illustration of a human covered in a starry sky walking from the sky and plains toward a fiery opening to hell

The Divine Comedy

by Dante Alighieri

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How does Dante's Divine Comedy end?

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Dante's Divine Comedy ends with Dante entering the Empyrean, the place of pure light where God resides. There he is penetrated by the light of truth and understands that God's love is at the center of the universe, setting everything else into motion.

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After reaching the ninth sphere of Paradise, where the angels live, Dante enters the Empyrean, a place of light which is beyond matter, where God resides. He says that there his sight was penetrated by a beam of light that was truth itself.

Words to match his experience fail Dante frequently in this final canto. He compares himself to a dreamer, in that specifics of what happened have dissolved into fragments, while the "sweet" feeling remains. Nevertheless, he remembers that, as he looked into the beam of light that is truth, he saw that all things in the universe are joined into oneness through love. At this vision, his heart "leaped," and he felt an "intensity of joy." Within the intense light, he saw three circles of different colors, refracted like rainbows. These appear to have been the Holy Trinity. Dante is unable to completely comprehend these circles, but he takes away from this vision the truth that his "desire and will" are moved by the same divine love that moves the sun and the stars. Love is at the center of the universe.

Dante has come a long way since he began his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. He began by feeling he was losing his faith, but by the end of the journey, his vision of Heaven has assured him that God is real and that his love is the energy driving the universe.

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How does The Divine Comedy end?

The last canto of Paradiso in Dante's Divine Comedy begins with hymn and prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, continues with Dante's vision of God, and ends with a reflection on prayer and worship and with Dante coming to an understanding of his vision.

As the final canto of the poem begins, Saint Bernard prays to the Virgin Mary, praising her humility and love and asking her to pray to God that Dante may see Him. Dante is to remember what he has seen that he may tell others. Mary looks at Dante and then raises her eyes to God in prayer.

Dante then looks up, and he sees Light. Dante's words fail him as he looks and receives an image of the Blessed Trinity in three circles of different colors that stand for the three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dante is also given a sudden understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation, but he does not share it with readers.

The canto ends with a reflection on prayer and worship. Dante recalls seeing a simple laborer kneeling in church reciting his prayers and leaving the world behind. So now does Dante, and he reflects on his poem that has arisen from the "passionate outcry" of his soul. He now understands free will, forgiveness, peace, the triumph of Christ, and the meaning of true worship.

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