Paradise Canto 1: Light

Light. A camera captures light. The artist is dealing with light. What is seen by it. We have limited vision. The camera even more limited. Imagine a place where all is seen and known. This is Paradise as Dante describes it.

“The world is not a cascade of chances. It is a work of art, bearing the impress of its Maker” (Esolen notes on Canto 1). The world is art, it is symphony. Well the world is in disharmony, but has traces of harmony. Paradise is the order of the world as it should be. Paradise–a consuming fire, light in its full form.

One sees through the eyes. Letting in light. Dante was in Hell or the Inferno. A place of darkness. Vision very limited. But now is in full light in Paradise. How do we see well, but by the light of God.

As we come closer to God, this personal relationship with a personal being, we begin to see more clearly. If the journey of the Divine Comedy is that of seeing, then Paradise is where Dante sees most clearly.

So the Divine Comedy does point to our own journey in our lives, one of darkness and blindness to light and seeing. In darkness many believe this life is a meaningless random chance. Or a place of getting pleasure where we can find it but attach nothing to it–just enjoy life, who cares about the consequences. Or some variation in between.

But as we begin to see, might we see the order that God has put in this world? That the order is good? That our version of good is not in the right order? A realization that truth is not subjective and that living your life has some kind of right order to it?

I get tired of living blindly. Although sometimes I want to just barrel ahead and not care what the consequences might be.

I want to see again. Although my being is in turmoil and wants to hang on to things that I probably should not, like weights that hold me down. I say “I want to see again” with a timid sincerity. I know it is good for me, but also will pain me.

It is like the chapter in the Great Divorce where the angel asks the man if he wants the lizard (that represents sin) to be removed from him. He responds no. The angel says it will hurt but you will be set free. Finally, the man agrees to have it removed and he is transformed and set free.

Sin is like a weight. A strange comforting weight we don’t easily want to give up. But it is like lead poisoning us, weighing us down, blinding us. Only God’s consuming fire of love and light will set us free if we are willing to agree to the surgery.

God help me (us). Set us free.

(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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