Cantos 6 in Purgatory and Paradise: prelude to authority

The common thread of all the Cantos 6: Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise is political. Dante speaks to three people from Italy who expound upon politics in Italy. In Inferno, Dante speaks to Ciacco who foretells the fate of Florence and its division and Dante’s exile. Dante compares Florence to Gomorrah pondering where he might find some just citizens that it be spared.

In Purgatory Dante speaks to Sordello who speaks a condemnation of Italy and Florence. Much like that found in the book of Lamentations. Bemoaning Jerusalem.

In Paradise, Dante speaks to Justinian who expounds upon the whole history of the Roman Empire and how it leads up to the birth of Christ and the just rule of Christ. Also defending that all authority is under the Providence and authority of God.

Though history is wrought with injustice and destruction, all history is moving toward something, an end point.

Cantos 6 are all preludes to Christ–the end of the world. All things before Christ were leading up to Christ the King of kings who is the Just Ruler of all. Who fulfills all that human history was seeking.

(some insights gleaned from Tony Esolen)

Canto 6 Inferno

In this part of Hell are the gluttonous. They are face down in mire and there is a constant cold rain pelting upon them.

Food is meant for vigor and warmth. Not to be over indulged. In culinary arts, the food is made for excellence in taste and presentation. A delight to the senses–visual and flavor. Appetizing and appealing. The gluttonous are face down in pasty stinking mess. There is no appeal to any sense. The gluttonous are always cold and in a damp mess never to be dry or warm again.

Cerberus barks incessantly at those in the mire. Cerberus the three-headed mythological dog represents constant hunger and appetite.

I can’t help but wonder if gluttony not only refers to our appetite for food that goes beyond temperance. But also the appetite of whatever we desire. Overindulging in appetites for things and desires that we choose not to have satiated.

(Some insights gleaned from Tony Esolen).


The heart is turgid


a great mystery.

It makes promises;

breaks promises.

Follows desires like a lamb;

other times like a wolf.


Memory impressed

wanting to hold onto the good

the hurt, the ache.

But wanting liberty.

A freedom it never knew or has known.


The heart

a fragile thing;

a hardened thing–


The heart with lovely beat

against the soft chest,

a happy memory and intimate delight.

But also a painful memory of one lost.


The heart,

vital, beating vitality.

Protected in caged bios.

We need to protect our hearts more regularly.

It is too easy to break.

Learn from nature. It speaks of the Creator’s wisdom.


The fickle heart

the hardened heart

the wounded heart

the broken heart

the steadfast heart.

Lord of hearts, protect

nurture, heal, reform, make whole

the beauty, the mystery within.


Canto 5 Paradise

Paradise is the most difficult read out of the three. This is the fourth time I’ve read it, and it’s starting to finally make sense to me. Granted, every time I read the Divine Comedy, I pick up something new. Paradise is like plumbing the depths of sacramental theology. It takes a lot of preliminary understanding and reading to begin to understand. It always amazes me how much is packed into lines of poetry. One line can be unpacked in the form of a book.

This canto speaks of the will, freedom, and vows. God’s gift of freedom is a precious gift. We use this freedom to either seek God or seek whatever pleases us. Vice is a settling for a partial good as Boethius has said. Instead of seeking the whole–Love itself–God Himself. We have the freedom to choose God or to deny him. Freedom is perilous, but can only be given by a loving God. A loving God will not force anything.

With our freedom, we choose to take vows, break vows or keep vows or be partial to them. Beatrice warns, like Christ did, that your yes is yes and your no is no–commit and not be lukewarm about our promises. Many times we fail in keeping vows and this freedom of dismissal is harmful to our souls. It hurts us almost wrecking us at times. In the book of Ephesians the writer warns Christians to no longer be like children being tossed by every teaching and being tossed about in decisions and knowing what to do. Beatrice does the same, reminding us to commit to what we committed to.

