We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.
By Thomas Aquinas
Petition is an expression of hope, since it is said in Ps. 37:5: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” But it is plain from the Lord’s Prayer that one may pray to God not only for eternal blessedness, but also for the good things of this present life, both spiritual and temporal, and for deliverance from evils which will have no place in eternal blessedness. It follows that eternal blessedness is not the proper object of hope.
The good which we should properly and principally hope to receive from God is eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of God. We ought indeed to hope for nothing less than himself from God, since the goodness by which he bestows good things on a creature is nothing less than his essence. The proper and principal object of hope is therefore eternal blessedness.
Eternal blessedness does not enter into the heart of man perfectly, in such a way that the wayfarer may know what it is, or of what kind it is. But a man can apprehend it under the universal idea of perfect good, and in this way the movement of hope arises. It is therefore with point that the apostle says in Heb. 6:19: “we have hope . . . which enters into that within the veil,” since what we hope for is yet veiled, as it were.
We ought not to pray to God for any other good things unless they relate to eternal blessedness. Hope is therefore concerned principally with eternal blessedness, and secondarily with other things which are sought of God for the sake of it, just as faith also is concerned principally with such things as relate to God.
All other things seem small to one who sets his heart on something great. To one who hopes for eternal life, therefore, nothing else appears arduous in comparison with this hope. But some other things can yet be arduous in relation to the capacity of him who hopes. There can accordingly be hope in regard to them, as things subservient to the principal object of hope.
*Excerpted and language updated from Whether Eternal Blessedness is the Proper Object of Hope