Categories
The End of Many Books

Paradise

by Dante Alighieri

2019: While I don’t know where exactly Dante got all his ideas on the celestial spheres, I do know that reading one man’s imaginative effort about it increases my desire to find out the truth of it in person. I need none of Dante’s exaltation of Mary (theologically or positionally in heaven) or merit, and I want much more face to face fellowship with God Himself (see 1 Corinthians 13:12-13; 1 John 3:2). But there is great glory, light, and munificence to celebrate in this final piece of the Comedy.

2017: I don’t know what I was expecting, but I should not have been surprised by the movement through heavenly planets having read Lewis’ The Discarded Image. That was great. Not great was the preeminence given to Mary. And as long as I could think of Beatrice as a representation of divine happiness things were fine, but reading Dante’s lines toward Beatrice as herself was…weird. I’m glad that in the final lines Dante enjoyed perfect affections, but then what? Still an enjoyable read.

4 of 5 stars to Paradise

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

The Will of His Throne

I recently finished rereading Dante’s Paradiso, the third part of his poetic journey that starts with a tour through hell and ends up in the highest heaven. The whole epic is called The Divine Comedy because it has a happy ending, at least for those in heaven.

One part that stood out to me again is an explanation given by an occupant of the lowest part of heaven that Dante encountered, and, according to his celestial geography, the part furthest away from God’s throne. Dante asks if those in this circle are disappointed that they are not and cannot move closer. Here is the answer:

“If we desired to be higher up,
then our desires would not be
in accord with His will Who as-
signs us to this sphere;

Indeed, the essence of this
blessed state is to dwell here
within His holy will, so that
there is no will but one with His;

While I don’t think the distance imagery is accurate, this description of heavenly desire is gold. What is heaven? To have our wills match God’s will perfectly. Heaven is where we desire exactly what He desires, perfect contentment with the blessings of His will.

I enjoyed reading Dante’s imaginative effort about heaven while reading the apostle John’s inspired vision in Revelation 4 and 5. At the center of John’s sight is the throne, the place where the Lord God Almighty sits. The throne communicates His glory, and His authority. It is the place where He wills what happens.

Isn’t this exactly how we get into trouble? At best we are ignorant of His will, or we forget it, or we reject it. Of course that is misery, not joy. It is rebellion, not worship. It is hellish, not divine.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9–10)

Categories
The End of Many Books

Purgatory

by Dante Alighieri

2019: I am still impressed by a couple things after my second trip through the poetic Purgatory. Penance is no fun, while also not being biblical, so, whew. That Dante mixes literature, history, and imagination into such an extended poetic form really does make one give thanks to God for His common grace in sub-creators.

2016: I’m sure I would have enjoyed this even more if I knew Italian history, and if I believed in Purgatory. As it is, I’m glad to be through it and heading into Paradise.

3 of 5 stars