Simple Samples: Paradiso Canto III

I turned, then, to that shade who seemed to be
the most intent to speak, and I began,
moved by an overwhelming urge, to say

“O well-created soul who, in the rays
of endless life, enjoy that sweetness which,
till truly tasted, never can be known,

how happy it would make me if you were
so gracious as to tell me who you are
and of your fate.” Gladly, with smiling eyes,

she said: “The love in us no more rejects
a just request than does the love in Him
Who wills His court to be like Love Himself.

I was a virgin sister in the world;
if you search deep into your memory,
you will remember me- though now I am

more beautiful by far- I am Piccarda.
You see me here among these other blest,
blest, all of us, within the slowest sphere.

Our own desires that are stirred alone
in the desires of the Holy Ghost
rejoice conforming to His ordering.

Our station which appears so lowly here
has been assigned because we failed our vows
to some degree and gave less than we pledged.”

I said: “Your faces shine so wondrously
with something undescribably divine,
transforming them beyond the memory,

and so I was not quick remembering;
but now with what your words have just revealed,
I find it easy to recall your face.

But tell me: all you souls so happy here,
do you yearn for a higher post in Heaven,
to see more, to become more loved by Him?”

She gently smiled, as did the other shades;
then came her words so full of happiness,
she seemed to glow with the first fire of love:

“Brother, the virtue of our heavenly love,
tempers our will and makes us want no more
than what we have- we thirst for this alone.

If we desired to be higher up,
then our desires would not be in accord
with His will Who assigns us to this sphere;

think carefully what love is and you’ll see
such discord has no place within these rounds,
since to be here is to exist in Love.

Indeed, the essence of this blessed state
is to dwell here within His holy will,
so that there is no will but one with His;

the order of our rank from height to height,
throughout this realm is pleasing to the realm,
as to that King Who wills us to His will.

In His will is our peace- it is the sea
in which all things are drawn that it itself
creates or which the work of Nature makes.”

Then it was clear to me that every where
of Heaven is Paradise, though there the light
of Grace Supreme does not shine equally.

In The Divine Comedy, Canto III of Paradiso, Dante has an encounter with Piccarda in the level of heaven which vow breakers dwell. Dante asks Piccarda if people in lower levels of Heaven desire to be in higher levels. Dante hears the best answer in the entire comedy.

Dante’s question brings to mind biblical teaching about contentment and complacency. When the Bible deals with contentment the context is usually suffering or some form of lack. In Philippians Paul learns the secret of contentment in both harsh and good conditions through Jesus. He says “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Also, Hebrews 13:5 says to keep your lives free from the love of money and to be content with what you have. Biblically, contentment is accepting the material good that you have as from God.

Dante and Piccarda awakened the question; am I to feel ‘contentment’ with my level of knowledge about God and my relationship with Him? She says ‘’if we desired to be higher up, then our desires would not be in accord with His will who assigns us to this sphere…” She articulated what I could not; being content means being satisfied in God to the effect that you are at peace. “In His will is our peace” became all the more true because the context of the conversation that preceded it.

Being in His will brings peace; His will is to know Him more. This helps with discouragement in my walk with God. When I think I should be feeling a certain way emotionally, and I feel a struggle with complacency, I look to see if I am in His will, and peace comes with that. Piccarda says “He tempers our will and makes us want no more than what we have.”

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