Canto 3: thread

Canto three in Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise has a common thread: love. There is another thread, entrance or first levels of the realms, but also a people who are set aside in some way.

Love is a consuming fire: How can love be mentioned in Hell or how can love exist in hell or how was hell made with Love in mind? Seems like an odd thing.

To Thomas Aquinas and Augustine and Dante, love is not a sentimental thing, but a consuming fire. “Thomas says, punishment is an act of charity toward them. At the least it restrains them from deeper depravity. Punishment respects the dignity of the sinner, to grant him what his own disordered love has merited and has longed for.” They get what they want eternally. How can that free will choice be forcibly taken from someone?

In C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce, there are those who journey to heaven, but the reality of heaven to them is hell. They cannot walk upon the grass for it pierces their feet. The brightness is too bright for them. Love is all consuming and pains them. The place is too Real.

If a soul wants to wallow, it will get what it wants.

In Purgatory, there are the excommunicated. They are in ante-purgatory, before entering the first ledge. These are those who repented late in life, though never entering the church. In Purgatory one rises in hope, love and grace spurs them on. Whereas, in hell, the lukewarm who neither chose Christ or otherwise wallow outside of Hell forever grieving. Again, stagnation in Hell, movement in Purgatory. In Paradise, there are those who are in the first sphere–the moon. Those who did not keep to their vows (those of holy vocation). The all-consuming fire fully present in Paradise.

(Several insights gleaned from conversations with Dr. Matt Moser, notes from Tony Esolen and Rod Dreher. And from Jon Foreman music.)


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