The Divine Comedy: Paradiso

“Down through the world of infinite mourning; and along the mount, from whose fair height my lady’s eyes did lift me. And, after, through this Heaven, from light to light.”   Paradiso is the third and final part of The Divine Comedy, an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between c. 1308 and his death in 1321. The Comedy which began in Inferno continued through Purgatorio and now is concluded in Paradiso, represents each stage of the soul’s journey towards God.  Dante at the gates of Eden is now guided through the nine celestial spheres of Heaven and into the Empyrean, by Beatrice as Virgil having left his side at the gates of Eden in Purgatorio.  After being cleansed of his sins on mount purgatory Dante ascends into heaven with Beatrice as his guide.  The spheres of Heaven are the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Fixed Stars, and the Primum Mobiles each in turn represent the nine levels of angelic hierarchy while the Empyrean is depicted as a realm beyond physical existence and the abode of God. Inferno and Purgatorio were based on different classifications of sin, whereas the structure of the Paradiso is based on the four cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice Temperance and Courage) and the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity).

I found Paradiso much harder to read than Inferno or Purgatorio, the imagery is harder to represent as it deals with an emotional state rather than a corporal one.  The themes throughout are that of Gods eternal love, order, justice, faith and free will.  I enjoyed how souls are illustrated as rays of light which grow ever brighter the higher up one ascends and thus are closer to God.  I didn’t connect with this as much as I had Inferno and Purgatorio but the feeling that the Empyrean gave me was that of love, love that radiated over you like the rays of the sun, and being surrounded by it like music, it felt like the very air would vibrate with the almighty power of that love.

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