by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Spirituality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[King Solomon]: …"As long as the festivity
of Paradise shall be, so long shall our
love radiate around us such a garment.
Its brightness takes its measure from our ardor,
our ardor from our vision, which is measured
by what grace each receives beyond his merit.
When, glorified and sanctified, the flesh
is once again our dress, our persons shall,
in being all complete, please all the more;
therefore, whatever light gratuitous
the Highest Good gives us will be enhanced –
the light that will allow us to see Him;
that light will cause our vision to increase,
the ardor vision kindles to increase,
the brightness born of ardor to increase.
Yet even as a coal engenders flame,
but with intenser glow outshines it, so
that in the flame the coal persists, it shows,
so will the brightness that envelops us
be then surpassed in visibility
by reborn flesh, which earth now covers up." (Par. XIV, 37-57)
Solomon's words inform us that the souls' light stems from their love for God. The depth of their love for God comes from the perfection of their vision. Interestingly, their lights serve as a sort of substitute for their earthly raiment – physical bodies. When Judgment Day comes, the blessed shall be reunited with their physical bodies and shine even brighter because they will be complete and merit more of God's grace.
As, graced with lesser and with larger lights
between the poles of the world, the Galaxy
gleams so that even sages are perplexed;
so, constellated in the depth of Mars,
those rays described the venerable sign
a circle's quadrants form where they are joined.
And here my memory defeats my wit:
Christ's flaming from that cross was such that I
can find no fit similitude for it.
But he who takes his cross and follows Christ
will pardon me again for my omission –
my seeing Christ flash forth undid my force.
Lights moved along that cross from horn to horn
and from the summit to the base, and as
they met and passed, they sparkled, radiant: (Par. XIV, 97-111)
The first sign that Dante sees upon entering the heaven of Mars is the souls forming an image of the Cross. These warrior souls combined with the image of the Cross bring to mind the Crusades, of which this flaming cross was the emblem. Interestingly, Dante can describe the individual souls, but cannot describe them collectively when they form such a holy sign. Here, their beauty escapes Dante's powers of expression.
She did not smile. Instead her speech to me
began: "Were I to smile, then you would be
like Semele when she was turned to ashes,
because, as you have seen, my loveliness –
which, even as we climb the steps of this
eternal palace, blazes with more brightness –
were it not tempered here, would be so brilliant
that, as I flashed, your mortal faculty
would seem a branch a lightning bolt has cracked." (Par. XXI, 4-12)
Like the souls themselves, Beatrice's beauty and smile become more brilliant as Dante ascends. Upon entering the heaven of Saturn, the brilliance of Beatrice's smile becomes too bright for Dante. She implies that were he to look now, he would go blind or "[his] mortal faculty [of sight] / would seem a branch a lightning bolt has cracked." The souls' brilliance, then, is a reflection of their closeness to God.