Dante, Purgatorio, XXX

Dante looks back for Virgil, but Virgil is gone. “But he, he had taken his light from us. He had gone. Virgil had gone. Virgil, the gentle Father to whom I gave my soul for its salvation!”

 

“It was necessary for man’s salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed God, besides philosophical science built up by human reason…because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason…therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation.” (STh., I q.1 a.1 resp.)

 

Just a couple Cantos earlier, when Matilda corrects the mistakes of the poets, such as Virgil and Statius, Dante looks back to see their response. “…they had received her final words with smiles that lingered yet upon their faces; then they turned back to that lady of glad graces.”

 

Amazingly, they simply want the truth, and find not disappointment but joy in the correction. They truly understood the purpose of reason; to seek truth. And when enlightened to it, they are not offended that they may have erred, but are joyous to attain what they sought.

 

Dante, however, reacts not in humble trust to the movement beyond reason, but in fear and sadness. Of course, long habit makes this understandable, but still it must be remedied. Reason was never a bad thing, and faith does not contradict it. But we must love truth, and not our mere attempt to know it alone. When truth transcends reason, we must be open to receive it, not fearing leaving behind what we thought we knew, but finding joy in what truly is.

 

St. Thomas, who “wrote well of Me (Christ) concerning the Eucharist” and wrote well in so many other things as well, say all he had written as if straw once he had a vision beyond. He found not sadness or frustration in this clearer vision of Truth,…but joy and awe.

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