Singing the Tune without the words…

CF campaigner and sufferer Orla Tinsley recently tweeted the words of Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the Tune without the words,

And never stops at all.

Now seriously ill she is awaiting a double lung transplant.  So far she has had six calls but each time has been disappointed.

Director General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine,  Pierre Kraehenbuehl was recently interviewed on RTE radio about the situation facing Palestinian young people in schools in Gaza.  He described them as having a ‘total lack of horizon.’ 90% of them had never left Gaza and they were facing a record unemployment prospect of 65%.  Describing the same young people he said, ‘They are the last ones to give up hope. Their courage, dedication, and the energy that they invest in education. We cannot give up on them.’

Both of these situations are critically unresolved and highlight the unfairness of our world.  Those most deserving often have hard lives.  The people at the centre of them, however, are beacons of hope. There is a paradox in this.  Hope sings the tune because words are powerless and even facile in the face of such difficulties – but it does so relentlessly, compelling the human spirit to look forward and outward with courage.

In his TED talk Pope Francis spoke of hope:

Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow… A tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single person is enough for hope to exist, and that person can be you. And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you,’ and it turns into an ‘us.’ And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ When there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.

Francis identifies hope as a light shared which combats the surrounding gloom.  It is strengthened by each person who opts in to it as a choice, and in turn nourishes the ensuing ‘us.’

Advent is a season of hope. The momentum of the season as the December light grows dim grows in revolutionary fervour with readings about freedom for captives, good news for the poor and a God who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.

Some thoughts about hope as we continue the Advent journey:

  1. Hope is relentless – and doesn’t depend on the circumstances. In fact the more difficult they are the more powerful the experience of hope.
  2. Hope is sometimes, often, hidden. It is more of a spark than a flame.
  3. Hope believes the promises of God.
  4. The Holy Spirit is both the singer and the song of hope in the world.
  5. Hope is found most easily in communities, where people come together in solidarity.


Author: realmofsparks

Anne Francis is a Pastoral/Practical theologian and spiritual care practitioner. She has a Pastoral Supervision practice and is author of 'Called: Women in Ministry in Ireland.'

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