The Wrathful and the Lustful

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In his classic poem about the supernatural abodes, Dante divided the sins into two categories of defects (although he might not have stated it this way): the defect of absence and the defect of excess. Those suffering from the defect of excess were punished much more lightly than those suffering from the defect of absence. In a surprising turn, the Lustful received the lightest of punishments, being whirled around perpetually to simulate in the afterlife the wavering that dominated their lives of lust.

It occurs to me that meditation upon Hell is not necessarily incumbent upon everyone, and is likely to be detrimental to some people. The threat of Hell is for me a far less enticing inducement than the joy of being in the presence of the Lord. I am among the many whose sins tend to be those of excess--lust, gluttony, avarice. To me the threat of Hell is one of those things that makes me think of God as a petty accountant, dishing out eternal damnation because I ogled Mildred Smythe-Hyde at the beach. I'm not saying it won't happen, merely that it has no internal resonance. I am not interested in Hell, and I would expect that those of us who are prone to excess might feel similarly.

Contrariwise, those who are prone to the defects of absence might find the thought of Hell quite salutary. Love cannot induce them to His end, so perhaps threat of powerlessness and emptiness in the afterlife will bring them around.

So, I find in my meditations and thoughts about God, Hell simply never enters the equation. The arrow of desire quickens and points to the delights of love as humans know them and identifies this with the source of love. And then we see Bernini's famous representation of the Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila, and we begin to understand that what we know of love and transcendence here on Earth pales in the light of what lies beyond.

The wrathful tend not to have this access, love and its delights are of secondary interest. Setting things to rights and making things move the way they ought is much more at the core.

There is much to be gained from the meditation on the four last things, however, there is even more to be gained from sitting in the presence of Jesus and not worrying about things we cannot possibly understand anyway. For some one path will be better, for others, the opposite path. And for one person at different times, the two paths may serve to enrich the walk with God. The important point is to not let what we ought to think get in the way of spending time with God. If your reflection is on the majesty of the Sand Hill Crane and that brings you into His presence, then by all mans, reflect upon the crane. On the other hand if your joy comes from knowing that there is justice, rightness, and right order in the world beyond, reflect upon the four last things.

Most importantly, do what brings you to God regularly, predictably, inevitably. Shy away from what distracts you from His love.

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That's a very interesting point.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 8, 2007 3:34 PM.

A Personal Insight that Resonates was the previous entry in this blog.

How to Identify Envy is the next entry in this blog.

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