eternal life (1 Jn 3.2–3).
It is true that Jesus Christ also is the foundation of our hope (1 Cor 15.19; Phil 2.19), and He is even called our hope (1 Tm 1.1). But, as St. Augustine observed, this is proper because of His divinity, not His humanity (In psalm. 145.9).
The magisterium of the Church also teaches that our hope is based on God. We hope to obtain from Him life eternal (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 72). We hope and trust in the mercy of God (ibid. 1525, 1676), in the help of God (ibid. 1541), in the promise of God (ibid. 1545), that He will Himself give us eternal life (ibid. 1545, 1576).
Theological reasoning confirms the same truth. Because Christian hope is a theological virtue properly and strictly speaking, just as are faith and charity (1 Cor 13.13; 1 Pt 1.21; 1 Jn 4.16; H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1001), it must have God alone as its principal terminative object and motive. Again, since the primary and principal object of Christian hope is essentially supernatural and as such beyond the acquisitive powers of all created and creatable nature, it is attainable per se only by God. He alone is naturally blessed.
However, there are in God many attributes and perfections that, although they are not really distinguished from His being, manifest His infinite riches and are the exemplar causes of created things of the natural and supernatural order. Theologians ask which of the divine attributes is the formal motive of hope. God is the formal motive of faith inasmuch as He is Prima Veritas, and of charity as Prima Bonitas, and similarly He ought to be the motive of hope by reason of one or another of His attributes. Scripture and the magisterium of the Church indicate some attributes of God as the formal foundation of our hope.
God's Love. God desires to and can save us; He wants to grant us the good of eternal life. This is apparent from the fact of creation, from Redemption, from our status as His children. If the Father so loved us, despite our being sinners and as such His enemies, that He delivered His only begotten Son to death on the cross that we might be reconciled with Him and to give us His grace, what will He not do for us after we have been converted into His friends and His children? He will certainly lead us to eternal life and provide us with every means of attaining salvation (Rom 5.8; Ti 3.4–7).
God's Promise. God has given His solemn word, promising under oath to give the inheritance to His sons, the brothers of Christ, who believe in Him and live without stain. In this promise He cannot fail, for He cannot lie (Heb 6.18) but rather is faithful and unable to disown Himself (Heb 11.11; 2 Tm 2.13). He is called faithful and true (Rv 19.11). Nor can He be prevented against His will from fulfilling His promise, for He is omnipotent and can realize all that He has promised (Rom 2.21). A hope, then, founded on the infallibility of the word of God and on His omnipotence to fulfill it ought to be strong and unshakable. It is a firm and secure anchor, because He who has given the promise is faithful (Heb 10.23).
God's Mercy. In other places the Scriptures declare that our hope depends on the infinite mercy of God, who loves us and has greater pity for us than an earthly father for his children. He knows our weakness and misery and has pity on us (Ps 102.13–14). He is patient, long-suffering, deeply compassionate, and merciful (Ps 102.2;144.8; Sir 2.11–13), the very Father of mercies and God of all counsel (2 Cor 1.3). Numerous texts from both Old and New Testaments could be adduced to show the divine mercy represented as the basis of our hope.
God's Almighty Power. At other times, the Scriptures point to the omnipotence of God, or His omnipotent help, as the foundation of our hope. The basis of human hope is human power; of Christian hope, divine power. All human power is weak, uncertain, fragile, and inconsistent; and therefore human hope is uncertain and changing, and fails many times (1 Tm 6.17). But the power of God is absolute and irresistible, and Christian hope cannot come to nothing through a failure on the part of Him in whom we hope (Ps 21.6; 30.2; 70.1; Rom 5.4; Col1.23; Heb 10.23).
The teaching of the Scriptures regarding the motive of hope has been summed up and proposed in precise terms by the magisterium of the Church (e.g., see H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1526, 1533, 1576, 1670, 1676, 1693, 1638, 1649, 1689, 1545). The liturgy gathers together the same doctrine and formulates it in numerous ways (see Ramirez, La esencia, 71–84).
For the more abstruse but less practical theological question as to which of the divine attributes is more formally and immediately the motive of hope, the reader is referred to various theological treatises on the subject (see, e.g., S. Harent, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. A. Vacant [Paris 1903–50] 5.632–644). Suffice it here to say that just as God is that for which we hope, so is He also in His goodness, love, mercy, fidelity, and almighty power, that on which we rely in daring to hope.
Secondary motives of hope. Besides the proper and principal motive, other things may serve as secondary and derivative motives, but only in relation to and dependently on the principal motive. This is as should be expected, for between the object and the motive of hope there is a proportion and exact correlation, as between the end and the agent. Therefore, since the principal terminative object of hope leaves room for secondary objects referring to it and ordered to it, we should expect that in addition to the uncreated source of grace that is the principal motive of hope, there should be secondary motives deriving from it. These are the created graces given by God and received by us, together with their instrumental and moral causes.
First among the secondary or created motives of hope is the habitual grace that deifies the soul, making the Christian a true child of God by adoption (1 Jn 3.1), heir of God and joint heir with Christ (Rom 8.17). Habitual sanctifying grace, whose formal and proper effect is divine affiliation, of itself gives the right to eternal life. One's merits and good works, which are the fruit of grace, constitute another secondary motive for hope. Thus St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they should be abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labor was not in vain (1 Cor 15.58; cf. Heb 10.32–36).
A third such motive is to be found in the created causes of grace, instrumental or ministerial, whether of the physical or moral order. First among these, and in a category apart, is the humanity of Christ. There is no salutary or meritorious act leading to eternal life that does not have this as its source, from the inexhaustible plenitude of which all our grace proceeds (Jn 1.16). Next come the Sacraments, which are instrumental causes of grace, producing their effect ex opere operato in all those who receive them with the proper dispositions.
The moral ministerial causes of grace are of two kinds. One is universal, having a part in the meriting and distribution of all grace. This is the Blessed Virgin Mary, spiritual mother of all and co-redemptress with Christ, who is believed to have merited congruously the graces that Christ merited condignly. Hence she is rightly called omnipotentia supplex, mother of our hope, and even, as in the Salve Regina, our hope. (Ramirez, La esencia, 92–100). Particular moral ministerial causes of grace are the merits and prayers of the angels and the saints in heaven and on earth, for all form one single Mystical Body, which is the Church, and are united one with the other in the Communion of Saints. Inasmuch as the unceasing prayer of a just man is of great avail and Christians are urged to pray for one another that they may be saved (Jas 5.16), such prayer is obviously a legitimate though secondary motive for hope.
Subject of hope. By the subject of hope is understood both the person who hopes (the subject qui ) and the person for whom one hopes (the subject cui ).
