Dante Alighieri lived from 1265-1321. In a series of visions he penned his most serious and prestigious work- the Commedia. Fifty years later Italian author & poet Giovanni Boccaccio added the descriptor “Divina.” Dante’s work became known henceforth as The Divine Comedy: the vision of Paradise, Purgatory and Hell.
Dante penned this work somewhere between 1308 and his death in 1321. He first released it the Thursday before Good Friday, 1300. He started writing his Commedia when he was halfway through his life, 35 years old. Thus did he take stock of his life at this midway-point. His Commedia is not so much a recounting of his vision of heaven, purgatory, and hell as it is an allegory of humanity’s journey to God. He starts, quite reflectively, in Hades, Canto 1 where he observes how many of us go through phases of darkness—
IN the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray…
Many of us go through phases of darkness. Some dark phases last forever, at least it seems that way. Dante Alighieri entered such a phase at mid-life as he pondered his future. He imagined himself passing through the three abodes of the dead, sequentially, from hell, through purgatory, and finally, entering his heavenly resting place. Though he was, in fact, describing all humanities spiritual journey, raising serious questions along the way.
There are many questions for which we each must find the answers. In Canto 1 Dante likens his wandering to being lost in a wildly savage forest… not far from death. He knows he needs help to find his way out of his sleepy dullness. He looks up from his valley to a mountain for someone to guide him though this phase of his life. Would we, in our postChristian mindset, even think to look for such a person? Would we recognize genuine answers to our questions if they came to us? Do we even know which phase of life we currently traverse? What looms in our future direction along this path? These are just a few of the queries for which we must discover answers.
If we do not seek these answers, we may forever wander in that forest, wild & savage. We might also not seek that One “Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.” (Canto 1, line 17)
Have a nice week,