The Divine Comedy Trilogy
Heaven is the dwelling of God, for, although God is omnipresent, He manifests Himself in a special manner in the light and
grandeur of the firmament. Heaven is also the abode of the angels, for they are constantly with God and see His face. With
God in Heaven are likewise the souls of the just. Thus the term Heaven has come to designate both the happiness and the abode
of just in the next life.
In this part of the Divine Comedy, Dante, led by his guide Beatrice, leaves the Earth behind and soars through the Heavenly
spheres of Paradise. In the third and final part of the Divine Comedy, he encounters the just rulers and holy saints of the
Church. The horrors of the Inferno and the trials of Purgatory are left far behind. Ultimately, in Paradise, Dante is granted
a vision of God's Heavenly court - the angels, the Blessed Virgin and God Himself.
There are ten Heavens, going outwards from the Earth. Following the Ptolemaic astronomy of his time Dante conceived of the
earth as stationary and central in the universe, with the sun and moon and the five visible planets revolving about it at
various speeds. Each of these seven Heavenly bodies has its own sphere, or 'Heaven'. Beyond them is the sphere of the fixed
stars, and beyond that the ninth and last of the material Heavens, called the Crystalline because it is transparent and
invisible, or the Primum Mobile because from its infinite speed the other lower Heavens take their slower motions.
These nine spheres are severally moved and controlled by the nine orders of the angels, and all the spheres and the Heavenly
bodies in them have a certain spiritual significance and certain influences on human life and character. As Dante passes
upward with Beatrice the souls of the blessed appear to them in the successive Heavens according to their corresponding
predominant character in their earthly lives. Beyond the nine material spheres is the Empyrean, outside of time and space,
the Heaven of God's immediate presence and the only real home of the angels and the redeemed, whose blessedness consists of
their eternal vision of Him.
All of Heaven is perfect and orderly, with souls in their correctly appointed Heavens.All of the blessed are equally high in
Heaven, and close to God, but differ in what part of the Eternal Inspiration they are aware of. Those visible in each Sphere
of Heaven are not contained in that Sphere, but appear to be there because they claim that particular celestial eminence.
They, like God and the angels, appear to be human because that is what the human viewer expects to see. The varying voices of the spirits in the different Heavens blend into a sweet harmony. 'As varying voices make sweet harmony on earth, so is it this holier sphere. Degrees of difference make one song entire; and various flames construct one wheel of love.'
All of the blessed are of the truest substance, and do not lie. They have greater beauty in Heaven than they did in life. Their passions can now know nothing lowlier than the glowing flame of the Holy Spirit, in which, joyous, they exult.
The grace of God becomes greater and greater as one moves into the higher and higher Heavens. However, the blessed are happy
in their lot, wherever in Heaven they are.
On the last circle, close to Mary sit the patricians of the Court of Heaven. On Mary's left hand sits Adam, on her right sits
St Peter. Beside him sits St John, and beside Adam sits Moses. Next to Peter sits Anna, Mary's mother, so entranced by her
daughter that she does not sing hosannas. Beyond Anna sits Lucia. Some of the saints here are also present in, or visit, the
lower Heavens too.
Also are enthroned those 'who come to God unmerited either by deeds or faith, their lives too soon expiring', that is, the
children, who remain children in Heaven forever. He tells Dante that 'in the first ages innocence alone secured salvation to
the child of those who were themselves devout. A later day allowed male children such release if they were circumcised and
sinless. After that the period of full grace full rite required of Christian baptism, that the innocent wings should gather
power to soar.' So that, now, only baptised Christian children will find their way to the Empyrean.
When Dante has seen all this, St Bernard begins a prayer to the Virgin, asking her to complete Dante's journey, so that what
he has seen does not lose its power on him. She looks down at him, then up, and the Light of God shines down on Dante, giving
him the Beatific Vision and the Ultimate Salvation. 'But what I saw therein no words could tell, no human memory from God's
citadel retire with plunder of its wondrous store. As he who dreamed, and can recall no more, nor that from his encumbered
mind dismiss, so toiled am I. I know no more than this: I dreamed. I waked. I know the sweetness yet, though the deep sour
ce my yearning thoughts forget.' 'This I know: Had mine eyes wavered from that sacred glow I had been irretrievably lost.
Therefore, aware of peril, did I strive the more the weight of infinite value to sustain.' 'As I gazed, it seemed that form
was on that painted light pictured in human semblance. There I raised Eyes tranced and raptured by that wondrous sight.'
Dante ends his journey by making a powerful statement hinting that he had truly been enlightened and this was not just pure
poetry… Almost 200 years BEFORE it was discovered that the world was round, Dante said “I was floating in space looking down
at a globe we call Earth surrounded by all kinds of planets, a bright sun and hundreds of stars”.
Please click on the afterlife names below to read about each of the feature movies: