On the night when he was betrayed

We commemorate quite a lot of things on Maundy Thursday.  Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, giving them–and us–the “mandate”  (maundate; hence, “Maundy”) to love one another.  Then He gave them His body and His blood in bread and wine, thereby making clear the meaning of what was about to happen (“this is my body given for you”; “this is my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”), ensuring that His followers would continue on as a Church (“do this in remembrance of me”), establishing His continual presence with them (“this is my body. . .my blood), and instituting the means by which His followers are incorporated with Him and receive the promise of the Gospel (“given for you”).  Later, Jesus prays for His Church, for His disciples and for those in the future who will believe because of their testimony–that is to say, us.   Then Judas betrays Him, He is arrested, arraigned before Herod, and Peter denies Him.  And the rest unfolds.

The events of Maundy Thursday are all for the benefit of His followers–washing their feet, exhorting them to love each other, giving them His body and blood in an ongoing sacrament, praying for them–whereupon one of those followers betrays Him, another denies Him, and the rest run away. [Read more...]

Politics as Dante's Inferno

Literature professor that I am, I appreciate this application of the unutterably great Dante to today’s political and cultural woes.  It’s by Henry G. Brinton, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church, who got it published in USA Today:

In Inferno, hell is cold at its deepest levels, not hot. People are frozen in place, eternally. Nothing ever changes. . . .

The hell that Dante envisions is a series of concentric circles, containing the souls of people being punished for a variety of sins. His poem is “the drama of the soul’s choice,” according to English crime writer and poet Dorothy Sayers. The seriousness of the sin increases as the observer moves downward from the first circle to the ninth; for instance, the residents of the second circle are being punished for lust, while the souls in the ninth are suffering for treacherous fraud against individuals and communities. . . .

In Dante’s frozen ninth circle, there are two damned souls who do not face each other. Instead, they are pressed together chest to back, with one gnawing the back of the other’s head. I think of my Facebook friends who send blistering political messages, containing insults that they would never deliver face to face. . . .

Says Peter Hawkins of Yale Divinity School, a Dante scholar, “Among the many things lost at this depth is the notion of e pluribus unum, one out of many.” Here, private egos run wild, with no chance of healthy partnership.

In this ninth circle, the man who is eating the other’s head is an Italian count who was betrayed by an archbishop and locked in a tower to starve to death. The two men are traitors who represent corruption within both the state and the church, but what locks them in hell is the hatred they chose in the last moments of their lives. Dante is reminding us that we don’t have to choose that path.

We can all choose to do better, right along with the characters of The Divine Comedy. As the story moves from Inferno to Purgatorio to Paradiso, the focus of the characters shifts — they gradually move from looking at each other to gazing upward toward “the love which moves the sun and the other stars.”. . .

Politics is so often a zero-sum game, with one candidate’s gain coming from another’s loss, but Dante offers a heavenly ideal of sharing and mutuality. “In the Paradiso,” says Alan Jones, dean emeritus of Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church in San Francisco, “love is the only ‘commodity’ that isn’t diminished by sharing.”

via Column: When politics freezes over – USATODAY.com.

Banning Dante

One of the greatest works of literature ever written, Dante’s Divine Comedy, is attracting the attention of censors:

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination.

Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president. . . .

It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency.

“The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture,” she said.

Homosexuals are damned by the work as being “against nature” and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.

“We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism,” Miss Sereni said.

Schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked “the filters” to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism, the group said.

It called for the Divine Comedy to be removed from schools and universities or at least have its more offensive sections fully explained.

via Dante’s Divine Comedy ‘offensive and should be banned’ – Telegraph.

Dante has already disappeared from a number of college courses for these very reasons.  It’s odd that conservatives are often accused of censorship–for objecting to pornography and the like–but the ones who want to censor actual ideas and great works of literature are more often from the Left.  (See Gherush 92′s website.)  And, as Milton pointed out, the book that is most censored of them all–even today–is the Bible.

HT:  Shane Ayer


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