/ So little knows
any but God alone to value right
the good before him but perverts best things
to worst abuse or to their meanest use.
John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book Four, 201-204
I toyed with Milton a few weeks ago as a possible Lenten companion. It has only been two years since my last out-loud reading, so I let him go. But Milton captures well both our limited vision and attendant sin, as well as our need for illumination. Instead of Milton I decided to stay in among the medievals and let Dante guide me.
It took me the whole week, and the sacrifice of some sleep, but I just finished my reading of Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of Dante’s entire Commedia. This is by far the most enjoyable translation I have read and the easiest for out-loud reading.
So Dante joins Saints Julian, Bonaventure, and Athanasius in my Lenten reflections. My first three weeks of Lent have yielded:
Despite our limited vision (Milton) we may be spiritually trained (Bonventure) to meditate on love (Julian) and divine providence (Dante) and by divine illumination enter the mysteries of the incarnation (Athanasius):
“then should our longing be still more inflamed
to see that Essence in which we discern
how God and human nature were made one.
What we hold here by faith, shall there be seen,
not demonstrated but directly known,
even as the first truth than man [sic] believes.”
Dante, Paradiso, Canto II