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Imagini di Ben Seguendo False

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Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP

on 30 November 2017

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Transcript of Imagini di Ben Seguendo False

Immagini di Ben Seguendo False
Che nulla Promession Rendono Intera
The Relationship between Natural and Divine Law
In Dante's
Divine Comedy

Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP
Pursuing the false images of good,
That promise what they never fully pay.
, Canto XXX, 131-132)
[All translated text is from John Ciardi's translation.]
1. Dante lost in the Dark Wood
2. Dante meets Virgil
3. Dante meets Beatrice
4. The Nature of Medieval Philosophy
5. The Natural Law
6. The Divine Law
7. What Beatrice's reprimand means for us
Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray
From the straight road and woke to find myself
Alone in a dark wood. How shall I say
What wood that was! I never saw so drear,
So rank, so arduous a wilderness!
Its very memory gives a shape to fear.
Death could scarce be more bitter than that place!” (Canto I, 1-7)
“Glory and light of poets! Now may that zeal
And love’s apprenticeship that I poured out
On your heroic verses serve me well!
For you are my true master and first author,
The sole maker from whom I drew the breath
Of that sweet style whose measures have brought me honor” (
., Canto I, 79-84)
Lucia to Beatrice:
“Beatrice, true praise of God,
Why dost thou not help him who loved thee so
That for thy sake he left the vulgar crowd?
Dost thou not hear his cries? Canst thou not see
The death he wrestles with beside that river
No ocean can surpass for rage and fury?” (Canto II, 103-108)
(Ref. dolce stil novo, Casella (
., Canto II), Bonagiunta da Lucca (
., Canto XXIV) - introspective exhaltation of female beauty as bridge to the divine)
St. Mary -> St. Lucia -> St. Beatrice
With a cloud of flowers
That rose like fountains from the angels’ hands
And fell about the chariot in showers,
A lady came in view: an olive crown
Wreathed her immaculate veil, her cloak was green,
The colors of live flame played on her gown.
(Purg., Canto XXX, 28-33)
My soul – such years had passed since last it saw
That lady and stood trembling in her presence,
Stupefied by the power of holy awe –
now, by some power that shone from her above
The reach and witness of my mortal eyes,
Felt the full mastery of enduring love.
(Purg., Canto XXX, 34-39)
The instant I was smitten by the force,
Which had already once transfixed my soul
Before my boyhood years had run their course,
I turned left with the same assured belief
That makes a child run to its mother’s arms
When it is frightened or has come to grief,
To say to Virgil: “The is not within me
one drop of blood unstirred. I recognize
the tokens of the ancient flame.”
But he,
he had taken his light from us. He had gone.
Virgil had gone.
Virgil, the gentle Father
To whom I gave my soul for its salvation!
., Canto XXX, 40-50)

Dante weeps.
Carl Wilhelm Friederich Oesterly
“Dante, do not weep yet, though Virgil goes.
Do not weep yet, for soon another wound
Shall make you weep far hotter tears than those!” (
., Canto XXX, 54-56)

“Look at me well. I am she. I am Beatrice.
How dared you make your way to this high mountain? Did you not know that here man lives in bliss?” (
., Canto XXX, 73-5)
The angelic choir pleads for Dante and Beatrice explains to them:

“I must speak with greater care that he
Who weeps on that far bank may understand
And feel a grief to match his guilt.
., Canto XXX, 106-108)
“This man, potentially, was so endowed
From early youth that marvelous increase
Should have come forth from every good he sowed.
But richest soil the soonest will grow wild
With bad seed and neglect. For a while I stayed him
With glimpses of my face. Turning my mild
And youthful eyes into his very soul,
I let him see their shining, and I led him
By the straight way, his face to the right goal.
., Canto XXX, 115-123)

Not all the inspiration I won by prayer
And brought to him in dreams and meditations
Could call him back, so little did he care.
He fell so far from every hope of bliss
That every means of saving him had failed
Except to let him see the damned.

