My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are better translations out there with better commentary. Dante is the greatest poet in general and the greatest Christian poet (or at least the father of great Christian poets). He brings us to the reality of sin. Sin is the problem and a great problem it is, not only affecting the sinner, but all. Sin is never isolated. Salvation is the road from sin to suffering to divine love, union with God. We must recognize our sin, confess our sin (which is more than we even realize), accept the purgation that brings us toward perfection that we may know the good, the true and the beautiful–God himself. We can only love God with our whole being by Christ and by submitting to God’s love, which is harmful to us at first because we must be transformed, we cannot remain our fallen self. The road of salvation is dying to self hour by hour, day to day, an entire lifetime. For God is our end, not our self or our happiness. Blessing has joy in it, but also pain, grief, suffering. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God. Purity of heart does not happen overnight. It is a lifetime or at least many decades of seeking God of prayer, of asking God’s will be done, not my will be done. Job was blessed in his suffering (though he didn’t know it) because in his suffering, he was drawn closer to God.
Dante finds himself in a dark wood in the middle of his life. He has sinned gravely. He faints at one point, understanding how grave his own sin is. But there is hope. There is hope in Jesus Christ himself who transforms us in Purgatory (this world of suffering, the here and now). He draws us ever closer to him, those who are paying attention and seeking truth, goodness, God himself. As we are drawn closer to God, we are closer to union with God in Paradise. By the holy spirit, we are sanctified. We can also see our suffering as joy, as Paul said, because it draws us closer to our true end, our true hunger, God. Life is not all suffering, of course, but there is an awful lot of it in this world. Of course, God wants us to have joy, but it comes at a price–our whole life.
It is grace who leads us home.