Being a person today naturally means having hopes for tomorrow. We might hope for healing and comfort for ourselves or others. We might hope for an end to injustice, violence, and suffering. We might hope that tomorrow is a little better than today. Especially when today is a time of crisis and anxiety, hoping for a better tomorrow seems perfectly reasonable. As Christians, though, our hope is in something more, or, looking at it in a different way, less.
Our contemplative tradition teaches us that the purest way of knowing God is through “unknowing.” Unknowing means letting go of our attachment to thoughts and feelings, as well as attachment to memories of the past and anticipations of the future. When we “unknow” all things, we rely only on God, coming to rest in the Divine Nothingness of God’s eternal Presence where we find God’s Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
Saint John of the Cross was referring to this contemplative unknowing when he wrote of living in perfect and pure hope. He suggested that we should learn to turn from our worries, distractions, and preoccupations, and, in the emptiness of everything rememberable, turn toward God’s love. Unlike our other hopes for particular outcomes and for a better tomorrow, this hope is pure because it rests only on the mystery of God present in each moment, right now.
John Sanford in his book The Kingdom Within writes that “This hope is not that this world will one day be a perfect world, but that there is a reality, a Divine Order, beyond what is immediately visible to us in this world.” The ancient desert monastics spoke of a “spiritual intellect” by which we sense this Divine Reality, God’s Presence within and among us. They described a path by which we know God’s Presence with a combination of radical acceptance of God’s will and a confident expectation of God’s love.
This pure hope may sound too good to be true, but that’s only when we measure hope by human standards. This pure hope may sound naïve, but in truth it’s the second naiveté of unknowing. The pure hope of resting in the eternal Nothingness of God’s Presence doesn’t imply that “worldly” hope, like hoping for an end to injustice, ceases to have relative importance. Instead, the pure hope of resting in God’s Presence provides the foundation from which we see ourselves and the world as God sees us, and from which we allow God’s will be done.
Our hope is in this pure hope of abiding in God’s Presence, and so recognizing the Beauty, Truth and Goodness all around us. We might pray, then, that if someone were to ask us “What do you hope for tomorrow?” we can answer from that place of pure hope, “That tomorrow be as beautiful as today.”
Peace and Be Well,
Br. Nicholas Bartoli