The Divine Comedy, Vol. II: Purgatory

The Divine Comedy, Vol. 2: Purgatory - Dante Alighieri, Mark Musa In "Inferno", Dante began a spiritual odyssey, accompanied by the ancient Roman poet Virgil, which led them through the horrors of Hell and ended with a cliffhanger of sorts; Dante and Virgil climbing down through the frozen lake of Cocytus to reach the center of the earth. From there, they must turn around and begin climbing up a passage that leads back to the surface. Having surveyed the landscape of Hell and witnessed firsthand the results of unrepentant sin, and having learned much about theology, Dante is ready for the next stage of his journey, the ascent up Mount Purgatory.There are several important parallels between "Purgatory" and "inferno", among them the topography and the prescriptions for the souls. Both Purgatory and Hell are reached by crossing water; the river Styx in Hell and a sea in Purgatory. They are both constructed of layers of concentric circles, Hell being an ever narrowing pit, and Purgatory a mountain. In both places, the circles are home to souls of the dead where they experience a suffering that is related to their sin. There are barriers erected between each circle that must be crossed for Dante to proceed from one level to the next. Dante meets and enters into conversation with souls as he proceeds and learns something of their lives, his future, and is instructed in theology by Virgil. Hell and Purgatory are nearly mirror images of each other. However, just as mirror images share certain things in common, there are also great differences. The suffering of Hell is eternal, and though the souls of the damned bewail their state, they have no desire to repent and are even more intransigent in death than they were in life. The suffering of Purgatory, as explained by Dante, is temporary and serves to purge the taint of sin from the soul of the sinner prior to their entrance to Paradise. Dante is careful to note that the full punishment of sin was satisfied by Christ on the cross. This is not a case of double jeopardy. The saints in Purgatory embrace their suffering and are glad to enter into it, for every moment that passes is a moment closer to their ultimate release to Paradise. So anxious are they to enter into that blessed state that, when they are asked to detour to speak with Dante, they are impatient to return to their suffering. This is one of the main points of the "Purgatory", the desire of the redeemed soul reach Heaven no matter what the cost. After an arduous climb up the mountain, Dante reaches the pinnacle. Here, at the last circle of Purgatory, Virgil is left behind. As a pagan, he cannot proceed higher and must return to Limbo. Dante, though, enters the earthly paradise and, after crossing the river Lethe where all sorrow for his sins is forgotten, is reunited with Beatrice, a woman he had loved when he was a boy. Beatrice is the personification of theology and the symbol of the beauty of God. It was she who interceded on Dante's behalf to send Virgil to his aid, she who prayed over his progress, and she will now lead Dante through the final stage of his journey through Paradise.More to come...