Canto 9 Purgatory: Gates

Canton 9 in Inferno, the gates, the way is blocked. By divine intervention, they are let into the city of Dis, entering more pain. The realm of eternal pain. The gates of Purgatory are reached in a divine way as an Eagle carries them up to the gates of Purgatory. The Eagle symbolic of the Roman Empire or St. John. The Roman Empire the symbol of order and St. John of theology, revelation, mysticism.

The mountain of Purgatory is an ascent of pain, “the pain of creation in labor,” as Tony Esolen puts it. The journey through Purgatory is not punishment, but a reforming, a refining, purifying journey with the end point being Joy. So in the purgation, there is joy residing.

Dante has seven Ps slashed on his forehead–the seven deadly sins. Going from one point in life to another, symbolically represented as going through a gate, there is a pain and a joy. Leaving things behind, but gaining new things. Leaving behind, letting go has pain to it. But it is to gain something new and usually renewing–maturation, growth.

To stay in one place, to not grow, not mature may be comfortable, but there’s also a measure of agony in this. To grow is uncomfortable. But it is necessary. Necessary to make a fulfilled, whole person. It isn’t necessarily for our sake, but for the sake of others. Isn’t much of life to build others up–which also in turn builds us up too? This is part of being in community, in fellowship with one another.

It is painful to change, to be transformed toward the likeness of Christ.


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