David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 31: Mystic Empyrean—Saint Bernard”

“Canto 31: Mystic EmpyreanSaint Bernard”

  • Again, we have a change of guides. Write a brief character analysis of Saint Bernard. Who is he, historically?

Again, we have a change of guides.

Dante looks at the Rose and at the MysticEmpyrean. He turns to Beatrice to talk to her, but she is no longer beside him:

One thing I meant, another answered me;

I thought I should see Beatrice, and saw

An Old Man habited like the glorious people.

(Longfellow 31.58-60)

The new guide is Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. He lived in the 12th century (1090 or 1091-1153), and he was a member of the Cistercian religious order.

Saint Bernard was a number of things that are important to Dante:

1) He was a contemplative.

2) He was a reformer. As a reformer, he wrote to the Pope. He advised the Pope to focus on spiritual things and to cease his focus on political things.

3) He was a preacher.

4) He was a poet.

Saint Bernard is Dante’s final guide.

One of the things that Saint Bernard did was to call for the Second Crusade. This is the Crusade in which Cacciaguida, Dante’s ancestor, died as a martyr. This Crusade was a failure.

Twenty-one years after his death, Bernard was canonized.

Saint Bernard helps Dante to see the beatific vision — the vision of the Trinity.

This is a definition of “beatific”:

“experiencing or bestowing celestial joy,”

Source: <wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn – Definition in context>.

  • Where has Beatrice gone?

Beatrice is still present, although she is not beside Dante. Beatrice is seated among the saved souls in the Mystical Rose. Dante wonders where Beatrice is, and he asks Saint Bernard that. Saint Bernard tells him where she is.

Interestingly, the natural laws that we have to obey in the physical universe do not apply in the Empyrean. Despite Beatrice’s great distance from him, Dante is able to see her clearly: “distance made no difference, for her image / came down to me unblurred by anything” (Musa 31.77-78).

Dante gives Beatrice the praise that is due to her:

“From bondage into freedom you led me

by all those paths, by using all those means

which were within the limits of your power.”

(Musa 31.85-87)

Beatrice responds by smiling at Dante, and then she looks again at God.

  • How important a guide is Saint Bernard?

Saint Bernard really does not spend much time with Dante, acting as his guide, but he is a very important guide, nevertheless.

Each of the guides helps prepare Dante:

Virgil gets Dante ready to be guided by Beatrice.

Beatrice gets Dante ready to be guided by Saint Bernard.

Saint Bernard gets Dante ready to see God.

  • What do Dante’s various guides (Virgil, Beatrice, Saint Bernard) symbolize?

We can look at each of Dante’s three major guides — Virgil, Beatrice, and Saint Bernard — as symbols:

Virgil: The Symbol of the Light of Human Reason

Beatrice: The Symbol of the Light of Revelation

Saint Bernard: The Symbol of the Light of Mystical Contemplation. It is Saint Bernard who prepares Dante to see God more clearly. Only Mystical Contemplation can do that. Saint Bernard himself is said to have had a vision of God during his lifetime.

Saint Bernard begins acting as Dante’s guide immediately, telling him to look up at Mary:

“Thou son of grace, this jocund life,” began he,

“Will not be known to thee by keeping ever

Thine eyes below here on the lowest place;

But mark the circles to the most remote,

Until thou shalt behold enthroned the Queen

To whom this realm is subject and devoted.”

(Longfellow 31.112-117)

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

DANTE PDFs and LINKs

https://cosplayvideos.wordpress.com/dante-pdfs-and-links/

***

Free eBooks by David Bruce (pdfs)

https://wordpress.com/view/cosplayvideos.wordpress.com

***

PARADISE: CANTO 30  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/dantes-paradise-canto-30-retelling-mystic-empyrean-the-river-of-light-the-mystical-rose/

PARADISE: CANTO 31  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/dantes-paradise-canto-31-retelling-mystic-empyrean-saint-bernard/

PARADISE: CANTO 32  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/dantes-paradise-canto-32-retelling-mystic-empyrean-saint-bernard-and-the-saints-in-the-rose/

PARADISE: CANTO 33  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/dantes-paradise-canto-33-retelling-saint-bernard-prays-to-mary-the-trinity-and-christs-dual-nature/

***

INFERNO: CANTO 1 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 2 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 3  RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 4  RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 5 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 6 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 7 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 8 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 9 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 10  RETELLING

INFERNO KINDLE EBOOK

https://www.amazon.com/Dantes-Inferno-Retelling-David-Bruce-ebook/dp/B00AP9IGZM

INFERNO SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/89244

INFERNO PAPERBACK

http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-bruce/dantes-inferno-a-retelling-in-prose/paperback/product-23014882.html

PURGATORY KINDLE EBOOK

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BH719IC/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i29

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BH719IC/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i29

PURGATORY SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/210951

PURGATORY PAPERBACK

http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-bruce/dantes-purgatory-a-retelling-in-prose/paperback/product-23684335.html

PARADISE KINDLE EBOOK

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BH78R5U/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i42

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BH78R5U/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i42

PARADISE SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/238110

PARADISE PAPERBACK

http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-bruce/dantes-paradise-a-retelling-in-prose/paperback/product-23895207.html

DIVINE COMEDY  KINDLE EBOOK

https://www.amazon.com/Dantes-Divine-Comedy-Retelling-Prose-ebook/dp/B00923K8N0

DIVINE COMEDY  SMASHWORDS (EBOOKS)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/238180

DIVINE COMEDY  PAPERBACK

http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-bruce/dantes-divine-comedy-a-retelling-in-prose/paperback/product-23806384.html

This entry was posted in Dante, Discussion Guide and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s