The Theological Virtue of Hope – Part 1 of 2

Father Pegues continues his exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on the Theological Virtues (Summa Theologica II-II, 1-46) by discussing the virtue of hope.

He says that the effect of the theological virtue of hope is that “our will, relying on the help of God, is drawn towards Him revealed by faith, as towards the one who is to be some day our perfect happiness.”

He notes that “it is impossible to have the virtue of hope without faith which is its necessary basis, because only faith gives to hope its object and the motive upon which it relies.” The primary object of hope is “God Himself according as He is Himself His own happiness, and according as He deigns to give Himself to us one day in heaven to make us happy. Every true good can be the object of hope, provided it be subordinated to the principal object, which is God Himself.” Hope necessarily implies “virtuous and meritorious actions performed with God’s help that we may approach Him in the way that He desires, namely, that He might give Himself to us in heaven.”

Two sins against hope are presumption and despair. One who commits presumption counts on the future possession of God and holds that such is possible without preparing oneself by a life of supernatural virtue. One who commits despair thinks it impossible to practice a life of virtue and so gain happiness, and consequently, renounces a virtuous life and no longer seeks God’s help. “Man ought never to despair no matter how great his sins; for the mercy of God is so great and He is so good that He will always help him by His grace.”

The blessed in heaven “have no longer the virtue of hope since they possess God.” Nor do the lost in hell have hope, because “God, who is the object of hope, is separated from them for ever.” The souls in purgatory have hope, “but for them an act of hope is not quite the same as for the faithful on earth; for although they do not yet possess God they no longer have need of His grace to merit heaven since they are sure of heaven, all sin henceforth being impossible to them.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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