Pope Benedict XVI’s second Encyclical, “Spe Salvi” which is dedicated to the theme of Christian hope, was published on 30th November 2007, the Feast of St Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland. The document – which has an introduction and eight chapters – begins with a quote from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans: “spe salvi facti sumus” (in hope we are saved). Click here to download a copy of the encyclical.
The chapter titles are as follows: “1. Faith is Hope; 2. The concept of faith-based hope in the New Testament and the early Church; 3. Eternal life – what is it?; 4. Is Christian hope individualistic?; 5. The transformation of Christian faith-hope in the modern age; 6. The true shape of Christian hope; 7. ‘Settings’ for learning and practicing hope: i) Prayer as a school of hope, ii) Action and suffering as settings for learning hope, iii) Judgement as a setting for learning and practicing hope; 8. Mary, Star of Hope.”
The Holy Father explains in his Introduction that “according to the Christian faith, ‘redemption’ – salvation – is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”
Hence, “a distinguishing mark of Christians” is “the fact that they have a future: … they know … that their life will not end in emptiness. … The Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known – it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.”
“To come to know God – the true God – means to receive hope.” This was well understood by the early Christians, such as the Ephesians who before encountering Christ had many gods but “were without hope.” The problem faced by Christians of long standing, the Holy Father says, is that they “have grown accustomed to, … have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God.”