Proserpine

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Proserpine

Persephone

Pomegranite

Emerging from Hades

to bring the blooms of Spring.

Trapped in death

a slave, a prisoner to Pluto,

to Hades.

A shade in death.

Freed in Spring to grace the earth with bud and bloom and life.

Like Proserpine,

our hearts are subject to slavery,

to prisons of desire, of death.

Little deaths, circles, patterns, repetition, falling, rising, falling again.

A prisoner of Hades;

to the freedom of Spring once again.

But the circle continues upon itself.

Proserpine, though a prisoner for a time, is always a prisoner

because she must return to Hades, to death no matter her freedom.

Is there ever an end? How long?

One has entered Hades and set prisoners free. Proserpines.

Those dead, but more importantly, those still living, once dead.

The circle, the repetition of life to death; death to life ends.

Prisoners of Hades set free–if they follow this One who conquered Hades.

Death has an end.

Proserpine set free. Spring always present.

 

Canto 5 Inferno: Desire–courtly love

WIN_20170520_12_20_21_ProToday I went to the Baltimore Museum of Art on a whim. It was cloudy and I didn’t want to be home, isolated, tormented by thoughts. So I drove to Baltimore. I loved the museum. I wandered its halls looking upon American and European art. Paintings, sculptures, decorative art. Religious art from the 1400s. Mosaics from the 3rd century. I happened upon two famous sculptures: The Thinker and the Kiss by Rodin the French artist. What a great surprise.

What makes me laugh is that some mistakenly look upon the Kiss as a romantic sculpture. But it is far from that. It is the representation of Paolo and Francesca, adulteress lovers forever in Hell, whom Dante encounters and speaks to. Also, the Thinker is someone pondering the gates of Hell: “abandon all hope you who enter here.”

Virgil points out those in this realm of Hell: Guinevere, Tristan, Paris, Helen, Cleopatra, and others. But Dante speaks to Francesca and Paolo, who were slain by her husband out of jealous rage because of the affair. Why does Dante speak to these two out of all the others? Because Dante was obsessed with love, with courtly love. He wrote many poems on courtly love. The love of love, making it an idol. After speaking to them, Dante faints as though one dead. He comes to realize that this courtly love that he held so high, above God, could have brought him to total destruction.

The lustful, adulterous in Inferno are blown around by tornadoes essentially. Their desires make them restless and “never comforted by hope” or rest. Their reason ruled by desire. (I don’t think I need to go into it, many know its glorious and deceiving nature).

As I walked through the Baltimore Museum of Art, I contemplated the sculptures inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. The paintings of the gods and their lustful desires. Some depictions of romantic love conquering all. Our culture, the world has been obsessed with romantic love as though it is the savior of all despite the jealousy, envy, heartache, pain, grief, loss, and so much more hurt it can cause–especially covetousness and adultery.

Eros is good. But in its right order. It cannot save. Only God’s love can save–make us whole. Aim for good. It is so easy to be blown around by our distorted desires, desire overcoming reason. Lord, send your grace that we may see well, know you and your love for us that our aim may be true.

(Some insights gleaned from Tony Esolen, Dr. Moser, Rod Dreher)

the circle; the end

What if I told you

this existence was a never ending circle

life to death;

death to life.

The way of nature

shows us every day.

The flower blooming,

withering, decaying,

lying dormant beneath the cold;

but to bloom again in its season.

The seasons.

The crops.

A continuation of generations. Immortality through the family line.

Similarly, the life of a person:

ebbs and flows of emotion,

death and loss of things held once dear.

The old self, the new self.

A reinvention of oneself. Who will you be now?

Patterns and habits seem to be cyclical. The snake eating itself.

But what if I told you

our aim is eternity.

Bios passes away to be resurrected

and never die again.

The way things are disprove this.

Except for One who came into history.

To make all things new and forever in His presence.

Death never eternal, only life eternal.

Canto 4 Paradise: Virtue, truth, doubt, theology

(Finally using a tablet to write this blog. Random comment. It’s exciting. Anyway…)

There is a lot going on in Dante’s Paradise. My good friend who is now a professor told me years ago that the Eastern Christian theology was poetry and the Western was more like legal language. The actual gist is the East has poets and the West lawyers. Dante seems to be an exception maybe? He is part of the Western culture. He uses poetry to express truth and theology well.

Dr. Moser recently pointed out to me and others that theology is all over the poetry in Dante’s Divine Comedy. And poetry is the best way to express theology. I especially see it in Paradise.

So what is Dante talking about in Canto 4? A lot.

Some things are truth, doubt, virtue, all being in the presence of God as oppose to being in tiered spheres. The unity of body and soul. The correction of Platonic philosophy. Dante is a good Aristotelian as Esolen says.

First: Virtue is a habit we acquire, the same with vice. If we seek the good and form habits, following the virtues, we are aiming toward and practicing the good. Our will, will act accordingly. If we seek vice, our will, will also act accordingly. Cognitive science seems to agree with this. All of this was far longer before our understanding of the brain as we know it now. “The will obeys by resigning.” (Esolens notes on Paradise, 408)

Second: Beatrice corrects Dante’s view that some things were created by an intermediary as well as by God. (an idea from Plato–that souls return to the celestial stars). But Beatrice affirms that this is a denial of the goodness of the body and only elevates the soul. But the “body is good and holy and is to be resurrected, and that a human being is essentially is a union of body and soul.” Augustine reminds us of what Plato said that the body is a trap for the soul. So the idea of the spheres is a separation for Plato. But Beatrice reveals to Dante that all of the souls are in the presence of God … She affirms the truth of the body soul union eternally (Esolen’s notes, 409).