The Subject Who Hopes. The subject qui is necessarily a person in the strict sense, i.e., a rational intellectual substance, which is alone capable of the possession of God, the object of hope, in beatific vision. Irrational creatures are radically incapable of such happiness, and consequently also of its corresponding hope. Moreover, the subject of hope must be a viator, a wayfarer, or one journeying toward eternal life. Just as the obscure and imperfect knowledge of faith disappears at the journey's end when one enters upon the vision of God (1 Cor 12.9–12), so hope gives place to possession. "Hope that is seen is not hope. For how can a man hope for what he sees?" (Rom 8.24). Thus it was defined by Benedict XII that the vision of the divine essence and its enjoyment make void the acts of faith and hope in the blessed (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1001). This definition applies to the act of hope, but it is the commoner opinion of theologians that the habit or virtue does not remain in the blessed, since such a habit would be superfluous, inasmuch as its act would be perpetually and intrinsically impossible. Theological hope does not remain in lost souls, for the object of hope must be seen as a future good possible of attainment. For the souls in purgatory, beatitude is still a future good that will be reached only through hardship and suffering, and hence it remains for them an object of hope.
One who has not yet attained to the vision of God cannot be the subject of hope without possessing Christian faith, for if one does not believe in the God of the Christians, he cannot hope in Him. Therefore St. Paul spoke of the heathens and gentiles as being without God and without hope (Eph 2.12; 1 Thes 4.13). The first step toward God must be by faith (Heb 11.6). Everyone who believes can and should have hope, but faith is possible without hope.
Christ, as man, was simultaneously wayfarer and blessed. But inasmuch as He enjoyed the beatific vision from the beginning, there was clearly no role in Him for either faith or hope understood as theological virtues. Yet Scripture expressly says that He hoped in the Father and trusted in Him (Ps 30.1, 7, 15; Heb 2.13), and theologians commonly teach that in some sense Christ did hope while He was on earth, not with theological hope, for this would have lacked in His case its proper and principal object, i.e., blessedness not actually possessed, but with a hope identifiable with confidence and security and reducible to the virtue of magnanimity (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 129.6–7).
There is no role for hope in the angels or in the souls of the blessed with respect to the resurrection and the renovation of created nature. This they look to with simple desire and a secure and confident expectation.
Subject for Whom One Hopes. Does one hope only for oneself or for other men as well? Is hope a strictly personal expectation, or does it look to a social or communitarian good? This has been the subject of some controversy in the mid-20th century, some theologians making Christian hope primarily communitarian in character, others claiming the authority of St. Augustine, considering it something more purely personal and individual (Ramirez, La esencia, 128–129). However, in Christian tradition hope is, in fact, both personal and social, or communitarian.
It is personal inasmuch as each one hopes to attain his own happiness. He attains it by good works done in charity that are meritorious of eternal life, and these works or actions are properly personal: actiones sunt suppositorum. Moreover, the individual is saved individually. Scripture abounds in texts in which individual hope is mentioned. In the judgment, reward or punishment is meted out to each according to his personal deserts. The Apostle said, in the singular, "I have fought the good fight …. For the rest there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will give me in that day" (2 Tm 4.6–8). According to the universal practice of Christians, each one asks for the salvation of his own soul, as did the good thief on the cross.
However, hope is also social and communitarian. Its terminative object is accessible, its motive available, to all alike. Moreover, its subject also is in a real sense a community, that is, the people of God, or the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. All are one with Christ (Gal 2.28), members of the same body and united one with the other (1 Cor 12.26; Eph 4.16; Col 2.19), children of the same heavenly Father (Mt 22.9; Eph 4.6), brothers of the same firstborn Jesus Christ (Heb 2.11), and heirs of the same glory (Eph 4.4; 1 Pt 1.3–4). From this there spontaneously arises a common interest and a common longing for the good of the whole body and of each one of its members, an ardent desire and a firm hope of the salvation of the whole Christian family. This social character of Christian hope finds strong expression in the "Lord's Prayer," the best interpretation of our hope, in which the singular, which could suggest pure self-interest, is avoided and in its place the plural is used, thus invoking God's blessing on all alike.
Act of hope. There is a principal act of hope, which is one because the virtue and its corresponding object are one, and there are secondary acts that can be varied and multiple.
Principal Act. The proper and specific act of this virtue is to hope to attain eternal life by the help of God's grace. It is an act elicited from the will (since its object is goodness, indeed the Supreme Good) with respect to the supernatural end. Now the acts of the will with respect to the end are three: simple volition, intention, and fruition. The act of hope cannot be simple volition, because this prescinds from the presence or absence of its object, while the object of hope is the Supreme Good not yet possessed. Still less is it an act of fruition, for this supposes the good to be present and really possessed. Hope therefore must be an act of intention, an act intending the attainment of the Supreme Good through the use of the necessary and pertinent means.
It is an act having certain properties or characteristics, some by reason of its relation to the end (beatitude), others by reason of its relation to the means. With regard to the end, hope is the fixation of the intention upon God alone as one's ultimate goal. But, as was shown above, subjective beatitude, or the possession of God, is included in the total or integral beatitude for which one hopes and pertains connotatively to the primary and principal object of Christian hope. Hope therefore looks to God as possessable, and the love or desire that is characteristic of hope as such is of a concupiscent kind, as distinguished from the benevolent love of friendship. Our possession of God is an accident, an operation in us, a thing, not a person. Still it is a good that is loved or desired for those whom one loves with the love of friendship: God, to whom the greatest glory is given by the salvation of the blessed; oneself, for it is the highest perfection of which one is capable; one's neighbor, whose greatest good it also is. But while the note of concupiscence or interest characterizes the love of hope, this is not altogether lacking even in the benevolent love that is charity, for in its secondary act charity is concerned with the good things desired for persons loved with the love of friendship. When formal beatitude is hoped for oneself, the divine is not ordered to the human or God to oneself, with perverse or egoistic love, as quietists and semiquietists maintained. On the contrary, the proper order of things to persons, of accidents to substances, and of everything created to the Creator is duly observed.
The other property of the act of hope in relation to integral beatitude is the lifting up of the will (erectio animi ) to the level of God Himself. The will marshals its forces and dares to aspire to the achievement of the divine good despite the difficulties that lie in the way.
In relation to its formal motive, the act of hope is characterized by a quality of firmness and certainty that is unshakable and absolute, for nothing can be firmer or more certain than its motive. God has promised to give the needed help; He cannot be unfaithful to His word, and no obstacle can be too great for His omnipotence to overcome.
However, the certainty of inclination or intention that characterizes hope is not the certainty of faith or of knowledge, as some theologians have claimed (see Ramirez, La esencia, 224–253). It does not exclude but rather postulates a holy fear that one may not arrive at the goal of eternal life, not because God may fail to give the necessary help but because one's will to make use of that help may fail. The association of hope and fear is brought out in many passages of Scripture (e.g., Ps 39.4; Sir 2.9; Rom 11.20–23; 1 Cor 10.12; 1 Pt 5.8; Phil 2.12; Eph6.10–17; 1 Cor 9.27; cf. H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1533, 1541). Both are necessary: hope without fear degenerates into presumption; fear without hope leads to despair.
