Essay / Literature

Dante Continued (Paradise)

John Mark Reynolds, 2004.

Tonight I struggled with love again. What is it? How do I know when the divine love is present? The love that is divine is fruitful. It bears children. Too much of modern love practices birth control. It aborts the natural fruit of love in order to stay in the sterile “love” of the young. It never reaches the ripe maturity of the father or the mother. The breast that does not feed children may remain for a time young in appearance, but it is really withered. In the same way, our married love must grow deeper and have children, if possible. If natural children are denied to a couple by God, then spiritual children will surely follow. For the dialectic between two lovers, must lead to children in word, if not in deed. For this reason, a man or woman should never intentionally marry a mental inferior.

This is all merely an analogy for God’s love. Our love of God must grow. At times it seems to leave behind the joy of the early days of our walk with God. Though we never leave our first love in the sense of finding new loves, we do grow up. . . the early love eventually bears spiritual fruit and changes. We become not just the bride of Christ, but bear Christ spiritual children, wives if you will. The second question that puzzles me relates to this “bearing children” in word. There are I think two kinds of “stamping” a teacher or leader can perform. The first is very bad and the second is good. Following Plato in Republic, one must condemn the sort of “stamping” that turns the student into wax into which the teacher impresses his likeness. This reduces the student to a tool and destroys his individuality.

Paul in Ephesians 1:13 (thanks Katie!) presents a second kind of “sealing.” This authenticates the work of God in a human soul. The seal is added to the man, who is the document not the wax of the seal, to give power and authenticity to the soul. The man is left a man. He does not become God. It seems to me that Dante presents this second kind of “sealing” in the Divine Comedy and not the first. We do not become “god,” nor can we. Nothing can share in the divine essence. We do become authenticated and empowered to be free by the divine seal on our lives. We are then capable (for the first time) of becoming what He calls us to be. In that sense, since men are in His image, men can become like God. We become images of God, not because he stamps us with the “hammer” of grace, but because we become most fully the selves He created us to be. This is exciting, if true. As usual I am left with more questions than answers.

Share this essay [social_share/]