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Thursday, May 07, 2020

Dante's Inferno

Dante Alighieri's Inferno is the first of a 3 part 14th-century epic poem called the Divine Comedy. It was called a comedy but it wasn't funny. That was a term they used. It is followed by Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Paradise). The Inferno tells the journey of of the Catholic Dante through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth.

Virgil proceeds to guide Dante through the nine circles of Hell. The circles are concentric, representing a gradual increase in wickedness, and culminating at the centre of the earth, where Satan is held in bondage in Cocytus, a frozen lake. Inferno opens on the evening of Good Friday in the year 1300. Dante Alighieri has lost his path and now wanders. The ghost of Virgil, the great Roman poet, has come to guide Dante. Traveling down the circles of Hell, eventually, the poets reach the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and travel from there out of Hell and back onto Earth. They emerge from Hell on Easter morning, just before sunrise. An appropriate symbolism.

In January 1302 Dante was called to appear before the new Florentine government and, failing to do so, was condemned, along with three other former priors, for crimes he had not committed. Again failing to appear, Dante and 14 other Whites (a political party) were condemned to be burned to death. Dante suffered the most decisive crisis of his life. He was exiled as his country, Italy, was in chaos. He had to shift about, living with wealthy patrons, while he wrote until he died. In his comedy, he mentioned many names that would have been well known at the time in the political and religious world in Italy as well as famous mythological creatures which any educated person back then would have been familiar with.

The visit to Hell is, as Virgil explains, a painful, but necessary, act before real recovery can begin. The Holy Spirit proves to each individual the sin, righteousness, and judgement of the world.

John 16:7-8 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment

In order for us to come to repentance, we must realize we are sinners ,and sin, when judged, leads to eternal damnation in Hell and the Lake of Fire. If we don't know we are sinners and judgment is coming, then we don't know to look for our Savior, Jesus Christ. So Virgil is showing Dante that sin brings righteous judgment. So he makes the punishments in the circles of hell, commensurate with the sin. The worse the sins, the farther from God and the closer to satan.

The condemnations chosen by Dante follow a very precise rule, which the poet draws from the Bible and from medieval jurisprudence: it is the so-called contrapasso law. Contrepasso means retaliation or suffer the opposite. In Dante's mind, God's justice requires the punishment be suited both to the type of sin and to the severity of the sin.

There are two types of contrapasso:
Contrapasso by analogy: penalty is similar to the sin

Contrapasso by contrast: the penalty consists of the inverse of the characteristics of sin

In Canto 5, the sinners punished here were the lustful who were swept along by their feelings and desires as though by strong winds. They lose their reason due to their lust so they are punished by literally being blown here and there by strong winds.

And now I can hear the notes of agony

In sad crescendo beginning to reach my ear;
Now I am where the noise of lamentation
Comes at me in blasts of sorrow. I am where

All light is mute, with a bellowing like the ocean
Turbulent in a storm of warring winds,
The hurricane of Hell in perpetual motion

Sweeping the ravaged spirits as it rends,
Twists, and torments them. Driven as if to land,
They reach the ruin: groaning, tears, laments,

And cursing of the power of Heaven. I learned
They suffer here who sinned in carnal things-
Their reason mastered by desire, suborned.

As winter starlings riding on their wings
Form crowded flocks, so spirits dip and veer
Foundering in the wind's rough buffetings,

Upward or downward, driven here and there
With never ease from pain nor hope of rest.
As chanting cranes will form a line in air,

So I saw souls come uttering cries-wind-tossed,
And lofted by the storm...

Once we know we are sinners and we know the penalty of sin is righteous judgment, then the Holy Spirit shows us The Way to salvation in Jesus Christ. This is where Dante goes from the center of Hell out to the other side and begins to go through Purgatory and finally Paradise in his poem. It is the righteousness of Christ who paid for our sins so that we don't have to suffer the eternal torment for our sins in Hell. He bought and paid for our salvation with His own Blood. As sinners, we cannot pay the price to save ourselves. It was an impossibility. We are born with a sin nature and we sin, therefore we could not purchase our salvation. Jesus Christ came as a man but also as a sinless man. He was a human on Mary's side and God's Son, thus deity, on God's side. No one, since the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin, had been born sinless until Jesus. Jesus was fully human but fully God. He was sent with a mission, a job to complete. To save the human race. He voluntarily took the job and was obedient and sinless even to His death. Therefore His precious, sinless blood paid the price for sin and He redeemed us from judgment and Hell. And it is a free gift to accept our salvation and eternal life in Heaven. The gift is offered to every single human being no matter what sins you have committed. The only unforgivable sin is to reject the work of the Holy Spirit and refuse Jesus Christ as your Savior. God loved us so much He sent His only Son, Jesus, to save us and all we have to do is accept the gift! We must go through conviction (realizing we are sinners), repentance (realizing we are under judgment and will suffer for our sins for eternity if we don't accept Jesus) receving Christ's forgiveness and acceptance by asking Jesus to be the Lord of our life.

Romans 3:10-26 (Living Bible) 10 As the Scriptures say,
“No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent.”
11 No one has ever really followed God’s paths or even truly wanted to.
12 Every one has turned away; all have gone wrong. No one anywhere has kept on doing what is right; not one.
13 Their talk is foul and filthy like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are loaded with lies. Everything they say has in it the sting and poison of deadly snakes.
14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
15 They are quick to kill, hating anyone who disagrees with them.
16 Wherever they go they leave misery and trouble behind them, 17 and they have never known what it is to feel secure or enjoy God’s blessing.
18 They care nothing about God nor what he thinks of them.
19 So the judgment of God lies very heavily upon the Jews, for they are responsible to keep God’s laws instead of doing all these evil things; not one of them has any excuse; in fact, all the world stands hushed and guilty before Almighty God.
20 Now do you see it? No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law commands. For the more we know of God’s laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them; his laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners.
21-22 But now God has shown us a different way to heaven—not by “being good enough” and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says he will accept and acquit us—declare us “not guilty”—if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. 23 Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; 24 yet now God declares us “not guilty” of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins.
25 For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God’s anger against us. He used Christ’s blood and our faith as the means of saving us from his wrath. In this way he was being entirely fair, even though he did not punish those who sinned in former times. For he was looking forward to the time when Christ would come and take away those sins. 26 And now in these days also he can receive sinners in this same way because Jesus took away their sins.

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