신앙과 교리

Home > 신앙과 교리 > 미사강론

제목 The Virture of Hope and Tower of Ivory(The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2023-05-19


The Virture of Hope and Tower of Ivory(The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus)

Introduction
We celebrate today the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus. We associate the virtue of Hope to the Ascension. Indeed we have the hope to go to Heaven with Our Lord if we follow His teaching on earth. 
Also, we are in the month of May which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, combining these two elements, I would like to speak about the virtue of Hope and the title “Tower of Ivory” which we give to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Situation of war
We are on earth in a situation of spiritual war. We must fight against our own concupiscence, that is to say our disordered thirst for pleasures. We must fight against the devils who work hard for our eternal damnation. We must resist against the world, that is to say all the people who by their teachings, words and examples scandalize us, and push us to forget about God and to look for our happiness in the goods and pleasures of this world. These enemies are always active. That is why we can never be fully at peace on earth, but on the contrary we have always some struggle and suffering to endure.

This being the situation, we need to be strengthened in order to resist against the assaults of the enemies, to get some comfort in our afflictions, to keep focusing on the eternal life and to keep confidence in the promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ to assist us. This special strength is given us by a special virtue: the virtue of Hope.

The virtue of Hope
Let us say a few words about the supernatural virtue of Hope. Through Revelation, God revealed to us who He is and also His invitation to us to share in His Divine happiness. But this Revelation of God is about supernatural realities; they are beyond the natural capacity of understanding of our intelligence. We cannot believe them without a special help of God. The special strengthening of our intelligence which God gives us to make us adhere fully and firmly to His Revelation is called the virtue of Faith. 

The fact to know that God invites us to share in His eternal happiness arouses in our hearts the desire to reach it. But can we realise this desire? Humanly speaking, we cannot. Indeed, God's life is radically different from ours and infinitely superior to ours. Humanly speaking, we do not have the means to reach eternal life; and consequently we have no will to make any effort to get it. The virtue of Faith helps us to know the supernatural realities, but does not help us to move towards them.

So, God comes to our help. He instituted supernatural means by which He makes us reach eternal life. These means are: Faith in Jesus Christ, prayer, the Sacraments, obedience to the Commandments of God and the Church, and performing works of charity. And God strengthens our will by giving us the absolute certitude that through these means, we will reach eternal life. This special strengthening of our will is called the virtue of Hope.

Vices against Hope
Two vices especially oppose to the virtue of Hope: presumption and despair. Presumption is when we claim to attain eternal life without using the supernatural means instituted by God. Perhaps one of the most striking examples of presumption is Protestantism. Protestantism rejects for example the Mass as the renewal of the sacrifice of the Cross, and also the Sacrament of Penance for the forgiveness of sins, the authority of the Catholic Church established by Our Lord Jesus Christ to teach all nations. But the Mass, Penance, obedience to the Catholic Church are necessary means to go to Heaven. By rejecting them, Protestants are presumptuous.

The contrary of presumption is despair. We despair when we no longer believe in the effectiveness of the means established by God to make us reach eternal happiness. For example, somebody who is addicted to the vice of lust is often subject to despair. Because of the difficulty of getting rid of such vice, he gets discouraged, stops fighting against temptations, stops taking the means to overcome them, and lets himself go to hell.

The Hope of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Let us now look at the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was chosen to be the Mother of God and was granted the greatest privileges possible to a creature. But she was never presumptuous. She never thought that, because of her privileges, she was dispensed of using the means established by God to make us reach Heaven. Our Lady believed in the Divinity of Her Son and always obeyed perfectly His teaching. What made Our Lady so faithful to Jesus’ teaching? Her virtue of Hope.

Similarly, Our Lady had to endure terrible trials and sorrows during her life on earth. But neither the flight to Egypt and the exile in that pagan country, nor the poverty of her life in Nazareth, nor the persecutions against Her Son Our lord Jesus, nor even Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion could make Her collapse or despair. She was standing at the foot of the Cross. What made Our Lady so strong in trials? Her virtue of Hope. It was the certitude that the forgiveness of sins was obtained through the Passion and the Sacrifice of the Cross; the certitude that an incommensurable glory was given to God through the work of Redemption; the certitude of the final victory of Christ although He seemed to be defeated by His enemies.

The title: Tower of Ivory
The virtue of Hope makes a soul able to bear any trial, to resist any assault of the enemies, without giving up, without despairing, without sinking into bitterness and sadness. We compare therefore the virtue of Hope to a tower built on the rock. So, when in the Litany of Loreto, we call Our Blessed Mother a “Tower”, we refer to her virtue of Hope. 

We call Our Lady “Tower of ivory”. Why “Ivory”? First, ivory is a precious material used for fine art, so it is a symbol of great beauty. Second, ivory is white, so it is a symbol of purity. Third, ivory is very hard, so it is a symbol of strength. Fourth, ivory is incorruptible, so it is a symbol of eternity. 

We call Our Lady “Tower of ivory” to mean the good fruits which the virtue of Hope produced in Our Lady’s soul. The virtue of Hope made Our Lady beautiful like ivory because it made her contemplate constantly God the source of all perfections. The virtue of Hope made Our Lady pure like ivory because it made her despise the goods of this world. The virtue of Hope made Our Lady strong like ivory because it made her endure the sufferings of coredemption without failing. The virtue of Hope made Our Lady incorruptible like ivory because it made her ultimately reach eternal life.

Conclusion:
To conclude this sermon, let me remind you of this story.
In 1683, a powerful Turkish and Muslim army invaded Europe to destroy Christendom. It surrounded the city of Vienna, capital of Austria, and started besieging it. If that city were overcome, the whole Christian Europe was to be the prey of the Muslim army. So, all the Christians started praying earnestly to the Mother of God for help and protection. Pope Innocent XI promised to institute a special feast in the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary if victory was granted over the Turks. The pious King of Poland, named Sobieski, managed to gather an army to fight the Turks. But his army was much smaller than theirs. All his hope of victory was in the help of the Blessed Virgin, Help of Christians. Before the battle, Sobieski had a Mass celebrated, and he himself served the Mass. After this, the battle was engaged against the Turks. And it turned to be a complete victory for the Christian army. The Turkish army was completely cut into pieces. Pope Innocent XI, faithful to his promise, established then the feast of the Holy Name of Mary as a commemoration of this incredible victory.

In this feast of the Ascension, let us remember that Our Lady is our Tower of Ivory, our best hope to reach Heaven. Let us always take refuge in Her in all our difficulties. With Her, we will never fall into presumption nor into despair, but we will go through this life and enter the next one, to be happy with Her for ever.

Fr. Etienne Demornex