Paradiso -- Canto VII

Beatrice on Redemption



1 The hymn sung in the first stanza by Justinian and the blessed is written in the two languages of heaven: Latin and Hebrew: Osanna, sanctus Deus sabaÚth, / superilustrans claritate tua / felices ignes horum malacÚth!










22 Beatrice answers Dante’s question about the need for "a just vengeance" in reparation for Adam’s fall. Since all men share in the sin, human nature in the person of Jesus was justly punished on the cross, although it was a grave wrong that a divine person suffer (ll. 25-54). Beatrice turns to Dante’s other question about why God chose the way of the cross for salvation. Since humans are eternal creations that come directly from God, an eternal and human savior was needed. She distinguishes between creations of nature like the four elements and creations of God like human souls and their bodies, and concludes that all people shall one day rise to judgment (ll. 55-148).

          "Hosanna to the holy Lord of Hosts,
          Relighting by your brightness from above
          The blissful burning fires of these kingdoms!"
          So, now revolving to this melody,
5        That substance who had spoken I saw sing
          While over him the twofold light redoubled.
          And he and others moved in their one dance,
          And, like the swiftest sparks arising upward,
          With sudden distance veiled themselves from me.
10       I stood in doubt, and said, "Tell her, tell her!"
          Within myself I said, "Tell her, my lady
          Who slakes my thirst with her sweet drops of dew!"
          But that awe which is mistress of me wholly,
          By the mere sound of her name’s Be and ice,
15       Bowed me down like someone drowsing off.
          Just for a short while Beatrice left me so,
          And she began, beaming a smile on me
          To make a man staked in the fire happy,
          "If I, who cannot err, have judged correctly,
20       Your thoughts have been set pondering on how
          A just vengeance could be avenged with justice,
          "But I will quickly free your mind from doubt;
          And listen carefully, because my words
          Make you a present of important teachings.
25       "Since he would bear for his own good no curb
          Upon his willpower, that man who was unborn,
          Damning himself, damned all his progeny.
          "As a result the human race below
          Lay sick for many centuries in grave error
30       Until it pleased the Word of God to come
          "Down where he joined in person with himself,
          By the sheer act of his eternal love,
          The nature that had wandered from its Maker.
          "Now turn your gaze to what I now disclose:
35       This nature which was thus joined to its Maker
          Was, when it was created, pure and good,
          "But through itself it had been driven out
          Of paradise, because it turned aside
          From the way of the truth and from its life.
40       "The penalty inflicted by the cross —
          If measured by the nature so assumed —
          Never struck at anyone more justly.
          "Likewise, there never was a greater wrong,
          If we look to the person suffering it,
45       In whom that other nature was bound up.
          "From this one act, then, different things resulted,
          For one same death pleased both God and the Jews,
          And with it the earth shook and heaven opened.
          "It should no longer now seem hard to you
50       On hearing it declared that a just vengeance
          Was afterward avenged by court of justice.
          "But now I see your mind is tangled up
          With thought on thought into a knot from which
          It awaits release with deep-felt longing.
55       "You say, ‘I make out clearly what I hear,
          But why God willed this as the only way
          Of our redemption is still hidden from me.’
          "This edict, brother, has been buried from
          The eyes of everyone whose understanding
60       Is not matured within the flames of love.
          "Nevertheless, since there are many who
          Aim at this mark and few who sight it rightly,
          I shall explain why that way was most fitting.
          "Divine Goodness, which spurns from itself
65       All envy, burning in itself, so sparkles
          That it reveals all the eternal beauties.
          "Whatever is distilled immediately
          From it is everlasting, since, once sealed,
          Its imprint never can be wiped away.
70       "Whatever is poured down immediately
          From it is wholly free, since Goodness is
          Not subject to the power of changing things.
          "The sacred Flame which shoots its rays through all
          Is most alive in what is most like Goodness
75       And most pleased by what most resembles it.
          "Human beings have the advantage of
          All these endowments, but if they fail in one
          They must fall down from their nobility.
          "Sin alone can rob them of their birthright
80       And render them unlike the highest Good
          So that they beam less brightly in its light.
          "They never can recoup their innocence
          Unless they fill up what faults emptied out
          By paying for bad pleasures with just pains.
85       "Your nature when it had sinned totally
          In its first seed was reft of that innocence
          Just as it was deprived of paradise.
          "Nor could it win them back, if you consider
          The matter carefully, by any other way
90       Except by passing one of these two fords:
          "Either that God, by graciousness alone,
          Granted forgiveness, or that by himself
          Man should make satisfaction for his folly.
          "Now fix your eyes intently on the abyss
95       Of the eternal Wisdom — fasten them
          As tightly as you can to what I say.
          "Bound by his limits, man could never make
          Enough amends, because he was not able
          By afterwards obeying, to humbly bend
100     "As low as he'd mount high by disobeying:
          This is the reason why man was shut off
          From being able to make amends himself.
          "It was needed, then, for God in his own ways
          Of mercy and of justice to give man back
105      Full life — I mean by one way or by both.
          "But since a deed is more prized by the doer
          The more it manifests to others’ eyes
          The goodness of the heart from which it springs,
          "The divine Goodness which imprints its seal
110     Upon the world was pleased to move ahead
          By its own ways to raise you up once more.
          "Between the final night and the first day
          There has not been nor will there be so mighty
          And magnificent an act by either way.
115     "For God, by giving himself to make man able
          To raise himself again, was more generous
          Than if he only had remitted sin;
          "And all the other means would have been short
          Of justice, if the Son of God had not
120      Humbled himself to be a human being.
          "Now, to fulfill exactly all your longings,
          I turn back to explain a certain passage
          To enable you to see it as I do.
          "You say, ‘I see the water, I see the fire,
125     The air, the earth, and all their combinations
          Fall to corruption and last but a brief while:
          " ‘And yet these things were creatures: for this cause,
          If what you said of them were really true,
          They ought to be secure from such corruption.’
130     "The angels, brother, and the pure clear country
          Where you are now, may be said to be created
          Just as they are, in their entire being.
          "But the elements which you have named to me
          And all the things that are compounded from them
135     Receive their forms from some created power.
          "Created was the matter that they have;
          Created was the power informing them
          Within these stars which whirl about their way.
          "The rays and motion of the holy lights
140     Draw out from its compounded potency
          The soul of every animal and plant.
          "But the sovereign Largesse breathes your life
          Directly, and makes it so in love with him
          That always afterward it longs for him.
145     "And from this reasoning you can further prove
          Your resurrection, if you would reflect
          On how the human body was made then
          "When the first parents were both formed by him."
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