How we cite our quotes:
Ancient Florence is described by Cacciaguida as the epitome of a good society, whose political priorities are pure. Here is a society whose life centers on Christianity, as evidenced by the "walls" which surround a church clock tower marking the canonical hours of "tierce and nones." The women of Florence are not concerned with fancy clothes or makeup, but with raising children. And families are concerned only with raising their children prudently and arranging proper marriages for their virtuous daughters.
[Cacciaguida]: "There were the families, and others with them:
the Florence that I saw – in such repose
that there was nothing to have caused her sorrow.
These were the families: with them I saw
her people so acclaimed and just, that on
her staff the lily never was reversed,
nor was it made bloodred by factious hatred." (Par. XVI, 148-154)
One of the major motifs of Paradiso is that the rituals of the past are often thought superior to those of the present. The Florentine families are no exception; in ancient Florence, they were "acclaimed and just," but in the present-day Florence, they are corrupt, (i.e. dividing into political factions, inverting the noble standard of Florence (the lily), and staining their symbolic lily red with the blood of their brothers).
Therefore I pray the Mind in which begin
your motion and your force, to watch that place
which has produced the smoke that dims your rays,
that once again His anger fall upon
those who would buy and sell within that temple
whose walls were built by miracles and martyrs…
Men once were used to waging war with swords;
now war means seizing here and there the bread
the tender Father would deny to none.
But you who only write to then erase,
remember this: Peter and Paul, who died
to save the vines you spoil, are still alive. (Par. XVIII, 118-132)
The Church has brought a whole new level to political corruption: waging war on the virtuous and denying people the "bread / the tender Father would deny to none." By "bread" Dante means the Sacraments, the first steps towards repentance for one's sins.
[St. Benedict]: "But even heavy usury does not
offend the will of God as grievously
as the appropriation of that fruit
which makes the hearts of monks go mad with greed;
for all within the keeping of the Church
belongs to those who ask it in God's name,
and not to relatives or concubines.
The flesh of mortals yields so easily –
on earth a good beginning does not run
from when the oak is born until the acorn." (Par. XXII, 78-87)