The river


Motion of water bringing a peace in the shade and light of moving water.

A place where life stems from. Cradle of life.

I thirst.

The waters bringing me to life. A life that is mortal.

Waters plunged into– take me to the river– to die beneath,

but rise again to new life, reborn.

Moving water, purifying, cleansing. Washing away the messes of men, of sin, unclean things of the person, within and without.

I sit upon the rock, waters moving before me and around me, eddying, swirling, always moving along its path.

Movement of water has a simple profundity. Life is motion, death is stillness.

Motion cleanses, carrying filth away. Stagnation putrifies.

In the cool of the river and shade and sunlight, reminiscent of eternal living waters. The river Lethe washing away the memories of sin. Cleansed, white as snow not remember iniquities. Then after the water washing, I can pass through fire.

Canto 21 Purgatory: conversation a grace

Dante opens this canto with allusions to the Road to Emmaus where Jesus met his apostles but they did not recognize him, until they broke bread with him. But as they spoke, their hearts burned within them. And Dante alludes to the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman.

There is something full of wonder about a conversation with a friend, a stranger, a lover, someone you meet on the road, on the pilgrimage of this life. As Dante and Virgil ascend Mount Purgatory, they meet Statius, a poet in Dante’s time and speak of Purgatory where the will is free and there are no seasons.

Topic of what they speak about aside, conversation with a person is a good thing. Why? Because you learn? Because you create a connection with another person? Yes. But there’s more to it than these things.

Yesterday, I helped my best friend and his wife move. They had a house blessing and one of the lessons was from Genesis: the visitation of angels or God unawares. This took place in Mamar where Abraham showed hospitality to three angels, which in the Christian tradition has been attributed to the Trinity and the icon of the Trinity has artistic allusions referring to this story. My friend, Dr. Moser commented on this scripture in Genesis: he said that since each person bears the image of God, when we encounter a person at home, out in the community, where ever, we encounter God unawares.

In the Christian tradition, the dignity of the human being is paramount because we have the imprint of God within us. Who are we? Made in the image and likeness of God who created us. If we knew who we were, wouldn’t we treat each other with respect and dignity? Not using and destroying each other? Loving as God loves?

So why is conversation with another person such a good thing? Because each person is made in the image of God. Carries the imago Dei. Now is every person a great conversationalist? Or carries great wisdom? Or good or easy to talk to? No. But in humility and grace, persons can edify one another. But because of the fallen nature of this world, our own sin can and will cloud conversation or our encounter with another person.

But the point Dante is making is that Jesus Christ, the only perfect human being who is also God, edified those whom he spoke to. And in this life, when we follow Christ, we become more like Him. Therefore edifying others. Our wills conforming to Christ’s will. And in Purgatory and Paradise, conversation is perfect and edifying because there is no sin. Therefore, our wills are moving closer to God’s will because it is not hindered by sin and our own wills and desires.

So remember, each person is made in the image of God. Lord, give us eyes to see this in each person we encounter and to treat each person with dignity, respect, and with God’s love. Lord have mercy.

Canto 20 Paradise: do not know the number chosen from eternity

“Mortals, withhold your judgment: even we who see the face of God do not yet know the number chosen from eternity–And it is sweet, this lack in what we know, because in this good is our good made fine, and what the Lord may will, we too will so” (Paradise 20).

As Anthony Esolen reminds us in his commentary on Paradise, “Christ … saves in ways beyond human comprehension.” In Canto 20 of Paradise, Dante has Trajan and Ripheus, two who never knew anything about Jesus Christ.

Dante reminds us of the story about Pope Gregory the Great who read about Trajan a Roman who lived 1000 years before Christ. Trajan was exemplary in the ways of justice. Gregory was rather moved by Trajan’s just ways. He prayed for Trajan that he be resurrected. Trajan was resurrected and Gregory preached to him about Jesus Christ and was saved and translated from Hell to Heaven.

Whether this actually happened or not is not the point of the story. (Although, if it did happen here is an incomprehensible way Christ would have saved Trajan–he did resurrect Lazurus and others who had “fallen asleep.”) Nonetheless, the point of this story is the efficacy of prayer, of intercession. Prayer has direct consequences, though we may not see the result right away. Prayer has more power than some would believe.

To love justice is a quest for divine and human wisdom, as Esolen reminds us. Aquinas would say this love for justice is a love for and quest for Christ.

In the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, praying for the dead is practiced. Why shouldn’t we pray for those who have gone before us, especially in our family line. Who knows what may come of our prayers. We are not in charge, Christ is. He is the one who saves. If you do not agree with praying for the dead–that’s okay. But maybe ask and seek why this tradition exists. After all, God is just. His just rule and judgment is His not ours, but who knows what effect our prayers may have on any person living or dead. (Just a thought).

For more on the virtuous pagan:

Canto 20 Purgatory: avarice and calling

“For Dante believed that you did not make yourself, you conformed yourself to the calling chosen for you by God.”

This is from Anthony Esolen’s commentary on Purgatory in his translation of the Divine Comedy.

Dante focuses on the Capet’s who were in the dynasty of politics of Florence. One son became a monk another came from humble beginnings and rose to the throne of Florence. Dante talks about St. Nicholas and how he saved three daughters from poverty and prostitution by giving anonymous gifts to them for their dowries, so they could marry, instead of relegated to destitution. Dante contrasts this generosity with political marriages to secure wealth and dynasties. Dante also speaks of the myth of Midas who with his touch, turns everything to gold. It’s great, he’d be financially set for his entire life. But how could he eat, how could he love another? Everything he touched would become gold. Wealth can become a god and everything else becomes less than.

In America, one myth goes: we must reach the American dream. Many have seen this as become a self made man. (Not a new idea–Dante exemplifies this in Hugh Capet). In this whole work–the Divine Comedy–we have seen how following one’s own will leads to destruction and hurt.