In regard to the means, the act of hope is dynamic, energizing the will most efficaciously and putting right order in its relation to the means. Its dynamic potential is caused by the fact that it brings to bear on the whole of one's life and activity the powerful attractive influence of hope's end and object. The will, intent on this object, is prepared to move and to exploit all the energies of grace and nature at its command with an active power proportionate to the great attraction of its object. The propulsive force of the habit and act of hope is thus a power of infinite energy, for by hope one is in direct and immediate contact with the fount of all energy, God Himself, so that St. Bernard could truly say that God "makes omnipotent all those who hope in Him (Sermo 83 in Cant. 5; Patrologia Latina 183:1190).
The act of hope also results in a true evaluation of the means, causing them to be seen at their true worth, i.e., as means, not as ends, and to be valued in proportion to the importance of their function as means. No one can serve two masters (Mt 6.24). To one who enters upon the service of God through hope, all else becomes subordinate to that commitment.
Secondary Acts or Effects. Certain secondary acts follow upon the principal act of Christian hope. Since there are in a sense caused by the principal act, it is proper to speak of them simply as effects. Among these, two in particular deserve special mention: joy and patience.
Because the Christian is a child of God, an heir and coheir with Christ, in whom he has been incorporated by Baptism, he possesses a living (or lively) hope (1 Pt1.3–5), indeed a certain hope of eternal life, guaranteed by God's own word (Heb 6.16–18). The prospect of seeing God and enjoying Him eternally invites the Christian to rejoice in hope (Rom 12.12). "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice…. The Lord is near" (Phil4.4–5). Jesus Himself had declared that such joy is meet: "Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven" (Mt 5.12), where "your names are written" (Lk 10.20).
Along with joy Christians find in hope strength to endure patiently every trial. We shall be glorified with Christ if we suffer with Him (Rom 8.17). We shall not enter the kingdom of heaven except through tribulations (Acts 14.21). All who want to live piously in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tm 3.12). But all this becomes endurable when compared with the glory that awaits us (2 Cor 4.7). And therefore can it be said: "We exult in tribulations, knowing that tribulation works out endurance, and endurance tried virtue, and tried virtue hope" (Rom 5.3–4).
Habit and virtue of hope. Christian hope is a vir tue, i.e., a good operative habit. Together faith, hope, and charity form a compact trilogy that abides throughout the Christian's life as his breastplate and the principle of his well-doing (1 Cor 13.13; 1 Thes 1.3; 5.8; Heb 10.38; 1 Jn 3.3, 16–18). They constitute a kind of second nature. The magisterium of the Church so understands it: God infuses them with His sanctifying grace, which does not belong to man simply by extrinsic denomination but is something real and inherent in those who receive it, so that they are not only called, but truly are, just (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1530, 1561). The Catechism of the Council of Trent uses another equivalent formula: a divine quality inherent in the soul (2, De sacramento baptismi, 30). Vatican Council I expressly referred to faith as a virtue (ibid. 3008). With regard to hope and charity, Innocent III, the Council of Vienne, Benedict XII, and the practice of the Church in the processes of beatification and canonization take it for granted (ibid. 780, 904, 1001, 2021; cf. 1917 Codex iuris canonici c. 2104). Pius XII in the encyclical Mystici Corporis applied the term "virtue" to faith, hope, and charity [Acta Apostolicae Sedis 35 (1943) 227]. The dogmatic constitution Benedictus Deus of Benedict XII went so far as to determine the classification of these virtues and called them theological virtues (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1001).
That hope is a theological virtue is evident from the fact that its object and motive are God Himself. God is the object sought, and it is on God that one depends immediately for the attainment of what he seeks. It is distinguished from the other two theological virtues by the power that it perfects, by the nature of its act, by its object, and by its motive. Thus it is distinguished from faith, which is of the intellect or mind, whereas hope is a perfection of the will (cf. Pius X, Acerbo nimis; Acta Pii X, 2.72). It is distinguished from both faith and charity by its proper act, which is one of intention or expectation, whereas the act of faith is one of assent; and that of charity, one of dilection. Although all the theological virtues have God for their object, still in the case of each of these virtues it is God considered under a distinct aspect. The object of faith is God under the aspect of Supreme Truth; both hope and charity view Him as the Supreme Good, yet with this difference: that charity looks to this goodness as it is in itself, whereas hope looks to it as something that we can possess. In their formal motive they also differ: faith depends on the truth of God; charity, on His essential goodness; hope, on the readiness of His almighty power to come to our assistance.
Hope and Related or Connected Realities
Since aspects of this subject are dealt with in separate articles (e.g., the sins opposed to hope, presumption and despair, and the gift of fear that corresponds to hope), attention here can be confined to two matters, namely, hope and the other theological virtues, and the precepts of divine law with regard to hope.
Hope and the other theological virtues. Faith is the first step toward God, the cornerstone on which the whole edifice of the house of God is built (1 Cor 3.9; 1 Tm 1.4; cf. Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 161.5 ad 2). Faith gives to hope the divine plan that is to be followed: it makes known the end and the road that leads to it. Hope, then, necessarily supposes faith and goes a step further in the approach to God. Without faith there could be no hope (Eph 2.12; 1 Thes 4.13), but hope is nevertheless superior to faith (De virt. card. 30). But it is charity, the bond of perfection (Col 3.14), that completes the work and abides forever (1 Cor 13.8). Charity is the most perfect of the three (1 Cor 13.13): faith and hope put us in contact with God as a means of raising ourselves up to Him, but it is charity that unites us to Him.
Hope is essentially an intermediary virtue between faith and charity: faith begins, hope follows, and charity concludes. Like every intermediary, it participates to an extent in both extremes. Hope can exist without charity, for charity is lost by mortal sin (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1544), but not hope. Therefore, sinners can and ought to hope for the pardon of their sins and the salvation of their souls (ibid. 1526, 1678, 1690). But without faith, which is its root and foundation, hope collapses. Faith, on the contrary, can exist without hope (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 20.2).
Precepts concerning hope. The precepts of divine law with regard to hope are primarily and directly concerned with acts of hope and the contrary acts of presumption and despair. These precepts are positive or affirmative if they prescribe acts of hope, negative if they prohibit acts of despair or presumption. What falls under precept is obligatory, and therefore something must be said about the necessity of hope.
Extreme and mitigated Protestant theology tends to deny the necessity of acts of hope for justification and salvation and prefers to regard such acts as sinful inasmuch as they are selfish and appear to ordain eternal happiness and the possession of God to an individual's own advantage, which would indeed be a true perversion of values. Thus the sinner who grieves for his sins because he fears losing happiness or tries to avoid sin in order to escape the punishment of hell is a hypocrite and sins the more for sorrowing for his sins or striving to avoid them for such a reason. The same could be said of the souls in purgatory who seek release from their punishment (propositions 6 and 39 of Luther, condemned by Leo X; H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 1456, 1488). In this theory there is no middle ground between the perfect love of charity and the sinful love of concupiscence; and therefore, since the love characteristic of hope is not that of charity, hope must be sinful concupiscence and should be avoided by Christians, whether just or sinners, as sinful and as self-defeating.
