An inscription over the gates of Dante’s Hell, we are told, reads: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” As Dante is guided through Hell by the poet Virgil, he finds dozens and dozens of people who live forever without hope. Several times he feels sorry for the sinners but he is admonished by Virgil. After all, who is he to second guess God who, in His infinite wisdom, placed those sinners where they are? The New Testament tells us that there are three great virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love. The greatest of these is love and Dante finds very little of it in hell. Indeed, at the frozen core of hell he finds those who are incapable of love, whose hearts were frozen long before they died. The medieval thinkers married those three Christian virtues to the four pagan virtues wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. These seven comprise the cardinal virtues of the medieval church, virtues that are all but forgotten today in our work-a-day world. But permeating through Dante’s Hell is the sense of lost hope. It is dreadful, indeed.

We here in Minnesota know about hope. Those of us who follow our sports teams live on hope, hope that next year they will achieve the Great Prize that almost always eludes them, and hoping we can forget last year’s disappointments. “Hope springs eternal.” For my part I hope that the world will be a brighter place for my grandchildren than in my darkest moments I fully expect it to be. I know in my heart that my generation is not leaving the world a better place than we found it — as we most assuredly should. I continue to hope that somehow the world will find itself at peace and that those who profess love for one another — as the New Testament admonishes us all to do — will in fact embrace this code fully and not merely pay lip service to those wise words. And, on a very mundane level, I hope that this twisted and convoluted political battle we see going on around us will somehow resolve itself without further violence and that a man or a woman with a grain of wisdom will finally be placed at the head of a fragile government that needs wisdom now more than ever.

I do hope for these things because without hope there is only cynicism and, while I tend in that direction, I refuse to allow myself to go there, because I know that to abandon all hope is to be living in Hell. The greatest virtue is of course love, but right behind it, surely, we find hope abiding.




9 thoughts on “Hope

  1. A wise and thoughtful Easter homily Hugh. Thankyou for that. I wish you a happy Easter, and like you, hope abides in my heart that the world will be a better place for our children and grandchildren.

  2. Hugh, we should always keep that glimmer of hope alive. With a 24×7 news cycle, candidates running for office at all times and zero-sum game politics, things are portrayed far worse than they are. Fear sells, so fear is exaggerated by those who have little else to peddle. Yes, we have things to address – climate change, water issues, social injustice, terrorism, corruption and deficit/debt – but the many good things that happen do not get reported as much. So, I am skeptical like you are, but I may have left my hopeful flame turned up a little higher on the gas stove. Best wishes, Keith

  3. I bear in mind the image of a three-headed Donald Trump. Each head is hurling invectives at a particular political opponent, namely Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. As each opponent tries to mount an attack against the trumpeting torrent of insults hurled at them, they are diminished by their own efforts. All four are sinking into an abyss filled with the writhing Invectives that have achieved a life of their own and which devour all these candidates as they sink into a morass of their own design.

    The image gives me hope.

    • BTW: I can’t help but to add a paraphrase of Dante by Edwin Newman, journalist and author, who had posted above his office door a sign that read, “Abandon Hopefully All Ye Who Enter Here,” thus revealing to all both his literary and grammatical inclinations. I respect and admire both.

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