Paradiso Canto VII

Paradiso 7

‘The angels, brother, and this pure country
where you are may be said to have been created
just as they are and in their entire being,

vv. 130-132

Discourse of Beatrice.—The Fall of Man.—The scheme of his Redemption.

Justinian’s speech breaks off into a song of praise to God. This is soon accompanied by a flourish of light as other souls of the second heaven join in. Confused, Dante calls out for Beatrice, who speaks to him about the nature of original sin, redemption, and Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. She tells him Adam, “the unborn first of men,” “damned all born to him” when he first sinned by disobeying God. Eventually, after many generations, God came to Earth in human form to set things right. In dying on the Cross, Christ—as both God and man—settled the debt humankind had incurred through Adam’s sin. Dante, being an educated Christian of his times, already knows all this. What he wants to know is why Christ’s sacrifice was necessary. Such an act, Beatrice says, “was right and finest” because the enormity of Adam’s sin prevented humankind from ever sufficiently atoning by itself. Thus, God was left to remedy the sin “by His own means.” He chose to do so in human form because this not only revealed His humility and generosity but also restored humanity’s dignity. Beatrice now turns to a related point: the apparent temporariness of the created universe. Physical matter, she admits, changes and decays, but neither angels nor human souls do so. These immortal creatures, she says, were made directly by God, whereas plants, animals, and ordinary matter were made indirectly, at His command. Thus, Beatrice maintains, humankind can expect a bodily resurrection prior to the Last Judgment—the end of the world—since Adam and Eve’s bodies were formed by God’s direct intervention.

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