David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 13: Sun — Saint Thomas Aquinas Discusses Solomon” and “Canto 14: Sun — Solomon; Mars — Symbolic Cross”

“Canto 13: Sun — Saint Thomas Aquinas Discusses Solomon”

  • What does Saint Thomas mean when he says that Solomon has no equal in wisdom?

St. Thomas is aware that Dante believes that God’s light shone brightest in Adam, the first man, and in Jesus Christ.

And so Saint Thomas is also aware that Dante is wondering what Saint Thomas meant when he said that Solomon had no equal in wisdom.

St. Thomas says that both he and Dante believe correctly. What Saint Thomas believes and what Dante believes are not contradictory.

St. Thomas says that when God acts directly, as when he created Adam and as when Christ was conceived, the result is perfect:

“If then the fervent Love, the Vision clear,

Of primal Virtue do dispose and seal,

Perfection absolute is there acquired.”

(Longfellow 13.79-81)

Solomon was without equal in the gift of wisdom that he received from God. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule well as a King, and he received it.

St. Thomas says,

“So, when I talked of unmatched wisdom then,

royal prudence was the wisdom upon which

I had my arrow of intention drawn.”

(Musa 13.103-105)

So Solomon was the wisest of all kings, of whom there are many, but of whom few are good.

  • Why must we be careful not to second-guess God?

St. Thomas warns against making hasty judgments:

“Nor should one be too quick to trust his judgment;

be not like him who walks his field and counts

the ears of corn before the time is ripe,

for I have seen brier all winter long

showing its tough and prickly stem, and then

eventually produce a lovely rose,

and I have seen a ship sail straight and swift

over the sea through all its course, and then,

about to enter the harbor, sink.”

(Musa 13.130-138)

We can correct mistakes. Briers can produce roses.

We can make mistakes. A ship can make a long voyage and then sink near its home harbor.

Partly, this means that when we judge a life, we need to judge an entire life. An evil man can repent at the last minute, just as a brier eventually produces a rose. A good person can become evil at the end of his life, just as a ship that has made a long voyage ends up sinking near its home harbor.

Aristotle said that in order to determine whether a man was happy, we need to look at the whole of that man’s life. After he has died, we will be able to tell if he was happy.

St. Thomas says,

“No Mr. or Miss Know-It-All should think,

when they see one man steal and one give alms

that they are seeing them through God’s own eyes,

for one may yet rise up, the other fall.”

(Musa 13.139-142)

God sees the whole picture — we don’t. God knows the end of a person’s life and whether or not they repented.

Chances are, we will be surprised by some of those who make it to Paradise, and by some of those who end up in the Inferno.

“Canto 14: Sun — Solomon; Mars — Symbolic Cross”

  • What are the two questions that Beatrice asks at the end of Dante’s time on the Sun?

Midway through Canto 14, Dante will leave the Sun. In this first section of the canto, we notice two things:

  1. Beatrice is a good guide and educator. She asks questions the answers to which Dante wants to know.
  2. As we have seen elsewhere on the Mountain of Purgatory and in Paradise, the souls are very helpful, as well as very happy. They readily answer Beatrice’s two questions.

Beatrice says,

“This man has need (and does not tell you so,

Nor with the voice, nor even in his thought)

Of going to the root of one truth more.

Declare unto him if the light wherewith

Blossoms your substance shall remain with you

Eternally the same that it is now;

And if it do remain, say in what manner,

After ye are again made visible,

It can be that it injure not your sight.”

(Longfellow 14.10-18)

In different words, the two questions are these:

  1. Will the souls retain their radiance eternally?
  2. If the souls do retain their radiance, how will they be able to withstand each other once their bodies and sight (sight through use of eyes) are restored to them on the Day of Judgment?

The souls of the wise are happy to answer these questions. They first respond with music and dance, causing Dante to say that those who fear death do not know the delight that awaits them in Paradise:

Those who regret that we die here on earth

to live above, have never known the freshening

downpour of God’s eternal grace up here.

(Musa 14.25-27)

In other words, if we knew what delights await us in Paradise, we would not fear dying.

By the way, Woody Allen jokes that he isn’t afraid of dying — he just doesn’t want to be there when it happens.

  • How does Solomon respond to Beatrice’s two questions?

Solomon responds to Beatrice’s two questions:

  1. Solomon says that the souls will retain their radiance forever. The radiance comes from their love of God.
  2. When the souls are reunited with their bodies, they will retain their radiance. In fact, their radiance will grow even brighter. God will strengthen their eyes so that they are able to withstand the radiance of the other souls.

At this point, a third circle joins the first two circles.

In addition, Beatrice grows brighter.

  • What does Dante see on the planet Mars?

As Dante looks at the radiant Beatrice, he becomes aware that he has risen to a new sphere: the planet Mars.

Dante expresses gratitude for what he is experiencing, and he sees a cross of white light. He also hears music, and a hymn that contains the words “‘Arise’ and ‘Conquer’” (14.125).

Nothing to Dante seems sweeter than that hymn, but Dante points out that he has not yet looked at Beatrice’s eyes since ascending to the planet Mars.

  • What is the Symbolic Cross that Dante sees on Mars?

The Symbolic Cross is the cross of the Crusaders. It is a Greek cross, which means that the two parts that make up the cross are of equal length. The Symbolic Cross is made up of the saved souls who are associated with the planet Mars.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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PARADISE: CANTO 12  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/dantes-paradise-canto-12-retelling-sun-saint-bonaventure-praises-saint-dominic/

PARADISE: CANTO 13  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/dantes-paradise-canto-13-retelling-saint-thomas-aquinas-discusses-solomon/

PARADISE: CANTO 14  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/dantes-paradise-canto-14-retelling-sun-solomon-mars-symbolic-cross/

PARADISE: CANTO 15  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/dantes-paradise-canto-15-retelling-mars-cacciaguida/

PARADISE: CANTO 16  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/dantes-paradise-canto-16-retelling-mars-cacciaguidas-florence/

PARADISE: CANTO 17  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/dantes-paradise-canto-17-retelling-cacciaguidas-prophecy/

PARADISE: CANTO 18  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/dantes-paradise-canto-18-retelling-jupiter-lovers-of-justice/

PARADISE: CANTO 19  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/dantes-paradise-canto-19-retelling-jupiter-symbolic-eagle/

PARADISE: CANTO 20 RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/dantes-paradise-canto-20-retelling-two-pagans-in-paradise-ripheus-and-trajan/

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INFERNO SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)

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