by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Faith Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
If I was body (and on earth we can
not see how things material can share
one space – the case, when body enters body),
then should our longing be still more inflamed
to see that Essence in which we discern
how God and human nature were made one.
What we hold here by faith, shall there be seen,
not demonstrated but directly known,
even as the first truth that man believes. (Par. II, 37-45)
On seeing how his body arrives in the body of the moon but does not displace any material, Dante is amazed. His amazement quickly becomes a reminder of the miracle of Jesus Christ, who is of two natures, "God and human." Because human beings deem it impossible for two bodies to occupy the same space, we must "hold here by faith" that God can make it possible.
[Beatrice]: "Neither the Seraph closest unto God,
nor Moses, Samuel, nor either John –
whichever one you will – nor Mary has,
I say, their place in any other heaven
than that which houses those souls you just saw,
nor will their blessedness last any longer.
But all those souls grace the Empyrean;
and each of them has gentle life – though some
sense the Eternal Spirit more, some less.
They showed themselves to you here not because
this is their sphere, but as a sign for you
that in the Empyrean their place is lowest.
Such signs are suited to your mind, since from
the senses only can it apprehend
what then becomes fit for the intellect." (Par. IV, 28-42)
Here is another fact that Dante must swallow on pure faith. The souls he sees in each of the heavens are not actually there. They only appear there to mortal Dante because "such signs are suited to [his] mind," which can only understand the information it receives "from the senses." In other words, because Piccarda and Empress Constance broke their vows, their images appear on the moon, a star famous for its inconstancy. To the logical human mind, the souls' placement on the various stars makes sense, given their varying levels of blessedness. But in reality, all souls in Heaven inhabit the Empyrean with God.
O senseless cares of mortals, how deceiving
are syllogistic reasonings that bring
your wings to flight so low, to earthly things!
One studied law and one the Aphorisms
of the physicians; one was set on priesthood
and one, through force or fraud, on rulership;
one meant to plunder, one to politick;
one labored, tangled in delights of flesh,
and one was fully bent on indolence;
while I [Dante], delivered from our servitude
to all these things, was in the heights of heaven
with Beatrice, so gloriously welcomed. (Par. XI, 1-12)
In a moment of pride, Dante watches the bustle of human activity – bent only towards practical ends – down on Earth. He condescendingly views each of these activities as "senseless cares" that follow "syllogistic reasoning." Having learned from Beatrice, Dante now knows that reason alone (which guides the mortals below) will not win one a place in Paradise. Faith, too, is required.