Canto 28 Purgatory: forgetfulness and good memories

Here Dante has entered the Earthly Paradise: Eden. The state man was supposed to live in always. Where all was created as Good and lived for Good. But through man’s fault (man and woman) we fell and chose grief and toil.

Here Matelda speaks to Dante about the Earthly Paradise but also the two rivers: Lethe and Eunoe.

“For on this side the stream descends with power to take away all memory of sin, but on the other side it will restore all memory of good deeds. Hence this is called Lethe ‘Forgetfulness’ and that, Eunoe, ‘Good Memories’, which it will not bring unless You taste of Lethe first; and yet its taste surpasses all.”

In all of human history, we have transgressed in all aspects of our lives. To the repentant, a grace is given, one, to turn away from sin, two, to be washed clean of the stain of sin. This includes the memory of it as well. In the Psalms it is said many times wipe the memory of my sin away (paraphrase). And the other grace is the memory of all the Good one has done by the grace of God. Why can we still accomplish good, even though we are fallen? Because God made us in His image and all that was made was good (see Genesis 1 and 2). Yet, we must be cleansed as Dante was going through the fire that renews the body, the entire being: soul. And purified in our minds of the stain of sin. Then we can stand before God, amidst the holy.

For now, we carry around the burden in body and mind of our sin. Hopefully, the load gets lighter as we follow and commit to Christ. One day the memory of our sin will be expunged forever. It seems the reality, according to Dante, and the Christian faith, one will carry the burden for eternity or only for a time and then be set free of this burden and stand before God (at the same time Unity and Trinity) similar to His Son Jesus Christ.

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Sketch of a poem

Joy stolen from my heart

like forbidden fruit

taken from the tree.

Hiding behind smiles and words.

Facades like crumbling buildings once beautiful.

Seeking peace in the sun;

the flowing waters

to buoy my heart to tranquil shores.

The tree has a hollow spot.

It doesn’t kill the tree, only cripples.

Awaiting jeweled joy–the heart restored.

Sapphire and emerald eyes bring limited delight.

Beatrice castigates to allow fruit of joy to have its place once again.

To pain the heart–a wound that causes healing and health.

Dusk

The dusky night

of blues blending with orange and pink

as the sun sets

beneath the mountains.

Saturn rises

its frosty chin glaring

twinkling through the atmosphere.

Jupiter, the King

just slipped beneath the dusky mountains

with Sol to sing a new day on the other side.

Neptune will raise his trident

sending Saturn off to sleep

another day spent, the Last

not trumpeted forth yet.

The cosmos spins its course,

keeping time. The curse that ages all things.

Youth is not the answer; age isn’t either.

But the new day dawning on the other side.

All of creation groans for it. The universe trembles with longing.

Longing for all things to be made new.

The beginning again.

Not a cycle of life and death and life and death.

But Life in all its splendor and glory.

Saturn knows it. Awaiting the new day.

How long, O Lord?

Canto 27 Inferno: noncontradiction

“If this world is to make sense at all, the law of noncontradiction must hold. It states simply that a thing cannot be and not be, in the same place, at the same time, in the same manner. … The trouble with Guido da Montefeltro in this canto is not … that he was a bad reasoner, but that he was a bad man… He knew quite well that no one can repent and simultaneously not repent…”

One cannot repent, turn away from sin, and then go right back to it and say one has repented. And go about as though there is nothing to repent from. But at the same time, when one falls, if one repents and makes a resolve to turn from their sin, this is repentance. But when one falls again, usually in the same sin, when one repents again, this is repentance.

When we fall, continually coming back to Christ is our redemption. Not hiding in our shame, like Adam and Eve. Repentance is not an excuse to continue to sin. Our habits of sin are difficult and take time to break.

God give us the grace to repent, though we may not want to at the same time. We humans contradict ourselves all the time. God is the constant, the steadfast one the one who never contradicts. He is our salvation and gives us the grace to be more like Him–more like Christ.

The Picture of Dorian Gray: body-soul

Oscar Wilde’s classic The Picture of Dorian Gray speaks of the obsession of the passions and of youth. But also the soul-body union that has no separation.

Dorian Gray is older in this book but never ages. He made a deal where the portrait of himself would act as his soul, aging and bearing the burden of all of his sin throughout his life. The portrait changes with each act and becomes a horrid visage of himself, while Dorian’s body never ages.

