I don't want to keep my reflections of Dante in Limbo for that is the next stop on my reflections of Dante's journey through hell. Limbo is the 1st circle of hell and home of the virtuous pagans and those not baptized. All the great virtuous heroes of the past are there, Homer, Horace, Ovid, Aristotle, and of course this is the home of his guide Virgil. Even Saladin is here in a place of honor.
The most prominent feature of the 1st circle is a great citadel, the citadel of human reason. The citadel is built "as if it were [on] firm ground." It omits a light that represents the radiance of human reason. This is the highest state humanity can achieve without God, and the glory of it dazzles Dante, but he knows also that it is nothing compared to the glory of God.
I can remember reading an article a few months back in The Atlantic Monthly about today's university searching for meaning. The premise of the article was that universities were initially founded and based upon the Christian faith. During the enlightenment period, the joined the great experiment to found a structure, science, and art world on pure reason. The post-modern critical eye of relativism has exposed the sandy ground upon which our ivory towers have been built. So now universities are seeking "the faith" upon which they will build their towers of reason on. But there is a shakiness to this and an unsureness of purpose as crept into the mix.
Dante reminds us that there is a dazzling light to human reason. But reason with out hope leaves the inhabitants of limbo with a face of gray pallor. Hope and color and brightness has been drained from their lives.
Tillich expresses the same idea in Dynamics of Faith. Tillich reminds us that all reason is built on some sort of faith. Flaws in our faith produce flaws in our reason. And that is really what happens in the next circles of hell. Reason is perverted by sin and desire and extinguishes the light not only of the hope of glory, but human reason. Canto IV ends with these words as they leave the peace of human reason for the other circles of hell.
"My master leads me by another road out of that serenity to the roar and trembling air of Hell. I pass from light into the kingdom of eternal night."
May the light of human reason transformed by the light and glory of God guide you on your way and give you a hope that shall never perish.
Until next time...Grace & Peace