Let us begin, for example, with the
Symbol and the Lord's Prayer. What is shorter to hear or to read?
What is more easily memorized? Since through sin the humanrace stood
grievously burdened by great misery and in deep need of mercy, a
prophet, preaching of the time of God's grace, said, "And it shall
be that all who invoke the Lord's name will be saved." Thus, we
have the Lord's Prayer. Later, the apostle, when he wished to commend
this same grace, remembered this prophetic testimony and promptly
added, "But how shall they invoke him in whom they have not believed?"
Thus, we have the Symbol.
In these two we have the three theological
virtues working together: faith believes; hope and love pray. Yet
without faith nothing else is possible; thus faith prays too. This,
then, is the meaning of the saying, "How shall they invoke him in
whom they have not believed?". Now, is it possible to hope for what
we do not believe in? We can, of course, believe in something that
we do not hope for. Who among the faithful does not believe in the
punishment of the impious? Yet he does not hope for it, and whoever
believes that such a punishment is threatening him and draws back
in horror from it is more rightly said to fear than to hope.
A poet, distinguishing between these
two feelings, said, "Let those who dread be allowed to hope," but
another poet, and a better one, did not put it rightly: "Here, if
I could have hoped for [i.e., foreseen] such a grievous blow..."
Indeed, some grammarians use this as an example of inaccurate language
and comment, "He said 'to hope' when he should have said 'to fear.'"
Therefore faith may refer to evil things as well as to good, since
we believe in both the good and evil. Yet faith is good, not evil.
Moreover, faith refers to things
past and present and future. For we believe that Christ died; this
is a past event. We believe that he sits at the Father's right hand;
this is present. We believe that he will come as our judge; this
is future. Again, faith has to do with our own affairs and with
those of others. For everyone believes, both about himself and other
persons--and about things as well--that at some time he began to
exist and that he has not existed forever. Thus, not only about
men, but even about angels, we believe many things that have a bearing
on religion. But hope deals only with good things, and only with
those which lie in the future, and which pertain to the man who
cherishes the hope. Since this is so, faith must be distinguished
from hope: they are different terms and likewise different concepts.
Yet faith and hope have this in common:
they refer to what is not seen, whether this unseen is believed
in or hoped for. Thus in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is used
by the enlightened defenders of the catholic rule of faith, faith
is said to be "the conviction of things not seen." However, when
a man maintains that neither words nor witnesses nor even arguments,
but only the evidence of present experience, determine his faith,
he still ought not to be called absurd or told, "You have seen;
therefore you have not believed." For it does not follow that unless
a thing is not seen it cannot be believed.
it is better for us to use the term "faith," as we are taught in
"the sacred eloquence," to refer to things not seen. And as for
hope, the apostle says: "Hope that is seen is not hope. For if a
man sees a thing, why does he hope for it? If, however, we hope
for what we do not see, we then wait for it in patience." When,
therefore, our good is believed to be future, this is the same thing
as hoping for it. What, then, shall I say of love, without which
faith can do nothing? There can be no true hope without love. Indeed,
as the apostle James says, "Even the demons believe and tremble."
Yet they neither hope nor love. Instead, believing as we do that
what we hope for and love is coming to pass, they tremble. Therefore,
the apostle Paul approves and commends the faith that works by love
and that cannot exist without hope. Thus it is that love is not
without hope, hope is not without love, and neither hope nor love
are without faith.