The end of the book, Harry, the rationalist goes on and on about the wonders of youth. How the youth have all the great ideas. But Dorian knows better. To be young forever and live as though unaffected in body is a lie and a farce. Though he looks young, his soul is being destroyed by his vanity, lust, avarice, murder and other vices he enacts.

As humans, we usually hide ourselves from others, at least our vices and sometimes our virtues because we don’t want to be seen as prideful. But it is our actions that speak.
We don’t need to talk about ourselves. Nonetheless, sin wears on a person because we are souls and we are bodies. There is no disconnection.

Though Doria seems at peace and delightful to others, to his friends, he has a terrible weight in his mind and his soul, which is reflected in the portrait of himself. The very last page, Dorian stabs the picture. A terrible cry is heard. The neighbors find the picture of Dorian Gray as it was painted–the young man–but find the man, Dorian Gray withered, decrepit and old lying dead on the floor. The point: one kills the soul, the body dies as well. They are inseparable. And if they are separated for a time, the promise of resurrection will occur. One cannot live without the other or be whole without the other–this is the Christian teaching.

We can hide ourselves from others like a portrait a facade. Making it seem like everything is alright using social acumen, graces, intelligence. But on the inside, a person may be a mess. It is said that what is in the mind or heart will eventually come out in action or word or a worn look in the eyes or countenance. I think this to be true: stress does do terrible things. We can hide ourselves from others, but not from ourselves, but especially not from God.

Dorian Gray thought by killing his soul, he would be free. All the weight of his sin, his deplorable actions that were put upon the portrait could just be destroyed by himself. But when killed by self, we die. There is only One who can “kill” our sins–really, forgive us. It is not ourselves.

The Portrait of Dorian Gray has a few levels or themes. But one of the most important is the soul-body union. As much as we try to rationalize our existence, it will never destroy the truth of matters. But, at times, rationalizing will destroy ourselves.

Canto 26 Paradise: love and fire

Here Dante is examined on love by St. John. “The only reason why we love at all, Dante would say, is that God has made us for love– for his love.”

It is toward Good — toward God– and it is toward this Good that we lead those whom we love, as Anthony Esolen says in his commentary. It was love that compelled Dante to move through the fire to enter the Earthly Paradise. It is love that saves Dante, and namely all of us, from our sin.

In Hell, the souls are not compelled by love. But by selfishness. In canto 26 in the Inferno, Ulysses seeks knowledge in his own power. He nearly reaches the island of Purgatory, but it is only granted to those by God’s will not their own will. In repentance, it is God’s love and grace that compels us forward and leads us to healing and wholeness.

 

Canto 27 Purgatory: free to follow God’s will

“What I want to do, says Paul, that I do not; but what I do not want, that I do. Paul looked forward to the freedom Dante describes at the end of this canto, a freedom from all the burdens and fetters of selfishness, pride, cowardice, compulsion, and folly. No fear of dying, no pride of place, no petty envy, no maddening itch of lust, no cramping selfishness can touch the soul set free. Such a soul may do as it pleases without worry, because of it, only what is right will please” (Esolen 479).

It is the soul that is free and the heart that is clean who will be able to be in the presence of God in Heaven. The fire described is a fire that purifies. Like the fire that those burned by Nebuchadnezzar, they were not harmed or consumed. It is a fire “of punishment and of loe, preparing the sufferer to endure and to delight in the fire to come” (Esolen, 480).

It is not a logical argument that convinces Dante to enter the flames in order to enter the Earthly Paradise on the other side and go on to Paradise. It is an appeal to love that compels him. Just as it is an appeal to love that calmed the fears Dante had of journeying through Hell (Esolen 480).

It is love that compels us to go through the most joyous times in our lives and the most terrible times. God’s love and God’s love exemplified in others is what helps us continue in this life. In the worst of times, it is someone’s love for us that will keep us going. Where does this love originate? God himself; God is love.

It is love for God and, really, God’s love for us that causes us to change, to obey God, to do His will as oppose to our own. The purpose is to choose God, not our own desire. A constant returning to God when we fall. And it is in His fire of love that consumes us– that we are transformed to be like Christ. That we may stand before God on the Last Day and be united with Him.