Essay: Disappearing P’s: Punishment Pardoned through Purging

Disappearing P’s:

Punishment Pardoned through Purging

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 520 Fall 2014}

The ascent through the levels of purgatory are means to purify the soul of worldly pleasures so as to purge one of evil in readiness to be worthy of God’s perfect holiness through proper humility. During the beginning of the ascent through Pride, the way is more treacherous and sorrowful. The subjects are deformed and sluggish, Virgil said, “Do you not see that we were born as worms, / though able to transform into angelic butterflies / that unimpeded soar to justice? // What makes your mind rear up so high? / You are, as it were, defective creatures, / like the unformed worm, shaped from the mud” (Canto X 124-29). Pride holds many shades; Omberto notes that not only did his pride affect his own life, but the anguish passed on to his family members as well; he said, “And for this pride, here must I bear this burden – / here among the dead, since I did not / among the living – until God is satisfied” (Canto XI 70-72). The family suffrage hints at reasons to avoid sin as the pain would affect the people in one’s life who should be held the most dear. Humility and acceptance of God’s grace is the cure for Pride; Virgil said, “Show reverence in your face and bearing / so that {the angel} may be pleased to send us upward. / Consider that this day will never dawn again” (Canto XII 82-84). The angels’ beauty illuminates the brilliance of God and the necessity for the light: “The fair creature, garbe in white, / came toward us. In his face there was what seemed / the shimmering of the morning star” (Canto XII 88-90). The symbolism of white, bright, and shimmering suggests the purity and surreal splendor of all that is good and just in direct opposition to the confusion and fear of the unknown lurking in the dark.

As the journey continues upward, the suffering of the shades are lessened and the bright light of salvation beckons to Dante: “The rays were striking full upon our faces, / {…} when such great splendor overwhelmed my sight, / greater than any I had seen before, / that I was dazed by its unfamiliar brightness. // I raised one hand above my brow and gave my eyes sufficient shade to temper this excess of light” (Canto XV 7-15). The upward climb suggests the sins to be of irregular punishable equivalents, but the specific details of justice fit the crime. As the pair progress, the P’s upon Dante fade away, Virgil said, “When the P’s that still remain / upon your brow, though very faint, shall be, / as one already is, erased, // your legs shall be so mastered by good will, / not only will they feel no effort going up, / but they will take delight in being urged to” (Canto XII 121-26). With Dante’s progressive comprehension, his very being will be moved to good works and complete ascendance. Certain sins, Wrath and Sloth, are easily surpassed for Dante who did not need to learn those lessons as he possibly did not fall victim to temptations in those areas; therefore, his passage took moments while the sins he might have partaken in took longer to understand. Dante was curious of others’ offenses, for each level of sin he asks for stories to describe the wrongs the shades suffered for in purgatory.

In search of Beatrice, Dante must journey through the levels of Purgatory to arrive in Earthly Paradise. Virgil said, “I have brought you here with intellect and skill. / From now on take your pleasure as your guide. / You are free of the steep way, free of the narrow. // Look at the sun shining before you, / look at the fresh grasses, flowers, and trees / which here the earth produces of itself” (Canto XXVII 130-35).  Whether paradise is interpreted as reuniting with Beatrice, or the plentiful bounties of earth in Eden – Dante witnessing the suffrage of the guilty shades toil with their a propos sentence is a form of enlightenment gifted with understanding. Without comprehension, Dante would not have been able to ascend; the guidance of Virgil encourages Reason while the promise of Beatrice implies Faith.

The physical self is an extension of the physical world – which must be shunned for the spiritual self to flourish. The levels of sin represented in purgatory offer means to release the hold on the importance of material/physical nature of the world in exchange for the glory and bright clarity of heaven. The spiritual self is bathed in the shimmering love of God, and may only be fully appreciated when the physical concerns are abandoned for the desire of the ethereal.

Works Cited

Dante. Purgatorio. Trans. Jean Hollander and Robert Hollander. New York: Anchor

Books, 2003.

Picture c/o:  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f5/7a/c8/f57ac8c830fcd3e3078454c9d8e7a3e3.jpg

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One thought on “Essay: Disappearing P’s: Punishment Pardoned through Purging

  1. Pingback: Creation of the earth and man #9 Formation of man #1 Cure of souls – Messiah For All

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