Sacramental Imagination and Christian Hope
There are many reasons to celebrate and far-too-many excerpts to share from an important new book titled, Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line (Liturgical Press, 2013), by Christopher Pramuk. Chris is a theologian who teaches at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is also a friend and colleague. He and I have served for the last two years on the Board of Directors of the International Thomas Merton Society and it has really been a great privilege to get to know him over the last several years. His first book, a study of Thomas Merton’s Christology, was also an important and award-winning text, and it is clear that Chris’s latest book will not disappoint those who were waiting for his next project.
A full review of Hope Sings, So Beautiful is in order, Chris’s bold and significant theological engagement with the challenging subjects of race, white privilege, theological anthropology, suffering, violence, music and culture, among other themes, is presented in a unique and creative way that deserves a laudatory response in itself. He draws on a variety of sources, especially that of music and the work of Thomas Merton and several black theologians. However, the one thing that I wanted to share today was a paragraph that appears later in the book on the sacramental imagination and the meaning of Christian hope. It is my hope that this selection might speak to you, challenge you, and inspire you to consider reading the whole text.
For the Christian and Catholic sacramental imagination, hope rises from what pulses beneath the surface of things, calling our freedom forward, inviting us to imagine and make room for another possible future, the future of God’s own imagining. As a theological virtue centered in the incarnation, Christian hope rises not from human vision or effort alone but from the commingling of human and divine freedom, history and eternity, matter and spirit, freedom and grace. In other words, the mosaic is still being imagined and, while promises of great wonders spring forth from the mouth of God, nothing is fixed ahead of time. Our freedom as sons and daughters of God hinges on the present moment of imagination and decision, pregnant with possibility and risk. “See, I am doing something new! Not is springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isa 43:19).