The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio by Dante

“The natural was ever without error;

But err the other may by evil object,

Or by too much. or by too little vigor.”

The above quote in canto XVII humanizes existence in purgatory.  Purgatory does not move far enough away from the horror of the Inferno and the disproportionate time assigned in purgatory is a hell in and of itself.  Still a vivid and dramatic literary book expressing Dante’s imagination of what purgatory maybe like as opposed to any biblical underpinnings.

The above canto is Virgil’s discourse of Love.  In our layman understanding we often see sin as the antithesis of love.  To sin is to deny love or act contrary to love of oneself, other people, the almighty, the Godhead.  However, if everything in our human world is created by the creator, our love for things of this earthly existence is quite natural.  However, when our love becomes distorted, outside the appropriate measure (too much or too little), it results in living in a state of Sin.  The scary aspect of this distortion of love is we can easily slip on this slope by willing and conscience affectations or be completely unawares of said distorted affectations due to normed deviations over time to desensitized values and ignorance of the purity of love when spirit infused and directed.

The exit of purgatory returns to a violent confrontation with Beatrice where Dante stands in front of Beatrice’s condemnation.   This is only a trial run for Dante; a tour so to speak, yet the blazing inquiry be Beatrice and procession of symbolic images is overwhelming in meaning and depth.

In Book II of the Divine Comedy I remained outside of the depth of Dante’s poetic imagination.  The value of Wyoming Catholic Distance Learning Course on this book is apparent.  Without it the words would wash over me and return to the pages without so much as dampening my understanding.  (The course has several lectures not yet posted yet so I may find my initial thoughts of the three books changed over time).

Purgatorio is a semi-relief after visiting the inferno.   Adding to the experience of bringing this work to life are artistic depictions of scenes (see Arachne below) and descriptions of beautiful music.

For more on music check out  The World of Dante is sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities, University of Virginia. Excellent companion to the read.

Why did Pope Francis recommend this book?  Dante was not a theologian.  His work was intended to be literary in form.  The three works together though present an imaginative reflection on spiritual themes and musings that are timeless and defy the test of time as his work remains a classic.  There are ample resources devoted to this text that I cannot add to or claim any ownership here of new ideas.


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