‘This is he who lay upon the breast
of our Pelican, who from the cross
elected him to bear the heavy charge.’
St. James examines Dante concerning Hope. – St. John appears,with a brightness so dazzling as to deprive Dante, for the time, of sight.
In the Eighth Heaven, that of the Fixed Stars, after Saint Peter’s appearance another bright soul steps forward from the throng. It’s the Apostle Saint James the Greater, who questions Dante on the second theological virtue, i.e. Hope. Saint James asks the pilgrim three questions: what hope is, to what degree he has it, and where he got it from.
Beatrice answers the second question and says that nobody is more hopeful than Dante. The Poet himself answers the other two questions, showing his firm theological knowledge. He then dwells on the expectation created by the second theological virtue: a bodily resurrection through which, on Doomsday, body and soul will be rejoined forever. After this second examination a voice starts singing the verse “Sperent in te”from David’s Psalms, and every soul of the Eighth Heaven joins the warbling.
Eventually a third light joins Saint Peter and Saint James: it’s Saint John the Evangelist, who once rested his head on the breast of Christ the Pelican and who was chosen as Mary’s new son by Jesus. He questions Dante about Charity. However, before doing so, he explains that his body is not in Heaven with him, contrary to what medieval writers traditionally sustain. Dante strains his eyes to see what is hiding behind the dazzling light, but John invites him to give up as his body, like everyone else’s, is earth and will be so until Doomsday. The only exceptions are Jesus and the Virgin, who ascended to the Empyrean with both body and soul. Dante then turns towards Beatrice and gets deeply upset when he realizes he is blinded and cannot see her.
This wonderful Church is named after Saint John the Evangelist. The tercet recalls the moment when, during the last supper, he leaned his head against Jesus’ bosom and asked who was going to betray him. Christ, who is about to establish the Eucharist, is metaphorically represented by the pelican. In ancient times it was believed it would cut its breast open with its beak and feed its young with its own blood – in fact, it is taking out small fishes from a pouch.
Traduzione a cura della classe 5aC A.S.20/21 del Liceo Scientifico A. Oriani di Ravenna
Canto adopted by Siderurgica Ravennate
For further information on San Giovanni Evangelista