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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 #13

[St. Bernard]: "Within the ample breadth of this domain,
no point can find its place by chance, just as
there is no place for sorrow, thirst, or hunger;
whatever you may see has been ordained
by everlasting law, so that the fit
of ring and finger here must be exact;
and thus these souls who have, precociously,
reached the true life do not, among themselves,
find places high or low without some cause.
The King through whom this kingdom finds content
in so much love and so much joyousness
that no desire would dare to ask for more,
creating every mind in His glad sight,
bestows His grace diversely, at His pleasure –
and here the fact alone must be enough." (Par. XXXII, 52-66)

Here, St. Bernard asserts that even though everything else about the universal order has been rationally explained, at least one thing remains beyond human understanding: how God chooses to bestow His grace. We know that it is based on a combination of the soul's moral merit and how much his free will aligns with God's, but we cannot ever know how this is calculated. This is one of the things that we must take on pure faith.

Quote #14

[St. Bernard]: "Without, then, any merit in their works,
these infants are assigned to different ranks –
proclivity at birth, the only difference.
In early centuries, their parents' faith
alone, and their own innocence, sufficed
for the salvation of the children; when
those early times had reached completion, then
each male child had to find, through circumcision,
the power needed by his innocent
member; but then the age of grace arrived,
and without perfect baptism in Christ,
such innocence was kept below, in Limbo." (Par. XXXII, 73-84)

This rule shows God's mercy. For those who do not yet have the power to will – like infants – God chooses mostly to save them rather than condemn them to Hell. In the times of the Old Testament, a baby's innocence saved him, but since Christ's coming, a child must be baptized to be saved, a rule that later conditions God's mercy.

Quote #15

… In the deep and bright
essence of that exalted Light, three circles
appeared to me; they had three different colors,
but all of them were of the same dimension;
one circle seemed reflected by the second,
as rainbow is by rainbow, and the third
seemed fire breathed equally by those two circles. (Par. XXXIII, 114-120)

It is appropriate that only in the highest Heaven, the Empyrean, can the image of God be seen. According to Mandelbaum, these three circles represent the image of God, in the form of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The second circle (the Son) "reflect[s]" the first (the Father) because the Son proceeds from the Father, and the "fire breathed" by the third circle (the Holy Ghost) is the fire of Divine Love.

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