David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide —“Canto 32: Mystic Empyrean — Saint Bernard and the Saints in the Rose”

“Canto 32: Mystic Empyrean — Saint Bernard and the Saints in the Rose”

  • Of which souls is the Rose composed?

Saint Bernard will get Dante ready to see God. He does that by having Dante study the Mystic Empyrean with all of its saved souls and good angels.

Saint Bernard points out a number of souls in the Rose to Dante. Mary, of course, is here, and Dante looked at her in Canto 31.

Ruth, an ancestor of David, is here. King David, of course, is also in the Rose. Saint Bernard refers to David as “the singer / who cried for his sin: ‘Miserere mei’” (Musa 32.10-12).

Miserere mei” means “Have mercy on me.” These words appear in Psalm 50:1 (King James Version):

1: Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Of course, Dante thought that King David had written all of the Psalms.

Miserere” is a word that appears in all three canticles of The Divine Comedy:

Inferno

In the Inferno, Canto 1, the first words that Dante speaks are “Miserere mei.” He says those words to Virgil:

And when I saw him standing in this wasteland,

“Have pity on my soul,” I cried to him,

“whichever you are, shade or living man!”

(Musa, Inferno1.64-66)

“Have pity on my soul” (Musa 1.65) translates “Miserere mei.”

Purgatory

In Purgatory, Canto 5, the souls in Prepurgatory sing the Miserere. It is one of the ways that they get ready for Purgatory:

Meanwhile, across the slope ahead of us,

people were passing, chanting Miserere,

singing the psalm in alternating parts.

(Musa, Purgatory5.22-24)

Paradise

Saint Bernard identifies David in this way:

“Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and then she,

who was the great-grandmother of the singer

who cried for his sin: “Miserere mei.’”

(Musa, Paradise32.10-12)

Of course, the souls in the Rose are the souls of the Blest. They are the saved souls who reside in Paradise forever.

  • How are the souls in the Rose organized?

The rose is well organized. It is very symmetrical:

  • Half of the Rose is complete, and half of it is not yet complete.
  • The half of the Rose that is complete is the half that is made up of pagans such as Ripheus and Old Testament souls such as Adam. These souls believed in the Christ Who was to come. Many, many Jews are in Paradise.
  • The half of the Rose that is not yet completed is devoted to those who believed in the Christ Who had come. These souls are from New Testament times onward. This half of the Rose is nearly complete, indicating that the Day of Judgment is near.
  • We have contrasts in the Rose: young and old, male and female, Old Testament figures and New Testament figures. We remember that the wisdom we talked about in the cantos set on the Sun involved complementarity. We have complementarity here in the Mystic Rose.
  • Most of the souls look at God. The one exception is Saint Anne, who looks at Mary, her daughter, with love.
  • What is it time for Dante to do?

Now it is time for Dante to see his final vision. He will see God the Trinity. He will see God, Who is Love.

Saint Bernard will pray to Mary that Dante be allowed to look at the Trinity. In Paradise, souls are very helpful. Saint Bernard’s prayer will be answered positively. Dante will see God:

“But since the moments of thy vision fly,

Here will we make full stop, as a good tailor

Who makes the gown according to his cloth,

And unto the first Love will turn our eyes,

That looking upon Him thou penetrate

As far as possible through his effulgence.”

(Longfellow 32.139-144)

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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PARADISE: CANTO 31  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 32  RETELLING

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PARADISE: CANTO 33  RETELLING

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INFERNO: CANTO 5 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 6 RETELLING

INFERNO: CANTO 7 RETELLING

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