Love. What is it? A feeling? A sentiment? A personal being? An act?
God is love. God is a consuming fire who loves his creatures so much He will do everything possible to make Himself known and assist his beloveds to turn toward Him, but never force our love toward Him. Love is what moves the universe, everything that acts in goodness.
In the second Canto, Virgil tells that he was sent by Beatrice who came down from heaven to guide Dante out of the dark wood and out of himself and his sin.
God’s love moved Beatrice and allowed Beatrice to go to Hell and find Virgil–Dante’s most loved and respected poet. In turn Beatrice’s love for Dante compelled her to have compassion upon Dante, enough so to find a way to get Dante on the right path again. He had become lost.
This is love. To want the best for another person. Even if it pains us. Even if it pains another. Truth spoken in love is always good for us, though it may make us see a part of ourself that is in the wrong which must turn in the other direction. Admonishment is love when it points out something in the other person that is harming them or harming another and helping them correct or heal or get on the way toward healing and wholeness.
Example: if one is in any kind of emotional turmoil that is leaving a person depressed or stuck within themselves and cannot move forward in a good way, words of encouragement and admonishment will help this person turn in the right direction. Even if it’s “get your ass to counseling.” Helping that person attain guidance how to navigate from there. Spiritual direction is another good mode.
But the person must be willing and be brave to confront their own garbage and own it to move forward and admit they need help.
So Virgil is Dante’s guide. Dante will listen to him because Dante highly admires and trusts and respects Virgil. Later in Purgatory, Beatrice whom Dante reveres, berates Dante for loving the wrong things and to look toward and love the right and good and true things. It is an admonishment, but one that spurs Dante on in the right direction.
Divine Love is true whether it pains us or comforts us. God’s love is what spurs us on in the right direction. His love manifests in other people, loved ones, friends, people we meet that encourage us in some way. God’s love heals us and makes us whole. This life resembles Dante’s Inferno and Purgatory in many ways. Keep a keen eye open, and dig out your ears to know and see and hear God’s love for you.
(Some insights gathered from Rod Dreher, life, Tony Esolen, and conversations with Dr. Matt Moser).