Julie Robison is a great young blogger and she’ll be guest blogging here once a week over the next month. She blogs at Corner with a View so please check her out.
In this season of Advent, I’d like to propose a new song to add to the usual Christmas carol repertoire: Rhianna’s latest single, “We Found Love.”
The song is catchy, but to warn the studio audience: the music video is not for PG-rated and is an excellent example of everything Christians profess love not to be. Nonetheless, it is the refrain which caught my attention: “We found love in a hopeless place” is repeated over and over again.
When I first heard the song, I immediately thought of 1 Timothy 1:1, where Paul greets Timothy “by [the] command of God our savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.”
This world can seem like a hopeless place. Catholic persecution is becoming more apparent at home and abroad, the economy is hurting families, infanticide is seen as a choice and not a crime, and the majority of politicians offering themselves to potentially lead our country are a joke.
It is no coincidence that the first week of Advent is hope. It’s more than a campaign slogan: hope is a theological virtue. St. Thomas, in the Summa Theologica, wrote “the object of hope is a future good which is difficult to obtain, yet possible.” This is precisely why we Christians have a whole season devoted to awaiting Christ, whose Incarnation brings joy to the world, peace to all people, and, most importantly, hope.
Carl Olson at Insight Ignatius writes on “The Joyful, Particular Scandal of Advent.” He says:
There is something offensive to many people about Advent and Christmas. It is what Apostle Paul described as a “stumbling block” to Jews and Gentiles alike (1 Cor. 1:18-25). Eastern Orthodox philosopher Richard Swinburne calls it “the scandal of particularity.” It is the belief that God became man at a particular time and in a particular place, and that the God-man, Jesus Christ, is the unique Savior of mankind.
“Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God,” the Catechism states, “is the distinctive sign of Christian faith” (par. 463). It’s hardly news that this belief is often disparaged or dismissed by some non-Christians. Far more perplexing are attempts by Christians to deny the mystery of the Incarnation by rejecting the singular character of Jesus of Nazareth.
Christians are called to be in the world, but not of it. This liturgical season gives us reason to hope in dismal circumstances, and puts a face to that hope too.
The message Rhianna’s music video, perhaps unintentionally, portrays is that this material world is not enough. No level of excitement can ever or truly be fulfilling. Meanwhile, her lyrics look upwards, aspiring for real love. The world she sees is hopeless; but doesn’t the love she finds there suggest some degree of it?
“It’s the feeling I just can’t deny/ But I’ve got to let it go/ We found love in a hopeless place/ We found love in a hopeless place/ We found love in a hopeless place,” sings Rhianna. Well, I can’t deny it either: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
Aquinas finished the section on hope as a virtue by saying, “he who hopes is indeed in respect of that which he hopes to obtain but does not yet possess. But he is perfect in that he already attains his proper rule, that is God, on whose hope he relies.”
O Come, o come Emmanuel!