Rorate Caeli

Leave the Valley of Death -- with the help of the Mater Dolorosa

Ma poi ch’i’ fui al piè d’un colle giunto,
là dove terminava quella valle
che m’avea di paura il cor compunto,

guardai in alto e vidi le sue spalle
vestite già de’ raggi del pianeta
che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle.
(Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto I)


Right in the beginning of the greatest poem ever written by a Christian, Dante's "Commedia", the reader is faced with a terrifying scene: a blighted valley, a wild and suffocating jungle so deep and impenetrable that the very rays of the Sun cannot reach within. We are, "nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita" ("halfway through the journey of our life"), so deep in sin we cannot even see our own selves, Light being nowhere.

It is what Saint John of the Cross would later call "la noche oscura" -- the "dark night of the soul." And, despite such purgations, there is hope. As Saint David, King, wrote, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

The Poet, as readily as he notices the very dark jungle of his troubled soul and life, lifts up his head as well to look to the Hill. From the very beginning, the Comedy is a work of hope:

After I had reached a mountain’s foot,
where that vale ended which had pierced my heart
with fear, I looked on high,

and saw its shoulders
mantled already with that planet’s rays
which leadeth one aright o’er every path. (Langdon translation)

That Mountain is the eternal Calvary which every Christian is able to see, if only there is trust in the Light from above: "Ecce ascendimus Ierosolymam"... The God of Light brings Redemption on the Mountain to all those who open their eyes, recognize their own sinfulness, look up to the Sun, and trust in the Lord. There, on the Mountain, the ever-charitable Dolorous Mother will lead all souls to Her loving Son, the Sun of Justice who bled for us unto death, and opened the Life of the Holy Trinity to all sinful men and women.