Canto 18 Purgatory: beauty and the good

“The soul which is created quick to love, once readiness is wakened into act, will move toward anything that pleases it.”

Anthony Esolen’s commentary on this Canto is excellent. Human beings have a natural inclination toward the beautiful and the good. “The soul’s natural attraction toward the beauty of the human body is natural and holy; adultery is not. The soul’s hunger for philosophical knowledge is natural and holy; its failure to recognize the claims of faith is not.”

What pleases us, what makes us happy we want to move toward, maybe possess for ourselves. Some things are good. Some are tendencies toward evil toward sin, toward sin against God, nature, other persons.

This Canto is the sound argument that loves and will have an order. “A man may will to be one with God, and may will to enjoy the beauty of his neighbor’s wife, without necessarily ordering the second will by the first. Reason–before one assents to any particular action–is supposed to advise us on the proper ordering. In that rational, willing ordering of our desires lies our freedom and thus our merit or blameworthiness for good or wicked deeds.”

We have the freedom to choose. What we choose is either toward the good or toward a twisting of good. In this Canto are found the slothful. As Esolen reminds us, the “lukewarm in love.” They have no fervor to love or hate. They are apathetic and indifferent. Acedia or sloth causes the soul to become dull. The natural drawing toward beauty and love and good becomes a chore and not really wanted. The will becomes slow to act and doesn’t care about the good any longer.

This spiritual apathy usually leads one down the path of vice. The fervor for holiness lessens or ceases to exist. To lose fervor of love is a very dangerous place to be. The desire for beauty and the good will lead one to put out of right order one’s will. One’s thoughts of wickedness will become enacted more easily. Seeking joy in forbidden actions. I wonder if adultery, affairs happen because of acedia. (A possibility.)

It takes work and action and training the will to love the good. To be fervent for the good. Like Mary who hastened to Elizabeth, we also must be quick to obey or acedia will overtake us leading us to love out of order.


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