Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, is typically thought of as a day of silence. I had never thought deeply about what went on on this day in real time, the day in which Jesus was in the grave, before reading Dante’s Inferno, the first volume of The Divine Comedy, about 12 years ago. Dante as Pilgrim finds himself at midlife (“Midway along the journey of our life”), awakening “in a dark wood.” As he tries to find his way out of the wood, his path becomes blocked by a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. It is in this moment of his fear and lostness that Virgil appears to him, promising to guide him through Hell and Purgatory, after which he will deliver him to another shade who will lead him to Paradise. Mark Musa, the translator of the version I read, points out that from the book’s beginning, the central motif of the trilogy is revealed: with Dante the Pilgrim as “everyman,” it is “the story of man’s pilgrimage to God.”
What most caught my attention in reading Inferno, was the appearance of Jesus in hell. Although I’d recited the words from the Apostle’s Creed an uncountable number of times throughout my life—“he descended into Hades”—what did I really know of that? What can anyone know? Even so, Dante drew a picture with his words, and it’s a picture worth thinking about on this Holy weekend: Jesus loping through certain circles of hell, releasing sinners. A bridge broke as he passed over. It makes me think of an icon I saw once at The Museum of Russian Art here in Minneapolis in which Jesus in hell reached to grab Adam and Eve.
May your weekend be one of reflection and deep joy.
[Photo: Beautiful sky last week over a Florida beach, where I was grateful to be. Doesn't it look like an abstract dove?]