Canto 15 Paradise: virtues of the city

Dante speaks to his ancestor, Cacciaguida. Esolen reminds us this is Dante’s spiritual father speaking as well as a familial, related father figure.

Cacciaguida speaks of the virtues of Florence and what makes for a virtuous city. In Canto sixteen, he will describe the degeneration of Florence. But let me stay to the matter at hand.

Mazzotta speaks about the two cities: Babylon and Jerusalem. The city of confusion or the city of peace. The measure of a virtuous city is morality. Every citizen knowing his or her place. Being content with what is given to you and giving to the family and the community. It is neither extreme individuality nor collectivism. It is one living in community. Cacciaguida speaks of women of the city as those described in Proverbs 30. Virtue adorned like jewels–in fact, more precious than jewels. Caring for the community and the family. Not divided in purpose. But passing on the traditions of the culture and the family to the children. Living in obedience to Christ. Husbands faithful to their wives and vice versa. Not seeking after self-fulfillment and eschewing morality and family and neighbor.

Cacciaguida speaks of the Florentine virtue of old as we speak of Western civilization, of what we used to have that was good. The culture, the city is always under assault from extreme individuality or obtuse collectivism. Both ruining the family and the culture. The story of human life is the degeneracy of culture and cities and the repentance of the people and therefore the city. What Cacciaguida speaks of is nothing new. It is not a circle of history repeating itself, but it is human nature in tension perpetually until the Last Day of history.

Do we return to what has been? Not necessarily. But we should always be returning to virtue, to the moral life. Human beings change, either toward goodness or toward destruction, a pendulum swinging. Returning to the God of life and love and goodness. Our will versus God’s. A godless culture dies. History has already proved this, time and time again.

The city of confusion–Babylon falls eventually. The city of peace–Jerusalem lasts forever. In time, it is a pendulum because of our unfaithful, fickle hears and wills. But there is hope. The city will not be lost always or overlayed with various layers of imbalance and balance. The eternal city is present, just not culminated. But it will be on the Last Day.


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