Divine Comedy: Novel Summary: Paradiso section 29- Paradiso section 33
Paradiso section 29: Reflecting on the center light of God, Beatrice pauses for a moment before she responds to several questions on Dante's mind. Beatrice explains that God created angels in his own reflection. God combined pure form and pure matter to create angels. Thus, St. Jerome's assertion that God produced angels before spirit and matter existed, was incorrect. After a band of angels was cast out of Heaven, the rest of the angels remained, circling the Heavens forever. Beatrice censures theologians and preachers who idly speculate about such matters as the nature of angels. These teachers contemplate divine mysteries at the expense of spreading and teaching the Gospel. Beatrice concludes her discussion of angels by pointing out that their diversity reflects the diversity of God's love for them: "The First Light reaches them in ways as many as are the angels to which It conjoins Itself, as It illumines all of them; and this is why (because affection follows the act of knowledge) the intensity of love's sweetness appears unequally."
Paradiso section 30: Of Beatrice's growing beauty, Dante writes: "If that which has been said of her so far were contained within a single praise, it would be much too scant to serve me now. The loveliness I saw surpassed not only our human measure-and I think that, surely, only its Maker can enjoy it fully." Again, as Beatrice's beauty increases, she and Dante ascend to the next level of Heaven, the Empyrean. Beatrice tells Dante that he will see angels and saints in their human form as they will appear at Resurrection. Momentarily blinded, Dante regains his sight to see a river of light flowing past him. Sparks fly out of the river and land on the flowers that line the banks. Beatrice prompts Dante to touch his eyes to the river. As he touches the light, the river turns into a sea and the sparks of the river transform into the shape of a giant rose. A thousand tiers form the petals of the rose and a great light shines from the center. Beatrice points to the few seats in the rose petals that are unfilled, one of which has been reserved for Emperor Henry VII. Beatrice explains that Henry will attempt to free Italy. The pope, Clement V, will stop Henry but find his punishment in Hell alongside Boniface VIII.
Paradiso section 31: Dante describes the angels swarming throughout the great Rose: "just like a swarm of bees that, at one moment, enters the flowers and, at another, turns back to that labor which yields such sweet savor, descended into that vast flower graced with many petals, then again rose up to the eternal dwelling of its love." Overcome with joy, Dante quietly gazes upon the fiery faces of the blessed. However, when Dante turns to question Beatrice, he finds that his beloved no longer stands beside him. Instead, St. Bernard instructs Dante to turn his attention to the seat in the Rose where Beatrice now sits. Dante expresses his profound gratitude to Beatrice who turns to him and smiles sweetly. St. Bernard tells Dante to look at the highest tier to gaze upon Mary who sits enthroned in light and surrounded by thousands of angels that sing joyously.
Paradiso section 32: St. Bernard explains the arrangement of the tiers of the Rose and points out several notable characters surrounding Mary: Eve, Rachel, Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and Ruth. These Old Testament women form a dividing line between Christians who believed in Christ before he was born and those who believed in him after he took human form. Opposite the line of women, sit the male saints: St. Francis, St. John the Baptist, St. Benedict, and St. Augustine. Adults occupy the upper tiers of the Rose while infants sit in the bottom tiers. St. Bernard again asks Dante to gaze upon Mary whose brilliance will prepare him to lay his eyes on Christ. As Dante turns to Mary the entire assembly of angels sings "Ave Maria" with tremendous joy. St. Bernard points out more important figures gathered around Mary: Adam, Peter, John the Apostle, Moses, St. Anne, and St. Lucy. Dante's guide instructs him that he must earn Mary's grace before Christ will be revealed to him.
Paradiso section 33: St. Bernard prays to Mary on Dante's behalf. St. Bernard beseeches the mother of Christ to grant Dante a vision of God and the power to recount his journey on his return to Earth. Pleased by St. Bernard's pious words, Mary turns her gaze toward the center light and St. Bernard prompts Dante to follow Mary's lead. Dante looks up into the light and receives a glorious vision that he cannot fully recount because he has lost memory of it. He still feels the emotion of the experience but he cannot recall the details of the encounter. He invokes God to help him recall the scene so that he can tell the world about it. Dante writes that he gazed into the light until he saw "substances, accidents, and dispositions" of the universe bound together by love into a single volume. Dante reveals that he saw within the Eternal Light, three circles of different colors reflecting each other. In one of the circles he saw a human face that puzzled him completely. Finally, a great flash of revelation brought his desires and will into alignment. The revelation, Dante reports, was caused by God's love, the love "that moves the sun and the other stars."