Most of the time, we want freedom on our own terms. We think we know best. We follow our passions, desires, dreams in our own understanding. These are good things. But done for the sake of self and harming others in the process and against others sound wisdom, we cause pain upon ourselves and others.

Can a vow broken be redeemed? Of course. The Bible chronicles and speaks of so many people who have fallen and done terrible things. But many of the people are restored. Many are not. The Bible, the gospel is a story of redemption. Redemption is available to all who repent. To all who turn. To all who seek Love himself. The tragedy is that we wanted to be gods on our own terms in our own judgment and freedom, by our acts… “but God conforms his saints to himself, giving them deity as they abide in him.” Our freedom is sacrificed when we choose to follow Christ. Yes we are still free. But we choose to deny the slavery of sin and choose to freely choose Christ. In Christ is true freedom.

Those in Paradise are in union with God. “Love for the generous Creator spills forth into love for his creatures.” To freely love God is to overflow with His love which then spills toward others.

Freedom of will is powerful, dangerous and wonderful. In our freedom, let us choose the good that which edifies us, heals us, makes us whole. To no longer be slaves to sin. To choose God with all your heart, with all your being is the most difficult decision and extremely difficult to be in obedience to God. But it is in God’s strength, mercy, grace that we are able.

(Many insights gleaned from Tony Esolen).


A blank page

wanting black letters to create something …

The ramblings of a troubled heart.

The hurt of a sensitive soul.

Articulated in metaphor and shaky


The mysteries of the universe

The mysteries of fickle-hearted beings.

Mystery of being itself.

What is hidden within the heart comes out in action–

can’t hide it, no matter how practiced your stare–

aloofness, seeming indifference.

Can a heart ever heal? Be made whole no matter how much is poured out upon a blank white page?

Traveled heart seeking solace in a different country. The rolling green hills. Villas among mountains. Villages by the sea. Communities where no one knows you. Secrets shared with a community only temporarily amongst. Everyone has secrets.

Can’t keep them hidden forever. Secrets fester and torment.

Leaving an emptiness, a gaping whole.


Confession–a beauty, a good. Freeing the one imprisoned within secrets, tormenting. Forgiveness healing.

But how will one fill the gaping hole? No person can fully heal another. Yet, another can help lead one to the Good. Toward God. A Beatrice. Not saving. But praying and being companion toward God. The One of grace, mercy, life, joy, peace.

Mercy envelope the despairing despondent souls. Carry us on wings of grace. Your tender mercy leading us on.

Help us be steadfast. Only you are steadfast.

Translate these ramblings into prayer. These black letters on white.

Canto 5 Purgatory: late repentance

This is the realm of those who died violent deaths. At the last moment, they repented asking for mercy from Christ or Mary.

Note: those in hell are unrepentant. Hence their being in Hell. Whereas those in Purgatory have repented. No matter how egregious a sin, if one repents–turns away from their sin, goes the other direction, God has mercy.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy mercy; according to the multitude of thy kindness blot out my iniquity.”

Those souls in this realm sing this. And when they see Dante, they are fascinated that he is still alive–is whole body and soul. No light passes through him.

Those dead long to be whole souls. They are incomplete without their bodies. They are bodies; they are souls. They are not ghosts in machines. We are not such things. These souls long for wholeness and wish to speak to Dante. Wanting to be remembered when they were once alive. Telling of their late repentance and longing for the face of God.

They see Dante and are compelled to speak with him. Hope springing within them that one day soon, they will be whole and in complete presence of God. Likewise, a hope springs in Dante’s heart that no matter our sins, God is merciful. Although, this is probably a reflection of my own heart. Hope springs within me when reading Purgatory. A hope to be remade, to be made whole. That God is merciful and loving and purifies us by his consuming fire of love.

We are a violent, fickle, straying people. But God offers forgiveness and when we repent, God has mercy on us and spurs us on toward the good by His grace.