Divine Comedy: Novel Summary: Paradiso section 24- Paradiso section 28
Paradiso section 24: Beatrice begs the gathered spirits to help teach Dante. The spirit belonging to St. Peter detaches from the group and begins to examine Dante on his understanding of faith. When St. Peter asks, "What is faith?" Dante cites Paul and replies, "faith is the substance of the things we hope for and is the evidence of the things not seen; and this I take to be its quiddity." Pleased, St. Peter presses Dante to elaborate on the uses of "substance" and "evidence" in this context. Dante responds that faith alone supports the belief in the divine ideas and images that have been revealed to him on this journey. This faith is "called a substance" and from this faith man must reason and make deductions that apply to the mortal world. In this way, faith is also "called an evidence." St. Peter accepts Dante's answer and asks the poet how he came to understand these issues. Dante replies that he learned about faith from the Holy Scriptures. In conclusion, Dante states his belief in the Trinity. St. Peter circles Dante three times to express his satisfaction and delight in Dante.
Paradiso section 25: Dante expresses his hope to return to Florence to be crowned a poet in the Baptistry. The spirit of St. James approaches and Beatrice asks the apostle to test Dante on the virtue of hope. St. James asks, "What is hope?" Beatrice interrupts Dante before he can respond by telling St. James that there is no man more hopeful than Dante and his journey to Heaven proves such. In response to St. James' question, Dante states, "Hope is the certain expectation of future glory; it is the result of God's grace and of merit we have earned. This light has come to me from many stars; but he who first instilled it in my hear was the chief singer of the Sovereign Guide (the psalms of David)." Dante goes on to elaborate on the promises of hope as explained in the Bible. A third light descends and dances joyfully with St. James and St. Peter. Beatrice explains that this light belongs to St. John. Following Beatrice's lead, Dante stares at St. John until the light blinds him. St. John teases Dante as a hush falls over the realm. Dante turns to Beatrice but cannot see her.
Paradiso section 26: St. John comforts Dante by reminding him that Beatrice can heal his blindness. Then, examining the poet on love and charity, the saint asks Dante who inspired him to seek such lofty goals. Dante replies that he found inspiration in John's gospels, God's words to Moses, and in the writings of Aristotle. The spirit then asks Dante to explain the force that binds him so closely to God. Dante confirms that Christ's sacrifice strengthens his love for God and that he loves all of God's creatures. Beatrice exclaims, "Holy, holy, holy!" and restores Dante's sight. A fourth spirit belonging to Adam greets Dante as he emerges from his blindness. Adam explains that God did not banish him from the Garden of Eden because he ate the forbidden fruit. Instead, God sent Adam away because he disobeyed God. Adam then reveals that he spend thousands of years in Limbo before he ascended to Heaven. Adam reports that he lived in Eden for only six hours and that the language that was spoken there was lost even before the Tower of Babel.
Paradiso section 27: "'Unto the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, glory!'-all Paradise began, so that the sweetness of the singing held me rapt. Whet I saw seemed to me to be a smile the universe had smile." Still in the Sphere of Fixed Stars, Dante stands enraptured by the beautiful singing of the blessed. The light of St. Peter glows brilliantly compared to the lights around him. St. Peter denounces the modern papacy as degenerate and corrupt. Of the recent popes, St. Peter states, "He who on Earth usurps my place, my place, my place that in the sight of God's own Son is vacant now, has made my burial ground a sewer of blood, a sewer of stench, so that the perverse one who fell from Heaven, here above, can find contentment there below." St. Peter warns that punishment for these sins will soon come and urges Dante to speak out strongly against papal corruption when he returns to Earth. All of the spirits of the apostles, saints, and prophets ascend into the higher levels of Heaven as Dante gazes upon the Earth below. Dante turns to Beatrice as they move to the next level, the Primum Mobile. God's love powers this sphere which in turn controls the movement of all of the lower spheres. Beatrice points out that time begins in this sphere then she launches into a discourse about how the world has strayed. Beatrice remarks that men are not evil by nature. Children, she explains, display innocence and faith but turn vicious as they grow-especially now because no one governs well. However, Beatrice does believe that the world will find redemption.
Paradiso section 28: In Beatrice's eyes, Dante sees God in relation to his angels. When Dante turns from his beloved's eyes, he faces a tiny pinpoint of great brilliance surrounded by nine concentric circles of light. Beatrice explains that the center light is God and that the surrounding spheres that are closer to God derive more energy than do the spheres farther away. This pattern does not resemble the planetary system in which the outer spheres move faster. Beatrice explains that God lives beyond the planetary system and, thus, creates the contradictory phenomenon. Beatrice identifies the order of angels starting with the sphere closest to God: Seraphim, Cherubim, the Thrones, the Dominations, the Virtues, the Powers, the Principalities, the Archangels, and the Angels. While all of the angels gaze upward toward God, their powers are channeled down to the appropriate spheres in the universe. In conclusion, Beatrice reflects that Dionysis, a notable author who discussed angelic order, had been correct in his assertions.