Must we all become monks? Of course not. But there is something to God’s call or purpose in your life. All that we do should be to the glory of God, not to our own glory. His call on our life is for Good because God is good. He knows what is best for us. When following our own desires, this usually leads to the person becoming lost. Lost in vice. Lost in another’s will. Lost in the dark, not knowing where to go next. What the purpose of this life is. Searching–one thing to the next. Possibly trying to make sense of each desire and action. Or just fumbling in the dark and not thinking about any of it, until one day the person wakes up and wonders how they got where they are.

The way Western culture has gone is not a new thing. My professor friend, Dr. Moser pointed out to me that society has become more accepting of the fumblings of our human free will. “Do what you will” see what happens. “We can’t stop what a person will do; we don’t have the right.” Or, “they won’t listen anyway.”

It is as though the moral compass has been thrown into the sea. Or everyone has their own understanding of morality. Only objective truth rules the day.

We have individualized each will–not certain which will is correct. This is a generalization. But it is definitely true in our ideas of love and relationships. The human desire to love and be loved has existed for all time. And our distorted view has as well. Yet, breaking family bonds and vows was less acceptable, but is now very easy and highly acceptable. “It’s just what happens.” Someone has called divorce an epidemic. I would have to agree.

But I am going on a tangent. Dante saw the self-made man as a dangerous concept. We should have pause as the idea of becoming self-made. It may lead us on a painful, dark path.

As Capet shares the stories of avarice in the city of Florence, the reader has to remember we are in Purgatory. Capet wants the same thing as Dante, the redemption of that city. Even the avaricious and those who have sinned and fallen away, always have the chance to repent. And when we repent, consequences do not go away, but a light returns to the sinful soul. A purpose that was ignored returns. Salvation comes to the repentant. There is always hope for the repentant sinner.

Water Rapids and the Heron


I wait with the stillness of the blue heron.

Amidst the rushing rapids. The water whirling and churning white.

Speak to me Lord, amidst the roar of the Waters. With blue heron waiting with one purpose. Silently waiting.

In a moment, the sun illuminates the water. Waiting for the light at the right time to capture the beauty of creation.

Sun, cloud covered, suddenly bright as though His presence announced. I see You, but still do not hear you. Your beauty everywhere.

I stand in the rushing water just behind the heron.

Watching the unstoppable water find its way down the rocks to the pooling water below.

Searching for meaning, but unable to make sense of what is around me. Maybe God telling me to be still and delight in everything He has brought about. The rocks, water, trees, fish, minnows the heron eats carried down in the rapids; the heron, light, sun, the winds.

His highest creation, fellow humans.

I could not hear Him in the sounds of the rushing Waters.

But only in silence.

Canto 20 Inferno: diviners

Dante is still in the circles of the fraudulent, the liars. Here in canto 20 he sees the soothsayers, diviners, fortune-tellers. The heads are wrenched backward. They cannot see in front of them at all. They also cannot speak.

They made their living swindling people into either telling lies about their future or if they did have the gift of foresight, they were still swindlers for telling the divine will should not be done to make a person rich. But mostly if not all fortune-tellers are swindlers.

Usually one who seeks direction from a fortune-teller or diviner or soothsayer is one who has lost faith in God. A continual searcher for something that they will never find. An unconventional guide has an allure to it. What if this person really has a gift and can tell me what I want to hear? What if they can tell me everything about myself?

Soothsayers and diviners claim to speak to spirits and spirits of the dead. As we have seen in the Inferno, many souls in Hell have foresight, speaking of Dante’s exile. But why seek guidance from one who is condemned or a questionable spirit?

Why won’t we listen to God’s word? Truth himself? Christ came and told many people who they were and would become. He knew them. He told the Samaritan woman who she was and everything she had done. Not to condemn, but to transform her whole being. To become a follower of Christ, of Truth himself.

I think as human beings we want unusual ways to make sense of our world. Tarot cards are more like a game that we can manipulate and make sense of our world and what may come about. Reading signs in the stars, tea leaves, other objects. It becomes a way we can interpret our world to our best slant or spin we can put on it. What if this is a spirit, a good spirit telling me what is to come? We want so badly to know what the future holds.

Christ came in the flesh. He came into this matter, this concrete world to transform it. Not to eschew the importance of matter or flesh. Soothsaying is a gnosticism of sorts. Seeking guidance from the immaterial. As thought the immaterial is more wise than the flesh and blood. Yet, Truth himself came in the flesh. The only perfect man who is also God. Shouldn’t we seek our wisdom and guidance from Christ? And who represents Christ in this material world? The church.

I know, how unconventional and boring. The only spirit guiding is the Holy Spirit. When life is so full of hurt and uncertainty, we want answers. We seek who can give us those answers. Something that is alluring and seductive in soothsaying, fortune-telling. I also wonder if the soothsayers, diviners, fortune-tellers are in Hell because they purport determinism. As though what they tell another person is set in stone which actually manipulates the listener. Sometimes making what was said a self-fulfilled prophecy. They are the liars who justify determinism as though a person has no free will. For this, they are silenced with their heads turned backward.


Willful sorrow,

indulgent in joylessness.

Casting off delight where delight should be.

Sluggish to respond in following His will.

Indulge in melancholy; hoping for rescue.

But a yawn toward life causes other’s to scoff and ignore.

“Let them wallow. Let the noonday Devil take them.”

Wandering thoughts, hearts, wills in times of indifference.

Idleness leads to idle thoughts and wandering eyes.

Destruction not far behind.

That vacant look. Light in the eyes dim, fading like a dying star.

Lift us out of the sludge and deep waters. To rise to the surface and fly. Swift as angels’ wings to do His will.