(Purg., Canto XXX, 133-138)
“Filled as you were with the desire
I taught you for That Good beyond which nothing
exists on earth to which man may aspire,
What yawning moats or what stretched chain-lengths lay
Across your path to force you to abandon
all hope of pressing further on your way?
What increase or allurement seemed to show
In the brows of others that you walked before them
As a lover walks below his lady’s window?”
(Purg., Canto XXXI, 22-30)
Dante confesses:

“The things of the world’s day,
False pleasures and enticements, turned my steps
As soon as you had ceased to light my way.”
., Canto XXXI, 34-36)
Giuseppe Pelli Bencivenni, 1823
Beatrice explains:

“Nothing in Art of Nature could call forth
Such joy from you, as sight of that fair body
Which clothed me once and now sifts back to earth.
And if my dying turned that highest pleasure
To very dust, what joy could still remain
In mortal things for you to seek and treasure?”
., Canto XXXI, 49-55)
“If to hear me
grieves you, now raise your beard and let your eyes
show you a greater cause for misery.”
., Canto XXXI, 67-69)

She gives him a vision of Christ.

“I saw Her turned to face that beast which is
One person in two natures without division.”
., Canto XXXI, 80-81)
Andrea Pierini, 1853
“But why do your desired words fly so high
Above my power to follow their intent
That I see less and less the more I try?”

“They fly so high,” she said, “that you may know
What school you followed, and how far behind
The truth I speak its feeble doctrines go;
And see that man’s ways, even at his best,
Are far from God’s as earth is from the heaven
Whose swiftest wheel turns above all the rest.”
., Canto XXXIII, 82-90)
“But,” I replied, “I have no recollection
Of ever having been estranged from you.
Conscience does not accuse me of defection.”
., Canto XXXIII, 91-93)
The project of the medieval period was to undull our intellects.

The medieval period is so-called, after all, because it was that period "in the middle" between the time in which philosophy was pursued as a habit of mind unencumbered, if you will, by divine revelation and the time in which philosophy was pursued as a body of content seeking to disencumber itself from divine revelation.
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2)." - St. John Paul II,
Fides et Ratio
Scholasticism, as the application of a

habit of mind to
thought and study, was so relevant because it brought together
which is our active response to divine revelation
, and reason,
which is a discursive faculty.
Concerning natural reason:

It is "the light of natural reason [which 'is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light'] whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law." (ST I-II, Q.91, Art. 2).

Natural law itself is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation of the eternal law" (ST 1-II, Q. 91, Art. 2) and is "promulgated by the very fact that God instilled it into man's mind so as to be known by him naturally" (ST I-II, Q.90, Art. 4, Ad. 1).
Concerning faith:

Faith, as an active response to divine revelation, involves our doing "whatever He tells [us]" (John 2:5).

Adherence to divine law is just that, then, as Thomas explains: "By the natural law the eternal law is participated proportionately to the capacity of human nature. But to his supernatural end man needs to be directed in a yet higher way. Hence the additional law given by God, whereby man shares more perfectly in the eternal law" (ST I-II, Q.91, Art. 4).
And here's the take away:

1) Faith and Reason are the peanut butter and chocolate of the True Way. Scholasticism is the only point in the history of philosophy that gave us a common sense approach to understanding who we are as human persons endowed with both a natural and a supernatural end.

2) The Aristotelian-Thomistic synthesis was a common sense move toward a realistic understanding of our relationship with both God and man, providing us with a method to fulfill that otherwise cryptic, but most important commandment of Jesus to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself (Luke 10:27).
"The instant I had come upon the sill
Of my second age, and crossed and changed my life,
He left me and let others shape his will.
When I rose from the flesh into the spirit,
To greater beauty and to greater virtue,
He found less pleasure in me and less merit.
He turned his steps aside from the True Way,
Pursuing the false images of good
That promise what they never wholly pay."
., Canto XXX, 124-132)
"For this
I visited the portals of the dead
And poured my tears and prayers before that spirit
By whom his steps have, up to now, been led.
The seal Almighty God’s decree has placed
On the rounds of His creation would be broken
Were he to come past Lethe and to taste
The water that wipes out the guilty years
Without some scot of penitential tears!”
., Canto XXX, 139-146)
And she then with a smile: “If, as you say
You lack that memory, then call to mind
How you drank Lethe’s waters here today.
As certainly as smoke betrays the fire,
This new forgetfulness of your wish to stray
Betrays the sinfulness of that desire.
But I assure you that I shall select
The simplest words that need be from now on
To make things clear to your dull intellect.”
., Canto XXXIII, 94-102)
3) The capacity for the rational creature to participate in the eternal law of God, indeed the very capacity that enables joyful communion with our Creator, requires an active response to Divine Revelation, which we know as faith.

4) Dante's encounter with Beatrice is a demonstration of how grace perfects nature and how divine revelation and love carry to completion the work that man's rational nature begins in him.
"It wasn’t until Jesus appeared to Saul, that he was able to organize all his interpretative ability." - Michael Mangini
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