Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Misfits are out of Hell!

Dear Misfits,

We remain embarked on the exciting literary journey of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Last month, we concluded our descent into Hell by reading and discussing the final 17 Cantos of Cantica I of the Divine Comedy.  Our discussion of the nether regions of hell was particularly illuminating.  We found ample illustration of the sins described there; virtually all of the sins described by Dante are now routinely reflected in our modern (post modern) lives.  In fact, we concluded that you can see all of them each evening on our television screens. 

When we accompanied Dante and Virgil into the final depths of Hell, we finally meet Satan.  Dante’s image of Satan is arresting....He shows Satan with three faces symbolizing the perversion of the Holy Trinity. Dante concludes that Satan is as ugly as he was once beautiful, recalling his original incarnation as an angel.  However, he no longer has his transcendent Angelic powers.  In Hell, Dante depicts him as dumb and roaring, trapped in ice, enduring an endless punishment for his sins.  Dante describes the ultimate horror and punishment of hell as not a burning damnation but the punishment of extreme, unremitting coldness.  Satan and all of the sinners in the final circle of Hell (called Judecca after Judas Iscariot) are permanently frozen in ice, locked in the ultimate sin of their coldness to God and their fellow man. 

This month, we begin our journey towards God as we leave Hell and progress upwards through Purgatory.  Our journey upward through Purgatory occurs during June (Cantos 1-16) and July (Cantos 17-33).  Finally, we will enter Paradise in August and finish in September when we triumphantly conclude our literary journey.

As a final note, it is a true pleasure to read The Divine Comedy with you.  I especially appreciate the insights each of you contribute to our discussion of this remarkable Catholic literary classic.

Misfit Buzz

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Misfits are in Hell

[Note from the editor: my apologies for the belated timing of this post].

Dear Misfits,

Well, we’re certainly embarked on an exciting literary journey.  And how appropriate that that the action in the Divine Comedy takes place at Eastertide in the year 1300.  The poem begins on the night of Maundy Thursday when Dante finds himself astray in the “Dark Wood”.  On Good Friday, after a day spent trying to scale the Mountain that lies before him, he meets Virgil and begins his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. 

On this first part of the journey (Cantos 1-17), we’ve descended into the first seven circles of Hell as we follow Dante Alighieri and his guide, Virgil.  Our discussion last Wednesday evening of the first 17 Cantos was exciting and extremely interesting as regards the literary allusions and the Catholic theology it portrays and illustrates.  Reading and discussing Dante’s allegorical poem leads inevitably to one conclusion: it is truly an immortal Christian allegory of man’s search for self-knowledge and ultimately, spiritual enlightenment. 

We also concluded that Dorothy Sayers translation of the Comedy is masterful both in portraying Dante’s terza rima stanzas (interlocking three-line rhyme scheme) as well as her vivid notes and theological comments on the often obscure references Dante uses in describing the souls consigned to the nether regions Hell

As you read the Inferno, you soon become aware of Dante’s conclusion that the souls in Hell “have what they chose...they enjoy that kind of after-life which they themselves imagined.”  Sayers also notes that the souls in Hell, in Dante’s view, are lost not only because they did not have a Christian Faith....but also, more generally, they lacked a true “faith in the nature of things”  She writes, “The allegory is clear: it is the weakness of Humanism to fall short in the imagination of ecstasy;at its best it is noble, reasonable, and cold, and however optimistic about a balanced happiness in this world, pessimistic about a rapturous eternity.  Sometimes wistfully aware that others claim the experience of this positive bliss, the Humanist can neither accept it by faith, embrace it by hope, nor abandon himself to it in charity.”   The Misfits concluded at the end of our meeting that it is good to be a Catholic, especially a Catholic who possesses an awareness of the “positive bliss” that awaits those who practice our Faith.

We will now continue our journey into Hell by reading the final 17 Cantos of Cantica I of the Divine Comedy.  (Cantica I has a total of 34 Cantos).  We will discuss these 17 Cantos at our next meeting at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, May 11, 2011, in the St. Thomas More Library, the Church of St. Michael.  This will complete our journey into Hell.  We then begin our journey towards God as we leave Hell and progress upwards through Purgatory during the months of  June and July.  We will enter Paradise in August and September, and triumphantly conclude our Divine journey.

And may each of you have a blessed and Happy Easter,

Misfit Buzz

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