“I am the way into the city of woe/ I am the way into eternal pain/ I am the way to go among the lost.”
I am the way is in direct mockery and contrast to Jesus Christ. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Where Christ is truth and life, hell is pain, woe, the way of the lost.
“Abandon all hope you who enter here.”
Hope is the way of the Christian. Hope for justice, salvation, the purpose of all, fulfillment. Union with God in peace and full joy and full life. Hope is excellent. It is good. Hope spurs us on, carries us on when we are at our lowest. We hope for fulfillment that the longing within every person will be fulfilled. We all long for love, but it is the fulfillment of divine and eternal love that is fullness. All things in right order. All loves in right order. All things in right order. No more suffering, pain or sin. All as it should be. The great morning after the long twilight. “To have neither fulfillment nor hope is to be lost, utterly.” Hell is to be in complete despair, hopelessness.
As Dante passes within Hell’s gates he hears wailing that is grievous to his ears. Utterly despairing, making him weep. He nearly in despair. “These souls, immortal, have no hope for death/ and their blind lives crept groveling so low/ they leer with envy at every other ….” Again, no hope. These souls mirroring where they are, bent low, not standing as we do. The standing a symbol for upward movement, moving toward the good, toward things above, Godly things. They are bent down in despair toward Self and toward below.
“To live means to love, which is to desire either good or evil” (Dreher, 70). These souls were never alive and are eternally dead. They got what they desired. “God’s love made the inferno because love will not force itself upon a man. Life is a time of choosing; God loves us so much that he will give us what we choose, for eternity… Sin is not the breaking of rules, but a failure of love” (Dreher, 67, 71).
The hope of this life is that desire is good, but in its pure form. The hope is a turning back from love that is out of order and move toward how God meant things to be. There is a right order to everything. And in this order is peace. In His will is our peace. Following our desire blindly is Hell. We are given what we want. Love cannot deny us what we want.
In Canto 3 of Purgatory, there is movement upward as there always is in this section of the Divine Comedy. It is the turning back, moving forward, away from sin and toward God. Hope and love is present always in Purgatory. There are no lukewarm there, they have chosen their side. (Next entry Purgatory Canto 3).
(Several insights gleaned from conversations with Dr. Matt Moser, notes from Tony Esolen and Rod Dreher. And from Jon Foreman music.)