Third: Truth. “Like a beast in it den, we rest in it/ when we have reached it, as we can indeed–if not, our longings would be all in vain.”

“… as a beast is at home in its den, so man is at home in … the truth. In Aristotelian epistomology that just as in other living things there is no desire without an object of that desire, so in man the desire for truth implies the existence of truth. Doubt is a necessary moment in the quest for truth” (Esolen notes, 410).

As Joseph Ratzinger points out doubt goes both ways. What if all I believe is false? What if my unbelief is false? Usually truth is found when one seeks. There is no formula for when a person will understand truth or know truth. Don’t we humans test our beliefs all the time with practice of virtue or vice? Usually finding out the hard way that the aim for good was right and true and good all along. If obedience is coming to terms with the truth, that all that God says is good or what the Bible says is good (revealed word of God) then we should know better. But there is the continual tension of vice and virtue. Testing truth. Seeking the good or seeking sin.

Personally, I believe everyone knows the truth, but darkens their understanding or denies to justify their actions–to follow passions, desires that we distort as being true and good. Maybe I’m wrong.

Dante’s poetry reveals truth and good theology. It is remarkable and good.

 

Fragments

God’s love has everything to give …

Does the ache for love that is eternal ever cease?

Pop songs about heartbreak and love eternal (however distorted)

all speak of our longing for a love we are all longing for …

That we confuse and distort.

Love for its own sake … an aching that is never satisfied.

Love for the other: beginnings of love divine.

Seeking the best and desiring the best for another.

All beginnings.

Heart desires a love that takes a lifetime … a consuming fire

we may encounter in seeking the face of God.

Desire, passion, romantic love: such a wonder

Ascending our hearts to the highest pinnacle,

but crashing to the ground shattering the heart.

Eros disordered is heartbreak in the making.

O God. Make our distortions of love be remade and put aright.

O God. Let your consuming fire set our hearts atop the mountain of purgation

that we may be renewed and know what Love,

who Love truly is.

Every gift from You a grace–

infused with joy and wonder;

life.

Canto 4 Inferno: Virtue

In Canto 4 of the Inferno, Virgil leads Dante through Limbo. Here is found the philosophers and pagan virtuous. Those who lived virtuous lives yet did not know of Christ.

I don’t know if such a place exists or if pre-Christian people are forever in Limbo. But the point of this entry is not placement, but the place of virtue.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul talks about knowledge and understanding the mysteries of life and the universe and encouraging and comforting, but if these things are not done in love (agape) then they are nothing, a clanging cymbal.

Isn’t it the same with virtue? If one lives a virtuous life, but does not have faith, hope and love, isn’t this too a clanging cymbal? And faith being the faith of Jesus Christ, and hope being a hope in all things being redeemed and remade under Christ, and love being God’s love, divine love that transforms all things.

We can be as virtuous as we want to be. But if virtue is not under the obedience of Christ isn’t it missing something crucial?

Virtue will not save you. Neither will reason. Even the virtuous must bend the knee to something greater, to the originator of virtue–God himself.

Can virtue lead you toward Christ? Of course. But if virtue is your highest aim, there is a whole other thing that is missed.

Philosophy seeks to understand from the point of view of man. Man asking questions about greater things, even about God but from the limited understanding of man’s mind. Theology is seeking to understand God. Something revealed. Philosophy is man seeking wisdom and God. Whereas the point of theology is God revealing himself to man.

Let me give an example: I could live a virtuous life, even as a Christ-follower. But if I eschew obedience to Christ and only have virtue as a foundation, the slightest thing will tear that foundation right out from underneath me. One instance of covetousness and acedia (not caring about spiritual obedience) and virtue only has shaky ground to stand on. Why should I be moral if there is no God or I don’t care about what God has commanded? Morality, virtue, reason will never save me. Only obedience to Christ who has given virtue, morality, reason. To follow and obey Christ will usually want you to become virtuous because you love God. If you love virtue, that virtue will possibly bring you near God, but it may also bring you nearer to moralism. A self-sufficiency that will never submit (obey) to Christ. (Submitting is a bad word in today’s world. But a good example is if you love your father or mother, wouldn’t you want to obey them because they love you and want the best for you? Or if there is trouble in your family at least a father-figure or mother-figure whom you trust and love).

(This entry is somewhat rambling. Oh well. It’s not the best. But take what you can. Correct or question what hasn’t been covered. This is a tough subject for me to write about logically.)

Bodies; Souls

We are bodies;

We are souls.

We do not have bodies;

We do not have souls.

If body alone,

treated as though it is something to be cast off, abused,

used, seen as matter to be thrown into the ground, into fire–into

nonexistence.

If only nurturing the soul,

there is a division.

Revelation to understand

the body and soul must be united

and treated as whole human worth.

What we do with our bodies matters.

What we do with our soul matters.

There is no division.

Eternity is not ethereal existence.

It is physical existence.

Bodies and souls–

the whole,

the entire

person.

Bodies and souls, we are.