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by Dante Alighieri

Paradiso Rules and Order Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.

Quote #10

[Beatrice]: "Not to acquire new goodness for Himself –
which cannot be – but that his splendor might,
as it shines back to Him, declare 'Subsisto,'
in His eternity outside of time,
beyond all other borders, as pleased Him,
Eternal Love opened into new loves.
Nor did he lie, before this, as if languid;
there was no after, no before – they were
not there until God moved upon these waters.
Then form and matter, either separately
or in mixed state, emerged as flawless being,
as from a three-stringed bow, three arrows spring.
And as a ray shines into amber, crystal,
or glass, so that there is no interval
between its coming and its lighting all,
so did the three – form, matter, and their union –
flash into being from the Lord with no
distinction in beginning: all at once.
Created with the substances were order
and pattern; at the summit of the world
were those in whom pure act had been produced;
and pure potentiality possessed
the lowest part; and in the middle, act
so joined potentiality that they
never disjoin." (Par. XXIX, 13-37)

God's motive in creating the universe, Beatrice claims, was only to see Himself echoed. Thus, the universe sprang into existence according to his likeness. Again, notice the groups of three in which things come into being, a reminder of the Holy Trinity: "form, matter, and their union."

Quote #11

[Beatrice]: "But since on earth, throughout your schools, they teach
that it is in the nature of the angels
to understand, to recollect, to will,
I shall say more, so that you may see clearly
the truth that, there below, has been confused
by teaching that is so ambiguous.
These beings, since they first were gladdened by
the face of God, from which no thing is hidden,
have never turned their vision from that face,
so that their sight is never intercepted
by a new object, and they have no need
to recollect an interrupted concept." (Par. XXIX, 70-81)

Another rule of God's universe is that angels always gaze upon Him. Their proximity to God depends on the perfection of their vision. Unlike humans, then, they have no need for memory. They never turn away from God so they never forget His image. Given Dante's theory of memory and language, this also means that angels can never write poetry.

Quote #12

[Beatrice]: "The number of these angels is so great
that there has never been a mortal speech
or mortal thought that named a sum so steep;
and if you look at that which is revealed
by Daniel, you will see that, while he mentions
thousands, he gives no number with precision.
The First Light reaches them in ways
as many as are the angels to which It conjoins
Itself, as It illumines all of them;
and this is why (because affection follows
the act of knowledge) the intensity
of love's sweetness appears unequally." (Par. XXIX, 130-141)

There is a big debate in Christianity about how many angels there are in the universe. Beatrice answers this in a rather unsatisfactory way by saying that there are an infinite number of angels – some huge number beyond the comprehension of the human mind. She justifies this by saying that God can express his love (of which angels are the most perfect representation) in an infinite number of ways; thus, there are that many angels.

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