Dante’s Paradise: Canto 30 Retelling — Mystic Empyrean — The River of Light; The Mystical Rose

Chapter 30: Mystic Empyrean — The River of Light; The Mystical Rose

When the Sun is over India, dawn arrives in Italy. As the Sun rises, the stars disappear. The faintest stars disappear first, and the brightest stars disappear last. Much like that, the ring of fire furthest from the Point of brilliant light disappeared, and finally the ring of fire closest to the Point of brilliant light disappeared.

When the nine rings of fire had disappeared, Dante looked at Beatrice with love.

He had often seen and described her beauty, but if he were to gather up all his praises into a poem, the poem would not come close to giving her present beauty the praise it deserved.

Beatrice was at her most beautiful; she and Dante were now in the Mystic Empyrean: the dwelling place of God, Who outshines all other lights. Her beauty was ineffable; the only One Who could properly describe it would be the One Who made it.

Dante the Poet thought, I am defeated. I cannot describe Beatrice’s beauty. No poet — whether writing in a common style or in a lofty style — has ever been so defeated as I am at this moment.

Sunlight can make weak eyes blind, and my memory of Beatrice’s beauty and her smile defeats my attempt to describe them.

I have been able to describe in poetry Beatrice’s beauty from the first time I ever saw her on Earth throughout much of our journey through the heavenly bodies, but now I am forced to give up trying to describe her beauty in my poetry. If any poet can do it, that poet will have to have a far greater talent than mine.

I now need to use my poetic talent to bring the great theme of The Divine Comedy to an end.

Beatrice, Dante’s guide, said to him, “We have reached he end of our journey. Before, we were in the greatest Sphere: the Primum Mobile. Now, we are in the Heaven of Pure Light: the Mystic Empyrean. Here, we have the light of intellect, which is never-ending Love. Here, we have Love of the True Good and the True God, and we feel bliss — a bliss that transcends all other blisses.

“Here, you will see the two hosts who dwell in Paradise: the Angels and the saved human beings. And you will see the saved human beings not as points of lights, but in their human shape, as they shall appear on Judgment Day when you will see them again.”

Dante thought, I am saved. I will return to Paradise. Beatrice has told me the wondrous things that I will see when I die and return to Paradise.

Lightning can strike and stun our eyes. Much like that, living light enveloped Dante, and he saw nothing but light.

Beatrice said to him, “God in His Love is preparing you so that you may see properly in the Mystic Empyrean.”

Dante heard Beatrice’s words, and suddenly he was aware that all his senses, including sight, were supernaturally improved. Now he could see — really see. No light, no matter how bright, could blind him.

Dante saw a flowing river of light in between two banks on which were flowers bathed in the colors of Spring. From the flowing river of light, sparks of light flew upward and outward to the flowers that resembled rings of gold set with rubies.

After reaching the flowers, the jewels of light — seemingly drunk with fragrance — returned to the river of light. As one jewel entered the river, another jewel flew upward and outward.

Beatrice said to Dante, “I see in you the urgent desire to understand what it is that you are seeing. The more urgent your desire to understand, the more pleasing it is to me.

“In order to understand what you are seeing, you need to drink from the river of light — drink from it with your eyes. Only then can your thirst for understanding be satisfied.

“You see a stream of light, and you see moving jewels and a host of flowers. They approximate reality, but true reality is within your grasp. Your sight is still defective, but it can be amended by drinking from the stream.”

Dante bent down to drink with his eyes from the stream of light as eagerly as an infant who has slept a long time seeks his mother’s milk.

As soon as Dante’s eyes had drunk from the stream of light, it changed. It used to be a straight river, but now it was round. People at a masquerade are hidden until they take off their masks. Much like that, the river revealed its true reality, as did the sparks and the flowers.

Dante saw the two hosts of Paradise. He saw that the flowers were the saved souls of human beings, and he saw that the sparks were Angels.

God had given Dante the gift of seeing the Mystic Empyrean, and now Dante prayed to God to help him describe what he was seeing.

In Paradise the light of God shines, and by the grace of God, the Angels and the saved humans are able to see that light.

The light of God reaches and is reflected from the Primum Mobile. That light of God moves the Primum Mobile, which then imparts motion to all the other Spheres.

The reflection of light is circular and vast.

On Earth, a lake can reflect a hillside with flowers and grass. Much like that, within the light of God are reflected saved souls, who sit in tier after tier — more than a thousand of them reaching upward — in the Mystic Empyrean.

The laws of nature do not apply in the Mystic Empyrean, which is not material. Dante’s eyes were able to clearly see vast distances. He saw every soul in every tier, and he knew the degree of bliss that they were enjoying according to their merit. Distance did not matter. In the Mystic Empyrean, God does not use agents such as the laws of nature: God rules directly.

The tiers upon tiers were a Celestial White Rose of saved souls.

Beatrice took Dante into the golden center of the White Rose — into the circle of light, around which the petals, aka saved souls, of the Rose praise God.

Beatrice said to Dante, “Look at the saved souls in their white robes. Look at how vast is our City. Look at the seats that are filled in the tiers, and see how few seats are left empty.

“Look at this empty seat: It has a crown above it. You are able to look at it even before you die and enter Paradise for good. That seat is reserved for Henry, a great man. He will go to Italy to set things right, but the time for setting things right will not yet have arrived.

“Italy will be like a stupid child who is hungry but pushes the wet nurse away. Henry will want to do great things for Italy, but he will not be allowed to do them.

“In public, the pope of that time will pretend to be on Henry’s side. But in private, he will undermine Henry.

“God will not permit the pope of that time to remain in the Holy Office. The pope will quickly end up in the Inferno among the Simoniacs, and he will push Pope Boniface VIII deeper underground!”

Dante the Poet thought, These were Beatrice’s last words to me in Paradise. Her words were bitter.

Beatrice thought, Henry is Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII. Of course, now, in 1300, he is still alive; therefore, he is not in the Rose right now. When Henry VII becomes Holy Roman Emperor, he will go to Italy, something that Pope Clement V will not like. A power struggle will go on over who will control Italy.

In a perfect Italy, the Holy Roman Emperor would control secular matters in Italy, while the pope would control religious matters in Italy.

Unfortunately, Henry VII will die in 1313. Henry VII would have done good things for Italy had he lived.

Pope Clement V, who opposed Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII, will end up in the Inferno, in the circle devoted to punishing the Simoniacs.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce

This is an excerpt from Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce, available here:

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