Thursday, May 07, 2015

Inaugural letters: Inferno 3

Inferno 3 brings us to letters that inscribe the speaking threshold of hell. It foregrounds a curious fact: The first act of those taking up their abode here is the act of reading. What does it mean that the first non-eternal thing built by the Creator was a text?

Per me si va ne la citta` dolente,
   per me si va ne l'etterno dolore,
   per me si va tra la perduta gente.
Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore:
   fecemi la divina podestate,
   la somma sapienza e 'l primo amore.
Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
   se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
   Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

Queste parole di colore oscuro
  vid'io scritte al sommo d'una porta;
  per ch'io: "Maestro, il senso lor m'e` duro."

Ed elli a me, come persona accorta:
  "Qui si convien lasciare ogne sospetto;
  ogne vilta` convien che qui sia morta." 
                                             Inferno 3: 1-15

Gustave Dore

Among other resonances, the reading evokes, via its poetics as well as its dense, enigmatic statement, a moment in 2 Corinthians:
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull,for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 

No comments: