As we move into our Deeper Still series we are seeking to examine the Lord’s Prayer from a contemplative perspective. Following is the prayer of the “proud” in Dante’s Purgatorio from The Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia).
Dante was a Florentine poet of the Middle Ages. His central work is the Divine Comedy which is often considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. (Dante is also called the “Father of the Italian language” because TDC was written in a new language he called “Italian,” based on the regional dialect of Tuscany, with some elements of Latin and of the other regional dialects. By creating a poem of epic structure and philosophic purpose, he established that Italian was more than suitable for the highest sort of expression.)
The Divine Comedy describes Dante’s journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso), guided first by the Roman poet Virgil and then by Beatrice, the subject of his love (and of another of his works).
It should be noted that Purgatorio can be appreciated without necessitating a belief in Purgatory — which Catholicism (as well as Methodism and Judaism) sees as a series of after-death purification processes. We can see it as simply grappling with our own tendency toward pride and arrogance…
Purgatorio Canto XI:1-36 — The Proud Paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer
“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens—
but are not circumscribed by them—out of
Your greater love for Your first works above,
Praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,
By every creature, just as it is seemly,
To offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.
Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if
It does not come, then though we summon all
Our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.
Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,
Offer their wills to You as sacrifice,
So may men offer up their wills to You.
Give unto us this day the daily manna
Without which he who labors most to move
Ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.
Even as we forgive all who have done us
Injury, may You, benevolent,
Forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.
Try not our strength, so easily subdued,
Against the ancient foe, but set it free
From him who goads it to perversity.
This last request we now address to You,
Dear Lord, not for ourselves—who have no need—
But for the ones whom we have left behind.”