The quietists and semiquietists denied the necessity of hope for just and perfect Christians, holding it to be essentially imperfect and mercenary and therefore incompatible with a state of perfection. They did not, like the Protestants, contend that hope is evil or sinful but only that it is imperfect, as is servile fear, i.e., something useful and perhaps necessary for slaves and sinners desiring to be freed from their evil state but improper in the just and children of God. The love of God to which more perfect souls attain is so pure that it admits of no mixture of self-interest and is even prepared to sacrifice all for the love of God, including happiness and the possession of God Himself. Such a doctrine was attributed to Meister Eckhart (proposition 10, condemned by John XXII; H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 957), and it was taught by Molinos (propositions 7, 12, 13, condemned by Innocent XI; H. Denzinger, ibid. 2207, 2212–14). Fénelon questioned the utility of the acts of hope in the mystical states and taught that one could habitually abstain from such acts as imperfect and selfish (propositions 1, 2, 6, 8, 21, condemned by Innocent XII; ibid. 2351–52, 2356, 2358, 2371).
However, both positions are manifestly contrary to the doctrine of the Scriptures. It cannot be said that God has invited us to sin and to hypocrisy; yet, He has invited us repeatedly to abandon sin for fear of losing eternal life and incurring damnation. John the Baptist preached repentance that was necessary if men would flee the wrath to come (Mt 3.8; Lk 3.8). Jesus warned his hearers that unless they repented, they would perish (Lk 13.3, 5). And He also said: "If thy right eye is an occasion of sin to thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish than that thy whole body should be thrown into hell" (Mt 5.29); "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. But rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mt 10.28). Texts such as these are too well known to need multiplication here.
The Scriptures also teach us to do good in order to attain eternal blessedness. "Do good to the just man and reward will be yours, if not from him, from the Lord" (Sir 12.2). "Everyone in a contest abstains from all things—and they indeed do receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable" (1 Cor 9.25). "Whatever you do, work at it from the heart as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward" (Col 3.23). "Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor 15.58). "Do not, therefore, lose your confidence, which has a great reward" (Heb 10.35). "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" (Rv 2.10). "And everyone who has this hope in him makes himself holy, just as he is holy" (1 Jn 3.3).
Still less is it true that the exercise of hope is incompatible with the state of mystical perfection at which saintly souls have arrived. The love of concupiscence that is in hope is not a mercenary love, although it is a love of the reward that God has promised. It does not exclude Him, but on the contrary includes Him and leads to the most intimate love of Him. "Forgetting what is behind, I strain forward to what is before, I press on towards the goal, to the prize of God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Let us then, as many as are perfect, be of this mind" (Phil 3.13–14). Thus did Moses stand firm, "looking to the reward" (Heb 11.26).
In the processes of beatification and canonization an examination is made among other things of whether or not the servants of God exercised theological hope in a heroic degree (1917 Codex iuris canonici c. 2104), which proves that the exercise of this virtue is not only not incompatible with the most perfect sanctity but is demanded by it.
Hope is indeed necessary for justification and salvation. This necessity is to be understood as one of means, if it is a question of habitual hope, or the virtue of hope; for no one is saved if not in the state of grace, and no viator can be in the state of grace without faith, hope, and charity. Actual hope, or the act of hope, is also necessary for the justification of all adult sinners and for the salvation of all those adults who are in the state of grace, for no one is saved in fact without final perseverance, and this is obtained only by a special grace that does not fall under merit. This should be sought by fervent prayer, which prayer will necessarily be an interpretation and manifestation of hope and indeed an act of hope. Moreover, actual hope is necessary by a necessity of precept, for it has been required by God with the greatest insistence (Ps 4.6; 36.3; 61.9; Hos 12.6; 1 Tm 6.17; 1 Thes 5.8). It is, furthermore, a precept inculcated with great frequency in the command to pray. As a positive command, its fulfillment is always obligatory, but not at each moment. It is difficult to indicate the exact times when one is obliged to make such an act. Theologians agree that it obliges at the beginning of the fully conscious moral life and at the end of life and also at different times during the course of life (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 2021). It is necessary on certain specific occasions because of other precepts that cannot be fulfilled without it, such as the precept to pray, to receive the Sacraments, and to resist serious temptation against hope.
There is a negative precept forbidding acts directly opposed to hope, such as acts of despair and presumption. As negative, this precept obliges always and at every moment. It is less explicitly formulated in the Scriptures, its distinct mention being less necessary. The equivalent is contained in the positive precept regarding the act of hope: he who commands one to hope forbids one to despair or to presume.
Bibliography: r. bultmann and k. h. rengstorf, in g. kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich. 1964—) 2:515–531. j. van der ploeg, "L'Espérance dans l'A.T.," Revue biblique 61 (1954) 481–507. w. grossouw, "L'Espérance dans le N.T.," ibid. 508–532. j. m. bover, "La esperanza en la Epístola a los Hebreos," Gregorianum 19 (1938) 110–120. t. de orbiso, "Los motivos de la esperanza cristiana, según San Pablo," Estudios biblicos 4 (1945) 61–85, 197–210. f. ortiz de urtaran, "Esperanza y caridad en el N.T.," Scriptorium Victorense 1 (1954) 1–50. c. spicq, La Révélation de l'espérance dans le N.T. (Paris 1931). l. fedele, "La speranza cristiana nelle lettere di San Paolo," Studi di scienze ecclesiastiche 1 (1960) 19–68. s. pinkaers, "L'Espérance dans l'A.T. est-elle la même que la nôtre?" Nouvelle revue théologique 77 (1955) 685–799; "Les Origines de la définition de l'Espérance dans les Sentences de Pierre Lombard," Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 22 (1955) 306–312; "La Nature vertueuse de l'Espérance," Revue thomiste 58 (1958) 405–442, 623–644; "Peut-on espérer pour les autres," Mélanges de science religieuse 16 (1959) 31–46. c. zimara, Das Wesen der Hoffnung in Nature und Übernatur (Paderborn 1933). j. pieper, Über die Hoffnung (4th ed. Munich 1949). b. olivier, "Hope," The Virtues and States of Life, ed. a.m. henry (Theology Library 4; Chicago 1957) 63–125. a. m. carrÉ, Hope Or Despair, tr. r. hague (New York 1955). p. charles, "Spes Christi," Nouvelle revue théologique 61 (1934) 1008–21; 64 (1937) 1057–75. p. delhaye and j. boulange, Espérance et vie chrétienne (Tournai 1958), v. 3 of Rencontre de Dieu et de l'homme. s. harent, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 5.1:605–676. p. latin entralgo, La espera y la esperanza (Madrid 1956). g. marcel, Homo Viator: Introduction to a Metaphysic of Hope, tr. e. craufurd (Chicago 1951). l. b. gillon, "Certitude de notre Espérance," Revue thomiste 45 (1939) 232–248. j. m. ramirez, De certitudine spei christianae (Salamanca 1939); De spei christianae fideique divinae mutua dependentia (Fribourg 1940); La esencia de la esperenza cristiana (Madrid 1960). c. a. bernard, Théologie de l'Espérance selon saint Thomas d'Aquin (Paris 1961).
[s. m. ramirez]
In an ancient Greek myth, Zeus was irate at humans for having stolen fire from the gods. In the spirit of revenge, he fashioned a young maiden named Pandora and, using reverse psychology, sent her to earth with a dowry chest, with the crucial instruction not to open it. Of course, her curiosity got the best of her, and she opened the lid. Out came a plague of evil forces. Panicked at what she had unleashed, Pandora tried to close the chest, only to find that hope was stuck on the lid. Hope could overcome the evil forces unleashed. Thus hope came into the world.
A young couple stood at the graveside of their two twin daughters, born prematurely, as a circle of family and friends sang the hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light, Amid the Encircling Gloom.” Having their precious daughters buried near their great grandparents in a historic cemetery brought them comfort and hope in the face of perinatal loss (Callister 2006). Hopefulness in such situations is a personal, comforting, and life-sustaining belief that even in difficult times, life has meaning. Hope is also a belief that something favorable can happen for oneself or others in the future. P. S. Hinds (1984) defined hope as the human characteristic that allows an individual, irrespective of age, to transcend disappointments, pursue goals, and diminish the sense of the future as unbearable or futile. Hope is a force contributing to a person’s will to live (Cousins 1989).
Detractors to hope exist. It is postulated that inside every person there is a spirit of hopefulness that can be influenced negatively or positively by others. Suffering and feeling alone or unappreciated, along with unaddressed spiritual needs, are some of the challenges to being hopeful.
James Averill and his associates (1990) asked people to describe circumstances in which they thought hope would be important. Responders described periods when they perceived some degree of personal control over their lives, and times when their life goals were important, had a reasonable chance of being reached, and were socially and morally acceptable.
Strategies that contribute to the strengthening of hope include believing in oneself, trusting in the good intentions of others, and feeling close to another person. For many people, faith and religious beliefs also contribute to hopefulness. Hope is vital for those who have been diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening, or terminal illness, as well as for their families. Those who lack hope find no meaning in life or find it difficult to persevere in troubling times. They may lack or lose a sense of well-being, and doubt the possibility of favorable outcomes. The components of hope include “positive thinking or optimism, reality-based and future oriented goals, positive future for self or others, and positive support systems” (Hendricks-Ferguson 1997, p. 76). Hope is essential to negotiating difficult life challenges. Knowing that others have hope for positive outcomes can foster hope in individuals.
On the other hand, hope may be perceived by others as evidence that individuals and families are unrealistically positive. Thus, hope may become simply “magic” when one has a wishful expectation that everything will “turn out all right” based on luck, fate, or the intervention of a higher power. Still, hope can be fostered by reflecting on positive outcomes and by formulating potential goals. Hope thus becomes realistic as one recognizes the existence of limitations or conditions.
Multiple tools have been developed to measure hope, including the adult hope scale developed by C. R. Snyder and colleagues (1991). Eight items are ranked on an eight-point Likert scale from “definitely false” to “definitely true,” with four agency items such as “I energetically pursue my goals.” The higher the score, the higher the level of overall hope. A similar children’s hope scale has also been developed.
Hope has been studied across the lifespan. Kaye Herth (1998) used interviews and drawings to study sixty homeless children who had lived through multiple losses. Themes included connectedness, internal resources, cognitive strategies, energy, and hope objects. The children used symbols in their drawings, most often trees or rainbows, which for them symbolized hope. As one homeless adolescent wrote, “a young tree is very fragile and in need of just the right amount of water and sunlight to grow; hope at first is very fragile but flourishes with care” (Herth 1998, p. 1057). Many of the children drew pictures of houses, with open doorways and flowers and favorite toys, indicating a longing to have a “real home.” One child who drew a sad face explained, “sometimes you have to be sad before you can smile again” (Herth 1998, p. 1058). The adolescents shared stories of significant losses but demonstrated inner strength that sustained their hope. One favorite book at the shelter was The Little Engine that Could, with the hopeful refrain, “I think I can, I think I can.”
Adela Yarcheski and associates (1994) studied ninetynine high school students, finding statistically significant positive correlations between perceived hopefulness and social support, as well as hopefulness and general well-being. Hopefulness was fostered through social interaction, mutuality, attachment, intimacy, affirmation, encouragement, and a nurturing environment. Hopefulness in adolescents with cancer has also been studied and has been linked with improved quality of life and better health even in the face of chronic or terminal illnesses (Hendricks-Ferguson 1997).
Hope is experienced differently by those who are chronically ill than by those who are healthy. Dal Sook Kim and associates (2006) studied hope in chronically ill hospitalized patients and identified five life orientations related to hope:
- Externalism orientation—hope based on reliance on family, friends, or God.
- Pragmatic orientation—hope in the ability to accomplish small things in life.
- Reality orientation—hope manifested by realistically enjoying that which can be.
- Future orientation—hope focused on positive possibilities that may exist in the future, which may include a strong reliance on a higher power; for example, a person may say, “I feel hope in my faith in God” or “I feel hope when I realize that I am in God’s hands.”
- Internal orientation—hope oriented toward the self.
J. M. Morse and B. Doberneck (1995) studied patterns of hope exhibited in a variety of people undergoing different life experiences. Their subjects included breast cancer survivors, individuals waiting for heart transplants, unemployed mothers, and persons with spinal cord injuries. The presence and function of hope has also been studied in people with acute spinal cord injuries (Lohne and Severinsson 2004) and adults undergoing bone marrow transplants for leukemia (Ersek 1992). In Mary Ersek’s study, factors associated with hope included “feelings of powerfulness or control, meaning or purpose in life, adequate social support, and positive self esteem” (1992, p. 883). Ersek identified the structure of hopefulness as:
- Appraising the illness in a nonthreatening manner (seeing it as a positive event).
- Cognitively managing the illness experience (including the practice of joking).
- Managing emotional responses to the illness.
- Managing a sense of control (either maintaining or relinquishing control).
- Taking a stance toward illness and treatment (fighting the illness or accepting it).
- Managing the uncertainty (minimizing or maximizing the uncertainty).
- Focusing on the future (living from day to day or focusing on the long term).
- Viewing the self in relation to the illness (minimizing the illness and maximizing personal strengths).
Further research is needed to increase our understanding of hope, including how to mediate the variables and strategies that enhance hope in individuals across the lifespan. Many experts assume that sources of hope include support from family and significant others, as well as spiritual beliefs (Hendricks-Ferguson 1997). How these sources of hope make a difference merits further inquiry.
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Hendricks-Ferguson, Verna L. 1997. An Analysis of the Concept of Hope in the Adolescent with Cancer. Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing 14 (2): 73–80.
Herth, Kaye. 1998. Hope as Seen through the Eyes of Homeless Children. Journal of Advanced Nursing 28 (5): 1053–1062.
