Beneath the Stars

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:40 AM

One of the most beautiful works ever written is Dante Alighieri's la Divina Commedia. As I was plundering bits of the Inferno for a sermon illustration, I soaked up the end of that cantica for the first time in too long. It finds Dante and his poet-guide, Virgil, in the very pit of hell. There, Virgil points Dante to a dark space where there is a hole carved by a little river (the Lethe, which is busy sweeping away all memory of the sins of those in Purgatorio down into the Inferno) and they climb through that hole to again come to the surface.

Dante observes,

He first, I second, without thought of rest
we climbed the dark until we reached the point
where a round opening brought in sight the blest

and beauteous shining of the Heavenly cars.
And we walked out once more beneath the Stars (trans. John Ciardi).

Dante ends each of the canticas with reference to the stars, which remind us of God's glory and hope.

The Comedy is so beautiful that I have for years pondered learning Italian so that I could read the work in Dante's own tongue. One of these day, I just might.

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