Dante and the Meaning of Easter

An audio version of this talk is on my podcast, Dante’s Divine Comedy, available via podcast feeds.

What is the meaning of Easter? How might Holy Week be more than an occasion for its retelling? Can death and resurrection live today, as they once did, 2000 years ago?

Dante’s journey, in the Divine Comedy, begins on Maundy Thursday, 1300. It continues through the inferno, on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, before he enters purgatory on Easter Sunday morning, at dawn.

The climb up Mount Purgatory, then, takes until Easter Wednesday when, finally, Dante reaches paradise. Though that is really another beginning, as he becomes more capable of knowing the light of Christ in him, and so knowing that light in all that surrounds him.

In other words, the Divine Comedy invites us to consider the story of Easter not as an historical event but as a pattern and path which makes sense of our lives, if we dare to live them deeply.

Augustine once remarked that the joy of being Christian is being a Christ. Easter, then, is not primarily a remembrance of things that happened, but a recollection of who we are called to be. That is the meaning of Easter, needed if Christianity is to live in people’s lives now.