Amor: Fearful and Joyful

Everytime I post on my Dante CompLit class’s blog, I will cross post here. So this is my first post. You can read other peoples’ posts here


In the dream-vision that Dante experiences in the third section of La Vita Nuova, I noticed a Biblical maturity that I think is a mark of Dante throughout the Comedy but that I was mildly surprised to see in this short quasi-biographical work.

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.” Psalm 130:3,4 (ESV)

When he sees Amor in the rapturous vision, he describes Amor as having a “fearful aspect” and in the poem, he says that the very memory of the vision “fills [him] with terror” (keeping in mind that my translation is from the internet, not the book which has not arrived from Amazon yet). From there, he immediately speaks of the joyful appearance of Amor which He has in Himself. This whole strange mishmash of “Joy” and “Terror” seems to be the thrust of the Psalmist of the above verses as well. The joy that God has to redeem His people from the pit, forgiving their iniquities, is what makes Him terrible to His people and everyone who gazes upon Him (made clear in the poem). The point of the Psalm is to call Israel to wait hopefully on God’s joyful vindication of His people. This vindication never occurs without judgment, and the Psalmist knows what he is asking for in the Psalm in terms of God’s sovereign action, in history, of judgment and another exodus from the pit. This joyfulness of God/Amor (1 John 4:8), and His fearfulness in relation to creaturely onlookers seems deliberately contradictory on first glance, but I think faithfully interprets the Biblical data about how God’s people relate to His Lordship over them. Fear, trembling, love and Joy in the Holy Spirit (a flame in 2 Timothy 1:6… a flame you don’t want to quench in 1 Thessalonians 5:19) This shows a depth to Dante’s insight into Man’s relationship with the Divine that will be expanded upon (I am sure) in the Comedy itself to a greatly heightened degree.

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