What Is Hope?

By Sherry Black

A Reading from Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved
and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4 Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5 The LORD himself watches over you;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6 So that the sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;
it is he who shall keep you safe.

8 The LORD shall watch over your going out and
your coming in,
from this time forth for evermore.


In the small Jesuit prayer book, Hearts on Fire, is a reflection on Psalm 121 by Daniel Berrigan, SJ. It begins, “I lift my eyes to you / my help, my hope.” And of course, while the word “hope” doesn’t appear in this psalm, the simple acknowledgement of help coming from God is nothing if not hope. God is our help, our hope.

Not that long ago we were singing, “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” at the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ — a joyful hope and expectation!

Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops — at all.” That small flutter within that is omnipresent, sometimes singing with great boldness, sometimes whispering a lullaby: hope.

I recently came across another poem, by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, titled “Manifestation,” about the Magi visiting Jesus:

They were more surprised and perplexed by our visit than we for being there.
We left the gifts we had brought from so far
. . . and we left in silence.
Finally the youngest of us murmured,
“Perhaps he brings revolution.”
The other two kept in silence
the hope his saying awoke.

For me, early in the year 2022, with a seemingly unending pandemic, fractious politics and policies, and so many other challenges, that particular expression of hope elicits a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye, and deep longing. May it be.

Hope has many nuances, from the hope-filled song of anticipated triumph, to a cry, to the nearly silent whisper, “tomorrow.” What is the voice of hope for you today? Can you describe it? How does it feel?

Such a small yet powerful word: hope.

The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Mount Kenya Central – The Anglican Church of Kenya
St. George’s Episcopal Church, Nashville, Tenn.


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