"Dear God in heaven, help him. Dear God in heaven, protect him" (Home pp 230-325)

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. 2 Pt 3:8-14

Faith, hope, and love. These three. We’re told that love is the greatest, and that it alone will abide. Even on this side of the eschaton, everyone has faith in something and everyone loves something. Hope, though: that one is difficult. How do we distinguish it from optimism? What can we hope in? Now, I’m no optimist. I’m always wary of talk of progress. The news of last few weeks should temper anyone’s optimism and make anyone question “progress.” Captive Israel can’t be ransomed again soon enough. But I try to remain full of hope. Rereading Home during Advent has helped.  In this space we’ve talked about faith and love, and our discussions have helped me realize that Home is a profound meditation on Christian hope.

It is worth comparing the end of Home with the end of Gilead. Thinking about hope in Home helped me recognize the importance of hope in Gilead. At the end of Gilead, you’ll remember, John Ames writes to his son,

To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this place is, as little regarded. I can’t help imagining that you will leave sooner or later, and it’s fine if you have done that, or  you mean to do it. This whole town does look like whatever hope  becomes after it begins to weary a little, then weary a little more. But hope deferred is still hope. I love this town. I think sometimes of going into the ground here as a last wild gesture of love — I too will smolder away the time until the great and general incandescence. (Gilead 247)

Perhaps Rev Ames was thinking of 2 Peter there. His hope is directed toward his son’s future. And the letters that make up the novel show that Ames has been careful to live in a way that gives a reason for his hope (1 Pt 3:15). Ames is well aware of his need for God’s grace.

Glory, however, hopes against hope. Unlike John Ames, who can see his son, and imagine his future, Glory is left as a 38 year-old schoolgirl. Her engagement did not end in marriage. She has no career. Her wayward brother has left her (again), and she has already begun to watch her senile father die. As she notes as she prepares a chicken for dinner. “This life on earth is a strange business” (253).After she imagines what the good people of Gilead will think of her when she meets them in town, we read,

That odd capacity for destitution, as if by nature we ought to have so much more than nature gives us. As if we are shockingly unclothed when we lack the complacencies of ordinary life. In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is   more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindness because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be, and how the soul could be put at ease, restored. At home. But the  soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all. 282

Maybe that’s where hope comes in. Without hope, Glory — and the rest of us — would be left in despair. In his Insttitutes, Calvin writes about the assurance that comes with hope.

But “assurance” I do not understand to mean that which soothes our mind with sweet and perfect repose, releasing it from every anxiety. For to repose so peacefully is the part of those who, when all affairs are flowing to their liking, are touched by no care, burn with no desire, toss with no fear. But for the saints the occassion that best stimulates them to call upon God is when, distressed by their own need, they are troubled by the greatest unrest, and are almost driven out of their sense, until faith opportunely comes to their relief. (Institutes 3.20.11)

Glory well recognizes her own need, and her hope comes with her eyes wide open to who she is and what she’s been given.

In my first post on Home, I mentioned teaching it during my first year at Villanova. The last day of our discussion of Home, which was also the last day of classes for my students, I finished the class by asking one of the students to read the last paragraph of the novel. I hope you don’t think it’s cheating if I end with that now. But before I do, let me set the context. Glory imagines a day when Jack’s son comes to visit his grandfather’s house. The tears in the eyes of the students that day and the break in the voice of young woman who read the passage aloud spoke to gratitude and hope in Glory’s words. You’ll notice, I hope, the simplicity and profundity of her thoughts. You’ll also notice their beauty, which is another way of saying the same thing.

And I will be almost old. I will see him standing in the road by the oak tree, and I will know him by his tall man’s slouch, the hands on the hips. I will invite him onto the porch and he will reply with something civil and Southern. “Yes, ma’am, I might could,” or whatever it is they say. And he will be very kind to me.  … Southerners are especially polite to older women. He will be curious about the place, though his curiosity will not override his good manners. He will talk to me a little while, too shy to tell me why he has come, and then he will thank me and leave, walking backward a few steps, thinking, This was my father’s house. And I will think, He is young. He cannot know that my whole life has come down to this moment.
That he has answered his father’s prayers.
The Lord is wonderful.

Scott D. Moringiello is an an assistant professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University, where he teaches courses in Catholic theology and religion and literature. He blogs at dotCommonweal.

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