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Beatrice divine revelation-meets him again; and he feels that he is

"Pure and ready to mount up to the stars."
-Purg. xxxiii. 145.

To write competently of the Paradiso one would need to be another Dante. Dean Church called it "the pierre de touche of the student Dante." Dr. Norton believed that the last canto should be learned by heart and that there was little poetry in any language of nobler quality. Cardinal Manning's tribute is famous: "It was said of St. Thomas, Post Summam Thomae nihil restat nisi lumen gloriae! It may be said of Dante, Post Dantis Paradisum nihil restat nisi visio Dei."

The Paradiso represents those states of mystic consciousness known as illumination and union. Its theme is the experience of the presence of God and the incorporation in Him. It stands for the victory of love. The mystics are the "initiates" of divine love. The neophyte, having successfully passed through initiation of the Purgatorio, enters the distinctly mystical stage of illumination.

"And suddenly it seemed that day to day
Was added, as if He who has the power
Had with another sun the heaven adorned."
-Par. i. 61-63.

It is the beginning of communion with the Infinite, of the recognition that "wherever God is, is Paradise"; and as the pilgrim rises higher and higher his love grows more burning, his insight more piercing. Swathed in the ineffable beauty, he is conscious that he is approaching nearer and nearer his patria because Beatrice, his "sweet guide and dear," divine revelation, irradiates increasing loveliness:

"Because my beauty, that along the stairs
Of the eternal palace more enkindles,

As thou hast seen, the farther we ascend."
-Par. xxi. 7-8.

The essence of illumination, Miss Underhill says, is "the lifting of consciousness from a self-centred to a Godcentred world." Sings Dante:

"Upward gazed Beatrice, and I at her."
-Par. ii. 22.

To be in a state of illumination is, however, to be only in via, a spectator. Yet it is a state of life and light and love; and so Dante depicts it.

The final and supreme goal of the mystic quest is union with God. It is a state where St. John of the Cross says, "The soul becomes the bride of the Word, and the Spouse bestows upon her great and precious favors." "Deification" sometimes the mystics term this state. Here is rapture and ecstacy, and contemplation par excellence.

to behold

"O grace abundant, by which I presumed
To fix my sight upon the Light Eternal
So that the seeing I consumed therein."
-Par. xxxiii. 82-84.

"Contemplation," says De La Croix, "installs a method of being and of knowing." In this state one becomes, according to Dante, "transhumanized." Here the reason fails, but the intuition is most powerful. God had predestinated Dante

"By method wholly out of modern usage,"
-Purg. xvi. 41-42.


the heaven which is pure light; Light intellectual filled full of gladness, Gladness that doth transcend all sweetness."

-Par. xxx. 39-42.

and finally, in a flash of intuition, to join

"His sight with the Infinite Glory."

-Par. xxxiii. 81.

Human experience can go no farther. Dante was, I believe, a genuine mystic. The marvellous experiences he describes are not pure fiction. The fable of the "Divine Comedy" does but symbolize those inner adventures of the soul which all the great mystics have had. If the Paradiso is the least popular and least intelligible cantica of the "Comedy," this is largely because it is so often approached without the proper knowledge of the science of mystic thought. To describe the eternal beatitude; the ascent of the soul thereto; and the surpassing enjoyment resulting from the vision of God-than these there can be no more elevated themes for poetical expression. And we believe that with the recrudescence of interest in the mystic life which we are witnessing today, Dante will be, with increasing enthusiasm, hailed as "the loftiest poet," because he is a "master of those who know"-mystically. The poet prayed:

"O Light Supreme, that dost so far uplift thee
From the conceits of mortals, to my mind
Of that thou didst appear re-lend a little,
And make my tongue of so great puissance,
That but a single sparkle of thy glory
It may bequeath unto the future people."
-Par. xxxiii. 67-73.

So wonderfully has the divine poet bequeathed this "sparkle" to us that we repeat the pious prayer of the early commentator, Benvenuto da Imola:2 "To the Beatific Vision may He bring us all in patria, who deigned to bring this fortunate author thereto in via; to whom is the honor, glory and perpetuity, forever and ever, Amen. Deo Gratias."

2Quoted by E. G. Gardner, "Dante's Ten Heavens," p. 286.




HE festival of the holy angels reaffirms the reality of an unseen world. But we vaguely understand that which is beyond material experience, and few indeed have either time or concern for St. Michael and All Angels' Day or for the import of its teaching. prophet Zechariah discerned the patrol of angel-horsemen whom the Lord had sent to walk to and fro through the earth. Once at least each year the multitudinous ministry of those legions is acknowledged, as Michaelmas returns and they come into their own. Yet they are always here, "like the still peace that is always on the tops of the mountains." They defend us in the fray of life; they accompany us in unbroken constancy; there is rejoicing in their heavenly ranks over our redemption; they care for us, they,

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Verily, they "keep their ancient places" though we are unaware that they encamp around us. Francis Thompson's charge is just:

'Tis ye, 'tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendour'd thing.

Angels are inseparably associated with the Bible story from the creation and the fall in Eden to the redemption and the coronation on Easter Day. Apostolic history introduces them again and again, while the Revelation is asserted to have been given by the word and conduct of an angel. The gospel narrative of our Lord's incarnate life, robbed of angelic figures, would lose irreparably. Witness the annunciation to the Blessed Virgin, the na

tivity of our Lord, the flight into Egypt, the temptation in the wilderness, the transfiguration, Gethsemane, the resurrection and the ascension.

The angels being heavenly creatures are on earth best known and least known. Perhaps it is better so. Like the winds that envelop the earth and the stars that sweep across the night, we perceive but do not understand. Whatever thoughts we cherish concerning angels, three are paramount: Strength, holiness, service. Human records that recognize unseen agents represent angels as guardians, deliverers and defenders; all-glorious, free from want and suffering, at home in heaven; waiting upon the lowly, speeding on divine errands, present in time of struggle. They do God's will; they are ministering spirits; they dwell in God's presence. A guilty conscience cowers before an angel's flaming sword; beneath angelic wings the defenceless find protection; the hungry are fed by the hands of angels; waters troubled by an angel's touch are transformed into streams of healing; prison doors open to angels; they build a ladder on which a dreamer climbs heavenward; and celestial cavalry on a mountainside turn the forlorn hope of a battle.

Some mortals the angels seem ever ready to defendsoldiers, prisoners, the dying, and little children. Is there a challenge in this charge of angelic ministration, and in the solemn warning to despise not those whose angels always behold the face of the Father?

One of the strange, also one of the beautiful things about our well-nigh lost belief in angels is that it belonged to our childhood. Among other simple beliefs, we indistinctly-perhaps clearly-conceived a world inhabited by holy angels, an order surpassing in strength and purity, beautiful beyond the most extravagant imagining. The verse, Four angels guard my head, had a meaning; it was a childish fancy, but it supported the spirit in

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