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Yarcheski, Adela, Mary Ann Scoloveno, and Noreen Mahon. 1994. Social Support and Well-being in Adolescents: The Mediating Role of Hopefulness. Nursing Research 43 (5): 288–292.
Lynn Clark Callister
HOPE . If we define religion as the systematic expression of the interplay between traditional faith and transforming hope, then hope is of the essence of religion. It is the impetus of religious renewal, as fear is often behind hardening tradition. Priestly conceptions of religion may accentuate the equation of religion with tradition and the past. Prophetic calls for renewal also may emphasize a return to pristine purity. But each major tradition posits a future leader who focuses the hope arising from past faith. Jewish traditions speak of a messiah, Islam of a hidden imam. Christians look for the second coming of Christ. Buddhists speak of Maitreya (Jpn., Miroku) as the Buddha to come, and Hindus of Vaiṣṇava orientation look for another avatar of Viṣṇu. The hope is for a final realization of what is now only anticipated, in continuity with the patterns of devotion fostered by the central figure or founder of the present community.
Until modern times, the emphasis tended to be on reform rather than renewal. Myths of ending were shaped by myths of beginnings. The biblical motif of a return to paradise lost is a case in point. The conception of the new as better comes in European thought with the inversion of the chain of being, the change from classical, hierarchical conceptions of emanation (typically beginning with the spiritual and settling into the material) to contemporary, developmental conceptions of evolution and revolution (beginning with the inorganic and culminating in consciousness). Whether retrospective or prospective, religious thought, to be religious, must be characterized by the hope that present vicissitudes will be overcome, that faith will be vindicated, and that the group, if not the individual, will realize a joy or bliss of which we now experience only passing intimations. Even those who conceive of eternity as timeless and ever present acknowledge that this realization of bliss remains, for most, a future possibility on the horizon of daily living. However conceptualized, the fact of such hope for the future often makes devotees ready to become martyrs to their cause.
Religious hope is necessarily transforming because of the focus in religion on ways of liberation or salvation, often expressed in terms of a movement from death to full life, error to right knowledge, disease to perfect health, despair to assurance of ultimate satisfaction. Patterns of transformation, or ways to realization of a religious end, were classically conceived in terms of refinement, renunciation, reintegration or resurrection and, more recently, in terms of revolution and reconstruction. Each pattern is generated by different concepts of self and of ultimate reality, although different traditions embody features of more than one means of transformation; as, for instance, in monastic Christian ideas of paradise, where Hebrew visions of restoration or resurrection melded with Hellenistic versions of renunciation.
Refinement is typically of the cultured or cultivated self in repudiation of barbaric, chaotic elements presently disrupting society. The ideal is of the sage, as exemplified in China by Confucius and taken up in the Enlightenment strand of modern Western thought by such thinkers as Voltaire and John Dewey. Renunciation is of material things for spiritual value, or of the demands of the body for the sake of the soul, as in the case of Socrates or the story of Gautama the Buddha. Reintegration is of the whole self as microcosm with the harmonies of earth and heaven as macrocosm, as articulated in the Daoist literature of China and the psychology of C. G. Jung. Restoration may be of the faithful people, as in Israel under King David. But restoration in its Christian pattern, resurrection, is of the individual and corporate self, both body and spirit, re-created by God within a whole new order of being, identified in medieval times with heaven but biblically imaged, especially in the Book of Revelation, as both a new heaven and a new earth. Modern transformations may be described as reconstruction, when the emphasis is on the mechanistic thrust of science and technology, notably through medicine, where it is the material order which is renewed. Or we may speak of revolution, partly technological (as in the industrial revolution or the contemporary movement for women's liberation, insofar as this relates to childbearing and housework) but primarily political and economic, as in the call for collective renewal by Marx and Mao.
As already noted, the different ways of transformation may be blended with each other. The story of Socrates includes motifs of refinement and renunciation. Christian ascetics link renunciation with resurrection, while modern theologies of liberation link resurrection with revolution. Relevant for our topic is the fact that the grounds for hope vary according to the way in question. Resurrection presupposes the reality of transcendent divine power, which can create out of nothing. Revolution comes through human action, whether in solidarity with a wholly human collective or in communion with God. Reintegration affirms the forces of nature in all of us. Thus, religious hope hinges on different conceptions of ultimate transformation—theistic, humanistic, and/or naturalistic—and is not necessarily tied to a particular belief in the existence of a supernatural agent or god. Where classical myths portray gods and goddesses as immortals, modern stories revolve around heroes and antiheroes. What gives each story religious significance is the hope of ultimate transformation, not the reference to god as such.
The subject of transformation is the self; but by self may be meant just a part or principle of life as we first experience it. As mentioned, ways of renunciation deny the physical body but affirm the continuity of a spiritual self. In the extreme case of Buddhism, both mind and matter are identified with the present cycle of miserable existences (saṃsāra), and what is affirmed is a principle (the Buddha nature, which has realized nirvāṇa ). Reintegration is of the whole self, body and mind, with the present cosmos. By contrast, resurrection entails the gift of a new body and an individuating spirit in a new world (whereas immortality implies a true spiritual self, or soul, now trapped in the body and only really at home in a supernatural realm). Both resurrection in the religion of Israel and revolution in modern times emphasize the community, of which a remnant is restored or gains the ideal condition aspired to by all. In tribal this-worldly traditions, hope for the future is focused on the children and succeeding generations as they return to the ways of their ancestors (a variant on refinement, especially in the ancestral cult called Confucianism by Western scholars). Thus, who and what is hoped for varies, according to conceptions of selfhood and the nature of ultimate reality.
Again, while a common religious hope may be for life after death, this is not necessarily the case. If the sense of self is of an individual or of a pattern of characteristics transmigrating through a possible infinite series of bodies, then the expectation of life after death may instill fear, not inspire hope. The Buddhist doctrine of no self (Sanskrit, anātman; Pali, anatta ) was developed in just such a context. Even when life is thought to be singular, not cyclical, the expectation of an afterlife may be fearful if the prospect is of a ghostly loss of place or of torment in hell. Traditional notions of purgatory arose to meet this fear and to give grounds for hope to those who despaired of immediate entry to heaven.
The scope of renewal may be temporary or permanent, partial, individual, communal or cosmic. Renunciation is for the sake of permanent renewal of the spiritual self or permanent realization of nirvāṇa. Reintegration presupposes a permanent process on the cosmic scale, but individual integration within this process may be temporary and partial. Resurrection, in classical Christian and Muslim eschatologies, is of the whole individual with the whole people of God, involving permanent enjoyment of God's enlivening presence for the faithful and perpetual punishment for the faithless. The vision of a new heaven and a new earth includes the whole created order within the compass of the promised renewal. The emphasis falls on faith because it is what God does for humankind, and not unaided human effort, that carries the promise of salvation. By comparison, refinement and revolution are primarily humanistic ways that include the rest of nature only as the setting for human fulfillment.
