Paradiso -- Canto XXXII

The Rose of Heaven



5 Eve, who wounded the human race with her sin, sits at the feet of Mary who healed the wound with the ointment of her Son.



8 Rachel, Jacob’s younger wife, was clear-sighted and symbolizes the contemplative life. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bore Isaac; Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, was the mother of Esau and Jacob: the two women represent the ancestry of all believers. Judith slew Holofernes and saved the Jewish people. Ruth, Boaz’s wife, was the great-grandmother of the psalmist King David.










31 Saint John the Baptist fasted in the desert and was later beheaded by Herod Antipas. Saint Francis of Assisi was seen in Canto XI and Saint Benedict in Canto XXII. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) founded Western theology with his works on the Trinity, free will, the soul, his Confessions, and City of God.





















68 Jacob and Esau, twin sons of Rebecca and Isaac, were rivals; God showed his favor to Jacob (Genesis 25:22-26).









84 As seen in Inferno IV, unbaptized infants are assigned to Limbo.







95 In position and posture, the archangel Gabriel eternally re-enacts the moment of his annunciation to Mary.
















121 Adam sits on the left of Mary while Saint Peter sits on the right (l. 124).



127 Saint John the Evangelist saw visions of calamities for the Church which he recorded in Revelation.


131 Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, sits next to Adam.

133 Anna is the mother of the Virgin Mary.


137 Lucia or Lucy, the patron saint of light and sight was one of the three ladies who first interceded for Dante (Inferno II, 86-105), sits opposite Adam.

          Lovingly absorbed in his Delight,
          The contemplative took up the teacher’s part
          Spontaneously, and said these holy words:
          "The wound that Mary closed and healed with ointment
5         Had been opened and pierced through by the person
          Who sits, so beautiful, there at her feet.
          "Then in the third row of the circling seats
          Below her, as you witness for yourself,
          Rachel in her throne sits next to Beatrice.
10       "Sarah and Rebecca, there, with Judith
          And Ruth, the great-grandmother of the singer
          Who in remorse cried, ‘Lord, have mercy on me!’:
          "These you may see ranked downward tier by tier
          As I called out the names of each of them
15       From petal down to petal through the rose.
          "And from the seventh row on down, right up
          To the end, Hebrew women form a line
          By parting all the tresses of the flower:
          "For by the way that faith once looked to Christ,
20       These women are the wall of that partition
          Which separates in two the sacred stairway.
          "On one side, where the flower is full blown
          With all its petals, seated on their thrones
          Are all those who had faith that Christ would come.
25       "On the other side, where you see semicircles
          Pocked by empty spaces, sit all those
          Who turned their faces to Christ who had come.
          "And as, on this side, the high throne of glory
          Of heaven’s Lady, with the other seats
30       Below it, forms so vast a parting line,
          "So, facing her, the seat of the great John
          Who, always saintly, suffered wilderness
          And martyrdom, and then hell for two years,
          "Forms the same line with those assigned below him:
35       Francis, Benedict, Augustine, and others
          All the way here from circle down through circle.
          "Now wonder at the depth of providence,
          For each of these two aspects of the faith
          With equal portions shall fill up this garden.
40       "And know as well that, downward from the row
          Which cuts in half the two dividing lines,
          These souls are seated not for their own merits,
          "But for some others’, under set conditions,
          Since all of these are spirits who were freed
45       Before they had the power of true choice.
          "You can observe it clearly in their faces
          And in their children’s voices, if you look
          Carefully at them and listen to them.
          "You are confused now, and in your confusion
50       Keep still, but I will loosen the hard knots
          In which your subtle thoughts have tied you up.
          "Within the spacious compass of this kingdom
          No particle of chance can have a place,
          No more than sorrow can, or thirst or hunger,
55       "Because whatever you see is established
          By everlasting law, so that the match
          Fits the ring to the finger perfectly.
          "And so this group of children, hurried to
          True life, is not without good reason ranked
60       Higher or lower here among themselves.
          "The King, through whom this kingdom comes to rest
          In so much love and in so much delight
          That no one’s will would dare to demand more,
          "Creating all minds in his joyous sight,
65       Endows each differently with grace, at pleasure
          To himself — and here let that fact suffice.
          "And Holy Scripture plainly and expressly
          Declares this fact for you in the twin sons
          Whose anger roused them in their mother’s womb.
70       "The highest light must crown them, then, with halos
          According to the color of their hair
          (That is, the worth of such grace as they have).
          "Without the merit of their own works, therefore,
          These infant souls are placed at different steps
75       By differing only in original gifts.
          "In early times, the faith of their own parents
          Alone, together with their innocence,
          Was found to be enough for their salvation.
          "After that first period was completed,
80       Then circumcision was prescribed for males
          To impart power to their innocent wings.
          "But after the new age of grace arrived,
          Then, lacking perfect baptism in Christ,
          Such innocents were held back there below.
85       "Look now upon the face most like to Christ
          Because its brightness all alone possesses
          The power to prepare you to see Christ."
          I saw rain down upon her face such joy —
          Joy carried by those pure intelligences
90       Created to soar through that altitude —
          That whatever wonders I had seen before
          Had not held me suspended in such awe
          Nor showed me such an image like to God.
          And that same Love who first flew down to her,
95       Singing there, "Hail Mary, full of grace,"
          Now spread his wings out wide in front of her.
          From every side the blessed court responded
          So warmly to the canticle of heaven
          That with the song each face grew more serene.
100      "O holy father, for my sake enduring
          To be down here and leaving the sweet spot
          Where by eternal lot you sit enthroned,
          "Who is that angel who with such pure joy
          Looks into the eyes of our own Queen,
105      So full of love that he seems all aflame?"
          So once more I returned to the instruction
          Of him who drew his beauty down from Mary,
          Just as the morning star draws from the sun,
          And he told me, "Braveheartedness and charm,
110      As much as soul or angel can possess them,
          Are all in him, and we want it that way,
          "Because he is the one who brought the palm
          Downward to Mary, when the Son of God
          Willed to take up the burden of our flesh.
115     "But let your eyes now come while I walk on
          Talking, and take note of the mighty peers
          Of this most just and reverential empire.
          "Those two who sit above there, happiest
          In being seated nearest to the Empress,
120      Are, in a way, the two roots of this rose.
          "The one who sits beside her on the left
          Is the same father through whose reckless tasting
          The human race tastes so much bitterness.
          "On the right side you see the ancient father
125      Of holy church, to whom Christ gave in trust
          The keys to this fair incandescent flower.
          "And that saint who, before his death, saw all
          The times of hardship of the lovely bride
          Who was won with the spear and with the nails
130      "Sits by his side. And by the first father
          That leader rests whose people lived on manna,
          A stubborn, fickle, and ungrateful flock.
          "Across from Peter you see Anna sitting,
          So happy to be gazing on her daughter
135      She does not lift her eyes to sing Hosannah.
          "And opposite the eldest family father
          Lucia sits, who stirred your lady when
          Your head was nodding downward, to your ruin.
          "But since the time when you would slumber flies,
140      We will stop here — just like a skillful tailor
          Who cuts the coat according to his cloth —
          "And we will turn our eyes to the First Love,
          That, gazing toward Him, you may penetrate
          As far as possible through His refulgence.
145     "But to prevent the chance you may fall backward,
          Flapping your wings while thinking to fly forward,
          You now need to acquire grace through prayer:
          "Grace from her hands who has the power to help you.
          And you shall follow me so with your love
150      That your heart will not wander from my words."
          And he began to say this holy prayer:
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