Canto 21 Purgatory: conversation a grace

Dante opens this canto with allusions to the Road to Emmaus where Jesus met his apostles but they did not recognize him, until they broke bread with him. But as they spoke, their hearts burned within them. And Dante alludes to the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman.

There is something full of wonder about a conversation with a friend, a stranger, a lover, someone you meet on the road, on the pilgrimage of this life. As Dante and Virgil ascend Mount Purgatory, they meet Statius, a poet in Dante’s time and speak of Purgatory where the will is free and there are no seasons.

Topic of what they speak about aside, conversation with a person is a good thing. Why? Because you learn? Because you create a connection with another person? Yes. But there’s more to it than these things.

Yesterday, I helped my best friend and his wife move. They had a house blessing and one of the lessons was from Genesis: the visitation of angels or God unawares. This took place in Mamar where Abraham showed hospitality to three angels, which in the Christian tradition has been attributed to the Trinity and the icon of the Trinity has artistic allusions referring to this story. My friend, Dr. Moser commented on this scripture in Genesis: he said that since each person bears the image of God, when we encounter a person at home, out in the community, where ever, we encounter God unawares.

In the Christian tradition, the dignity of the human being is paramount because we have the imprint of God within us. Who are we? Made in the image and likeness of God who created us. If we knew who we were, wouldn’t we treat each other with respect and dignity? Not using and destroying each other? Loving as God loves?

So why is conversation with another person such a good thing? Because each person is made in the image of God. Carries the imago Dei. Now is every person a great conversationalist? Or carries great wisdom? Or good or easy to talk to? No. But in humility and grace, persons can edify one another. But because of the fallen nature of this world, our own sin can and will cloud conversation or our encounter with another person.

But the point Dante is making is that Jesus Christ, the only perfect human being who is also God, edified those whom he spoke to. And in this life, when we follow Christ, we become more like Him. Therefore edifying others. Our wills conforming to Christ’s will. And in Purgatory and Paradise, conversation is perfect and edifying because there is no sin. Therefore, our wills are moving closer to God’s will because it is not hindered by sin and our own wills and desires.

So remember, each person is made in the image of God. Lord, give us eyes to see this in each person we encounter and to treat each person with dignity, respect, and with God’s love. Lord have mercy.


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