How we cite our quotes:
[Dante to St. John]: Thus I began again: "My charity
results from all those things whose bite can bring
the heart to turn to God; the world's existence
and mine, the death that He sustained that I
might live, and that which is the hope of all
believers, as it is my hope, together
with living knowledge I have spoken of –
these drew me from the sea of twisted love
and set me on the shore of the right love.
The leaves enleaving all the garden of
the Everlasting Gardener, I love
according to the good He gave to them." (Par. XXVI, 55-66)
Recalling Purgatorio, Dante differentiates between "right" love and perverted love. "Charity" is of course the proper kind of love because it is directed towards God and one's neighbors. Charity can rescue one from "the sea of twisted love" which means loving an object secondary to God (which is anything) or loving too much or too little. Dante quickly assures St. John that he loves the correct object – God – by naming his love "charity" and that he loves in proper measure by saying, "I love according to the good He gave."
That love whose warmth allowed this flower to bloom
within the everlasting peace – was love
rekindled in your womb; for us above,
you are the noonday torch of charity,
and there below, on earth, among the mortals,
you are a living spring of hope. Lady,
you are so high, you can so intercede,
that he who would have grace but does not seek
your aid, may long to fly but has no wings.
Your loving-kindness does not only answer
the one who asks, but it is often ready
to answer freely long before the asking.
In you compassion is, in you is pity,
in you is generosity, in you
is every goodness found in any creature. (Par. XXXIII, 7-21)
This eloquent prayer to Mary recalls the very beginning of Inferno: in canto II, we learn that Virgil's appearance to Dante was ultimately made possible by the Virgin Mary. As the "noonday torch of charity," it was Mary's compassion that allowed her to notice Dante in his darkest days and initiate the journey that brought him to Heaven, that allowed him to "fly [with] no wings" to her feet. It should also be noted that Mary is one of the few positive female figures to appear in the Divine Comedy. So the fact that Dante prays to Mary at the end of his journey, when she originally prayed for him in Inferno, represents his coming full circle.
Whoever sees that Light is soon made such
that it would be impossible for him
to set that Light aside for other sight;
because the good, the object of the will,
is fully gathered in that Light; outside
that Light, what there is perfect is defective. (Par. XXXIII, 100-105)
The sight of God, who is depicted largely in light imagery, makes Dante long for nothing more than more of God Himself. We are to recall from canto XIV that God's love is manifested in light (as the light of the blessed souls). His light is such a shower of love that human desire cannot help but desire Him and only Him when witnessing His glory. Everything "outside that Light" pales in comparison and "is defective."