Bright red numbers glow, burning my sleep-heavy eyes. It takes a few moments for my brain to process what I’m seeing, but there’s little doubt now – “5:30.” Surely such horrific buzzing should be reserved for air raid alarms. I only use the torturous device when I have to awaken early, and then only for its persuasiveness. It is 5:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, and I do not want to get out of bed.
Several months ago, I posted an article that introduced the subject of patterns and types in St. Matthew’s gospel. Particularly, I pointed out how Matthew portrays Jesus as the beginning and the end, the fulfillment of all God’s promises. You can read part one here, if you like.
"It is easier to be enthusiastic about Humanity with a capital 'H' than it is to love individual men and women especially those who uninteresting, exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive. Loving everybody in general may be an excuse loving no one in particular." – John Stott, commenting on 1st John 3:17
Journalist: “What are your thoughts on Hell?”
G.K. Chesterton: “I regard it as a thing to be avoided.”
One of the most obvious benefits of reading Dante’s Inferno is that it provides a vivid reminder that sin destroys and heaps horrific consequences upon the sinner. Temptation, by definition, entices one because of the apparent pleasure that the sinful act will bring, but Dante cuts through such transitory appearances, directing us to the frightening aftermath.
Paolo & Francesca
Leaning forward in the black and white armchair, I slowly close the back cover of The Rector of Justin, with whom I have spent much of the last day. It is fiercely cold outside and I can see the wind whipping violently through the bare trees and tall weeds of the seemingly endless snow-covered fields. The windows of my room groan with every gust.
I begin as many days as possible with this “Morning Prayer,” which I have seen attributed to both St. Basil the Great and Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (1782-1867):
Awakened from his first swoon by a “monstrous clap of thunder,” Dante finds that they have crossed Acheron and are now positioned “on the very brink of the valley called the Dolorous Abyss, the desolate chasm where rolls the thunder of Hell’s eternal cry” (Canto IV.7-9).
Yet, as they descend into the first circle, Dante reports…
“No tortured wailing rose to greet us here
but sounds of sighing rose from every side,
sending a tremor through the timeless air,
The Good of Intellect
Dante’s voyage into hell formally begins in Canto III as his guide, Virgil, reach the entry gate. Above the gate, carved in stone, is the foreboding inscription:
“I AM THE WAY INTO THE CITY OF WOE.
I AM THE WAY TO A FORSAKEN PEOPLE.
I AM THE WAY INTO ETERNAL SORROW.
SACRED JUSTICE MOVED MY ARCHITECT.
I WAS RAISED HERE BY DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE,
PRIMORDIAL LOVE AND ULTIMATE INTELLECT.
Stars & Resurrection
“This fell at the first widening of the dawn
as the sun was climbing Aries with those stars
that rode with him to light the new creation.” (Canto I.37-39)
Recently, I began teaching The Inferno, the first and best known part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, for the first time in several years. Sadly, I had forgotten much of its beauty and power. To ensure that my current encounter sticks a bit longer, I have decided to blog my way through hell, drawing attention to the lingering questions, connections, and struggles of the journey. Perhaps we will learn something.
“Therefore, for your own good, I think it well you follow me…” (Canto I.105-106)