Reconstruction presupposes the permanence of nature and, through applied science, makes this increasingly available to human beings: for instance, through computerized memory banks, artificial limbs and hearts, and artificial insemination (where hope is concentrated on survival through one's children). In principle, such hope is available to all, but in practice, access is limited to the affluent. Science fiction often illustrates how the current limitations on reconstruction may be overcome, at least in our imagination. In general, it seems fair to say that the dominant global cultures, including their religious systems, are increasingly universal in scope and are expanding the range of human expectations from tribal lands to the whole earth, from the earth to the universe, and from the known universe to all possible galaxies and states beyond the terrestrial.
Symbols of hope reflect the blending of traditions and motifs of transformation. In Buddhism, the tree reflects the rootedness of perfect enlightenment conquering ignorance. The tree of life in images of paradise reflects the garden setting for creation in Mesopotamian cultures. Daoist Chinese images include bowls of life-enhancing fruit. By contrast, the cross of Jesus provides a reverse image for Christians, linking the tree of life to the historical paradigm of suffering and atonement. The evergreen tree in northern climes, combined with images of mother and child, is a Christian example of conflated symbols, whose meaning varies according to the story told. The Buddhist wheel, by contrast, can suggest both abhorrence of the cycles of existence and the teaching that reverses the patterns of alienation. The lotus is a reminder that beauty arises even out of the mud.
Symbols are especially important in expressions of hope because hope is always for what is possible but not yet fully realized. As already noted, the sense of ultimate reality shapes the horizon of hope. Symbols of journeys and arrival at the far shore suggest both present separation and eventual satisfaction. Where this world is all there is, hope through children or through lasting achievements dominates, and hope is linked to memory. Where all possibilities seem closed off, despair sets in. We owe to Søren Kierkegaard the definitive contrast, expressed in modern literature, between despair of ever realizing the authentic self and despair caused by realizing what the self has become. Since Plato, Western religious thought has emphasized being as the ideal end of becoming. Asian thought, by comparison, has often posited an ultimate emptiness of individuating features, such that despair more typically has been despair at continuing to be as one is.
Hope, as the obverse of despair, may be hope for oneself as individual or group, hope for one's world, or hope for the ultimate nature of things. As such, classical thought counted hope a virtue. In Chinese traditions, a world in disarray was evidence of the lack of virtue among earthly and heavenly rulers. The concept of the mandate of heaven for the virtuous gave reformers hope that order might be restored. On the Indian subcontinent, despair over the lack of virtue throughout the hierarchy of being led to expectations of periodic, cosmic cataclysms, followed by renewal. Echoes of this idea appear in biblical stories of Noah and the flood followed by the rainbow. In Christian thought, hope is a theological virtue, along with faith and love. According to Thomas Aquinas (Summa theologiae 18.104.22.168), hope is always for some future good that is difficult but possible to attain. There is no hope for the damned, while the blessed no longer need hope since they enjoy the direct vision of God. It is theological, since the gift of the possibility comes from God, and a virtue, since the gift may be refused.
With regard to hope for oneself, increasing differentiation in the evolution of modern culture has put more and more emphasis on the individual. To live for the reflected glory of an earthly or heavenly lord no longer appeals to those who would be rulers of their own destiny. In The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus carries this line of thought to its final point. In existential psychology, the importance of hope was most insisted on by Viktor Frankl. Drawing on his experience in the concentration camps of the 1930s and 1940s, he realized both that while there's life there's hope and that to go on living we must have hope.
Brandon, S. G. F. Man and His Destiny in the Great Religions. Manchester, U.K., 1962.
Eliade, Mircea. The Myth of the Eternal Return. New York, 1954.
Kierkegaard, Søren. The Concept of Dread. Princeton, 1957.
Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being. Cambridge, Mass., 1942.
Moltmann, Jürgen. Theology of Hope. New York, 1967.
Slater, Peter. The Dynamics of Religion. San Francisco, 1978.
Zimmer, Heinrich. Philosophies of India (1951). Edited by Joseph Campbell. Princeton, 1969.
Peter Slater (1987)
The word hope refers to a concept, emotion, attitude of mind, and object of expectation that is expressed in different ways in different cultures. Its meaning develops in association with other notions, as in the cluster of faith, hope, and love. It may be focused on one central object—hope in God, or much less definite—sometimes people may half-hope for things. Such reflection is a human activity; rabbits do not reflect much on what they will do when they retire.
In order to survey the shape of hope an element of systematization is necessary. This will be invariably selective. Surveys of the Christian doctrine of hope have to try to avoid finding harmony in a tradition where there are significant elements of dissonance. There is a risk of assimilating too easily notions of hope in non-Christian sources with Christian paradigms. Linguistic usage, even in distinctive discourses, is rarely monolithic. Generalizations about the Greek view of hope, or whatever, are liable to be limited in their usefulness, and may easily obscure the balance of overlap and diversity in particular usage.
Reflections on hope
With these reservations, the tradition of theological reflection on hope may be instructive. Reflection upon possible futures, in optimistic anticipation, in trepidation, in trust, in resignation, does not always occur in a religious context. But it is an activity described and assessed as centrally important in major world religions. God is the source and the object of hope, of a positive future for the created order. Prophets are seen as sources of hope. Their return in various forms is anticipated as the expected fulfilment of hope. Transformation of the present world order, of the religious community, and of the self, as a physical or spiritual entity or both, as part of this process, is the content of hope. How this transformation is to be achieved is differently envisaged, from the cave paintings of Neolithic times to modern images of virtual reality. Hope is the antidote to despair, a widespread and damaging aspect of human life. The transformation may be encouraged by appropriately empathic human activity, from human sacrifice to psychotherapy.
The ancient Mediterranean world produced a huge variety of reflection on hope, sacred and secular, from the Greek poet Pindar (c. 520–438 b.c.e.) to Roman statesman and orator Cicero (106–43 b.c.e.) and beyond through the Church Fathers. These variations were accessibly documented by Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) in his standard article on hope in Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, which emphasized the different usages, and in Geoffrey Lampe's A Patristic Greek Lexicon (1961). Drawing on an early monograph by Hans Georg Gadamer (1900–2002), Bultmann illustrated from Plato the twin aspects of objective hope and subjective expectation in human reflection on existence, reflection that is essential to give people something to live for. Hope is associated with love, for it is drawn towards the good and the beautiful. In a religious context, as in the Mysteries, hope may be sustained by the promise of eternal life. Plato was aware that hope may be dangerous and deceptive. Hence perhaps the turn by the Stoic philosophers to an avoidance of hope—if one does not hope for too much, one will not suffer disappointment.
