“Nothing assures and establishes ‘eternal youth’ (in the most literal sense of the word) as does the theological virtue of hope. It alone is able to provide man with the unalienable possession of that inner tension that is both relaxed and taut, that elasticity and agility, that stouthearted freshness, that resilient joyousness, that composed bravery of confidence, which distinctly characterize a young person and thus make him loveable.” – Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart
Spending time with my nieces (ages 6 to newborn) is always an enlightening (and highly enjoyable) experience. They quite unknowingly are my great teachers. They are full of expectation, in the purest sense of the word. Full of expectation and hope. Their hope (and perhaps the hope alive in every child’s heart) is born from an unyielding confidence in love.
We see in our culture a desperate straining to be ‘forever young’. But whether through magic wrinkle repellant or eternal youth potion, what we grasp at is something false: a facade of youth. Could it be that the maddening desire for the fountain of youth is actually – at its deepest heart – a desire for the fountain of life? Could it be that more we grasp at and desire to possess youth, the further we distance ourselves from that for which we long?
What I admire in my small nieces is not so much their smooth skin and non-greyed hair! What I admire is their zest for life. Each moment is a vehicle for delight. Each day is exciting and new. Imaginations undimmed by disappointment, eyes undimmed by evil, hearts undimmed by sin! Children know how to live. They know how to delight.
“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grownup people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.
It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
I dare to assert that Our Father put something of this ‘eternal appetite for infancy’ deep within us. Sadly it has become distorted and is so widely abused and misunderstood. But it is there and it cannot be ignored. Will we run after the eternal youth potion that will always leave us disappointed or will we run after the fierce and free spirit of eternal childhood that ultimately leads us to God?
“If I should walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Psalm 23
This is at the heart of our hope. This is at the heart of what it means to be a child.
A belated Happy Thanksgiving to All! And an early Happy Feast of Christ the King!