In his comment earlier today, Liam commended the Act of Hope. It’s certainly a prayer for any time, but in connection with Lent, reconciliation, and the saving grace of Jesus, it may be particularly appropriate now:
O my God,
relying on your infinite mercy and promises,
I hope to obtain pardon of my sins,
the help of your grace,
and life everlasting,
through the merits of Jesus Christ,
my Lord and Redeemer.
When I began my Catholic journey in sixth grade in 1969, I remember a plethora of “acts.” My young pagan mind didn’t differentiate much between them. I certainly knew what “contrition” and “hope” and “faith” were. I knew what an “act” was, even in context of prayer.
When I “rediscovered” this prayer some years ago, it quickly became a “new” favorite. As I look at it today, my eye is drawn to two words, promises and merits.
For some people, promises are a hard thing. People break promises. People we love do not keep to their word. And once that pattern is established, how can a human body react to the promises (Jer 29:11-14, etc.) of God?
The only thing I can suggest is openness to the experience of God in the world. Can we trust the sun will rise? Can we trust the natural vista on the next trail break? Can we trust an outbreak of cheer or joy in a child? Can we begin to look for these in our own lives?
And what drives our salvation? The merits of Jesus, according to this prayer. What are these? The big picture would be the Paschal Mystery, his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. But small things also reveal the merit of our Lord. He accompanies us. He touches us at opportune moments. He whispers in our ear. He nudges us to a better path.
Are these small things to be found in the physical universe? Perhaps. But they are also geared to the senses of the heart. Human beings are made to attend to the quiet moments when a suggestion tickles our mind and heart. Lent is designed for greater attention to these.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
“Classically”, whatever that is supposed to convey, it seems that the running assumption is that Faith precedes Hope and then Love.
I am not so sure. I can imagine it is frequently, maybe even often, the case, for souls. But I question if it’s necessarily and always the case. I will repeat some things here I’ve bleated about before, but pray indulge me if you find it of any resonance.
To me, Hope is a disposition of opening our hearts and imaginations (mind/psyche/senses) to the presence of God. It’s the willingness to put any expectations about How God Works and How I Work to the side, in favor of what may well be present in the present moment if we just allowed ourselves to be with and allow it. It’s the impulse to reach out into the seemingly empty space that God’s silence or apparent absence may seem at first blush to us to be. It’s outward reaching.
So, for me, I realized that precedes Faith. I had a lot of that silence and apparent absence, for many years. I assumed a lot from that – and it’s taken decades to gradually release my grip on those assumptions (some let go sooner than others), and it’s not done.
When the late Sister Wendy Beckett was interviewed in connection with her 80th birthday, she shared something gobsmacking about her First Holy Communion as a child: how she was intensely anticipating how Jesus would talk with her. Which is not what happened. What happened was: silence. And…the grace-infused realization that that was how Jesus was present to her and us. For a child to be granted that grace and welcome it was a prodigious thing. It’s the gift of contemplation. Contemplation is not about silence: rather, it’s about accepting the presence of God as manifest in the moment. Even – sometimes especially – in “distractions”. “Distraction” is a word based on expectation, not Hope. Hope’s impulse is instead: OK, God, I’ll try to let you roll with me and I with you this way rather than the way I expected.
Hence the miracle of that last line from “Mariette in Ecstasy”, but with addresser and addressee reversed: “Surprise me!”
Lent, like Advent, is purpose-built for cultivating this disposition.