Hope in the Hebrew Bible and, following this tradition, in the New Testament is centered upon God and the promise of God for the future of the people of God. In the Psalms a secure hope is based on God; any other basis is a false security. In the New Testament, especially in the Pauline writings, there is patient trust in God, in the expectation of the unfolding of God's future. In 1 Corinthians 13 hope is bound up with faith and love. The resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes the cornerstone of hope. The New Testament is everywhere colored by the overarching hope in eschatological expectation of the coming of the Kingdom. This foundation of hope on the presence of God—past, present, and to come—is taken up in the Fathers and in the theologies of the medieval, Reformation, and modern periods, reshaped according to the cultural imagination of the period (classically in the tradition of the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love). Augustine of Hippo (354–430 c.e.) reflects the dialectic between hope and memory. For Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), hope is not simply the fruit of experience but hope in God is a learned habit of will. Not to hope is sinful. Martin Luther (1483–1546) and John Calvin (1509–1564) both interpret the gospel as promise, though this promise is of course firmly based on past and present action by God.
Notions of eschatological hope tended to be replaced in modern Western thought by ideas of progress and evolution. There is a unique amalgam of eschatological hope, apocalyptic imagery, and Enlightenment progress in Karl Marx (1818–1883) whose work was classically taken up by the mid-twentieth century philosopher Ernst Bloch in his massive The Principle of Hope (1952–1959). Bloch in turn famously inspired Jürgen Moltmann to write his Theology of Hope (1964), which sparked off a rediscovery of the importance of hope and a reorientation towards the future in theology. The turn to eschatology, and the thought of the determination of the present by the future, continues to be developed by Wolfhart Pannenberg and others.
For Luther hope was basically individual hope. Moltmann stressed the social and political dimensions, providing an important stimulus for a theology of liberation or emancipation, and for a new turn to the future as a focus for theology. This continues to be developed as a liberation of the oppressed through the freedom of the gospel, and through black, gay, feminist, and other theologies. A theology of the Holy Spirit understands the future as a future of Christlikeness.
Science and the theology of hope
What does theology of hope have to do with the dialogue between science and religion? Hope has objective as well as subjective dimensions. The future of the physical universe is certainly relevant to one strand of the complex thread of Christian hope. Exploration of divine action in relation to human life, through the natural sciences from cosmology to neuroscience, is seminal to grounds for hope. Hope is more than wishful thinking or blind optimism despite unpleasant facts. It is the hope of love, of corporate participation in the life of God.
A great deal of Christian theology has been devoted to engagement with the past and with the sense of tradition. Doctrines of creation have been especially past-oriented. Faith believes that the future of tradition may be much longer, and much more exciting, than its past. Creation points forward to new creation, to the unfolding of the divine purpose for the cosmos. Here the concept of hope is central. The future is not to be feared, for it is God's future. This is in turn a challenge to be open to new ideas and ready to revise existing paradigms. Hope suggests humility in the face of an unfolding mystery, an openness to surprise, and willingness to accept risk. Hope rests on the past fulfilment of God's promise for humanity and is resolved to look forward with confidence.
See also Eschatology; Holy Spirit; Liberation; Liberation Theology; Plato; Progress; Thomas Aquinas
bloch, ernest. the principle of hope (1952-1959), trans.neville plaice, stephen plaice, and paul knight. cambridge, mass.: mit press, 1995.
bultmann, rudolf. "hope." in theological dictionary of the new testament, ed. gerhard kittel, trans. geoffrey w. bromiley. grand rapids, mich.: eerdmans, 1967.
kittel, gerhard, ed. theological dictionary of the new testament, trans. geoffret w. bromiley. grand rapids, mich.: eerdmans, 1964–1976 .
moltmann, jürgen. theology of hope: on the ground and the implications of a christian eschatology. london: scm press, 1964.
newlands, george. generosity and the christian future. london: spck, 1997.
watts, fraser. "subjective and objective hope." in the end of the world and the ends of god: science and theology on eschatology, eds. john polkinghorne and michael welker. philadelphia, pa.: trinity press international, 2000.
hope / hōp/ • n. 1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen: he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information | I had high hopes of making the Olympic team. ∎ a person or thing that may help or save someone: their only hope is surgery. ∎ grounds for believing that something good may happen: he does see some hope for the future. 2. archaic a feeling of trust.• v. [intr.] want something to happen or be the case: he's hoping for an offer of compensation | I hope that the kids are OK. ∎ intend if possible to do something: we're hoping to address all these issues.PHRASES: hope against hope cling to a mere possibility: they were hoping against hope that he would find a way out.hope for the best hope for a favorable outcome.in hopes of with the aim of: I lay on a towel in the park in hopes of getting a tan.in hopes that hoping that: they are screaming in hopes that a police launch will pick us up.not a hope inf. no chance at all.DERIVATIVES: hop·er n.
334. Hope (See also Optimism.)
- anchor emblem of optimism; steadfastly secured the soul in adversity. [N.T.: Hebrews, 6:18–19]
- cinquefoil traditional representation of hope. [Flower Symbol-ism and Heraldry: Jobes, 341]
- Emigrants, The shows Norwegians in Dakota wheatlands striving for better life. [Nor. Lit.: The Emigrants, Magill I, 244–246]
- flowering almond symbol of spring; blooms in winter. [Flower Symbolism: Jobes, 71]
- Great Pumpkin, the awaited each Halloween by Linus. [Comics: “Peanuts” in Home, 542]
- hawthorn symbol of optimism. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 174; Kunz, 328]
- Iceman Cometh, The “The lie of the pipe dream is what gives life.” [Am. Lit.: The Iceman Cometh ]
- Of Mice and Men portrays a philosophy that humans are made of hopes and dreams. [Am. Lit.: Of Mice and Men ]
- rainbow God’s assurance He would not send another great flood. [O.T.: Genesis, 9:12–16]
- snowdrop symbol of optimism. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 177; Kunz, 326]
Hopelessness (See DESPAIR .)
hope deferred makes the heart sick proverbial saying, late 14 century, originally with biblical allusion; the implication is that it is worse to have had one's hopes raised and then dashed, than to have been resigned to not having something.
hope for the best and prepare for the worst proverbial saying, mid 16th century, recommending a balance between optimism and realism.
hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper while it is pleasant to begin something in a hopeful mood, the hopes need to have been fulfilled by the time it ends. The saying is recorded from the mid 17th century.
hope springs eternal a view that human nature is instinctively optimistic; this proverbial saying of the mid 18th century derives from Alexander Pope's Essay on Man (1733), ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never Is, but always To be blest.’
if it were not for hope, the heart would break hope wards of complete despair; proverbial saying, mid 13th century.
See also abandon hope, while there's life there's hope, he that lives in hope.
Hope ★★½ 1997
Thirteen-year-old Lily Kate Burns (Malone) is living in the small southern town of Hope in 1962. Her mother's had a severe stroke and the only family she has to turn to are racist Uncle Ray (Walsh) and fragile Aunt Emma (Lahti). Amidst the town's segregation and fears about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Lily Kate is also more open to befriending new town residents than her elders, including visiting black preacher Jediah (Sams). Hawn's directorial debut. 100m/C VHS . Mary Ellen Trainor, Christine Lahti, Jena Malone, J.T. Walsh, Jeffrey D. Sams, Catherine O'Hara; D: Goldie Hawn; W: Kerry Kennedy. CABLE
Also hope vb. Late OE. hopian = (M)Du. hopen. of unkn. orig.