In life everyone has a journey and path they take. There are not two journey’s that look quite the same. A person’s experiences, worldview, and childhood all play into how the journey they take will be. God has a journey for each person that looks different and unique than anyone else’s. In the Bible located in Proverbs 16:9 it says, “Within your heart you can make plans for your future, but the Lord chooses the steps you take to get there.
” Everybody has thoughts and plans for their life but when the Lord comes in and encounters somebody and they surrender their life to Christ their plans change. They now let the Lord be the one who guides them through their journey and adventures in life. Through reading literature, there are two examples of men who were living their lives how they wanted to, but they encountered the Lord. We are going to explore and look at Augustine and Dante’s spiritual life journey’s they took during their life.
The literature used to look at their spiritual journey’s in this paper will be Confessions written by Augustine of Hippo. The Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri will be the literature used to look at Dante’s spiritual life. Both pieces of literature take us through their journeys and what led them to have a spiritual encounter. Augustine journey is one that consists of openness as seen in the Confessions while Dante’s spiritual journey is one that leans more to psychological.
In Confessions, we learn about Augustine’s life and his journey he went on to find Christ. Augustine grew up with his mother who was a devote Catholic and at his young age he believed the same as his mother. As he got older he turned from the Catholic religion. His father was not involved much with religion and Augustine leaned more towards the same as his father. Through Augustine’s life before his full conversion he struggled strongly with lust, pleasures of this world, and material things. Augustine had the desire to love and be loved. He was looking for the love and lust of the world to fulfill this desire he had. Although his journey he was searching for what was missing from his life and found many ways to cope for a short time it wasn’t until he completely gave his life to Christ that he found true love that satisfies forever. Augustine mentions that creation in the earth longs to come back to God even if they realize it or not. This is what Augustine was going though on his journey, the struggle of his inner man longing for God but his sexual desire overtaking him. Through his journey he spends some time associating with the belief of Manicheism. He has questions that make him doubt about this religion. He spent much of his public time going after things and goals of this world. He also mentions his private time he spent going after and believing in a false religion. Through his time in Manicheism he continues in his sinful ways, there is no change or transformation in his life. Augustine is with a woman for ten years whom they live together and have a son together. Just as he plans to marry her she leaves him and their son. Their son dies at age seventeen which leaves Augustine with brokenness but learns important lessons through his grief. Augustine’s move from Rome became the end of his following of the Manicheism religion. As he moves on to Milan that is where his true conversion happens. In the Milan garden he makes the choice to fully follow the Catholic faith and give himself to it as well as coming to terms and excepting celibacy. This is where he had an encounter that led him to start reading the Bible. In the book Confessions we see that Augustine doesn’t hide anything about his spiritual journey. He is very open to express his struggles, sins, thoughts, and beliefs along his journey to his conversion. There is nothing held back he is putting it all out there sharing his testimony. Andres G. Nino says about Augustine, “He describes his experiences in a direct and effective style marked by a vast array of emotions, motivations, and detailed cognitive processes.” He has a spiritual guide along the way Ambrose is the Bishop of Milan who plays a huge role in Augustine’s conversion and baptized him. Augustine is able to look more clearly at his life years after his conversion and is expressed through Confessions. Garry Wills says in Augustine’s biography, “Augustine sees the hand of God and Scriptural parallels to actual events in a way he didn’t at the time.” After someone’s conversion to Christ they see things in a new light which allowed him to have the view he had on his life. It is even mentioned in the book Augustine and the Catechumenate that “He spoke at the time of its discomfiture and ambiguity: “Many persons are suddenly converted to a good and admirable way of life, but until they become noteworthy by some outstanding deeds, they are still believed to be what they used to be.” This shows he believed in a complete transformation of life and turn from sin.
Dante’s spiritual journey is one that we don’t know about until half way through his life. He finds himself alone in the forest that is dark when he is halfway through his life. He realizes that he has lost his way and is no longer travelling on the path of truth. While lost in the woods, he meets Virgil who is the one Dante looks up to. The reason Dante finds himself in the woods is because the path he wants to take is blocked by beasts. Virgil tells Dante that he will guide him and that they can go on a path that is a different one and over a hill to get to where he wants to go. James F. McMenamin says about Dante needing a guide, “Such conditions requiring guidance and direction call upon another person who can lead the newcomer or adolescent toward the right path.” Along the path they must pass through eternal punishment, purgatory, and heaven. Through his journey he sees people he has known on earth. He also meets new people and gets to hear their stories of how they ended up there. He has a great opportunity to see where these people are spending their eternal life and examine his life and how he is living. Virgil is unable to guide Dante through paradise and this is when Beatrice takes over and guides Dante through heaven. Dante didn’t express or share much about his past and struggles although some are shared in The Divine Comedy.
Augustine and Dante both had their own unique experiences that led them to their conversion. They had struggles along the way, but both made it to where they needed to in order to encounter God. They both had a struggle within to come into the alignment of Christian values and behaviors but managed to get there over time. The way they came to their conversion was through a crisis situation which they displayed at the beginning of their piece of literature. Augustine lost the woman he loved so dearly. While Dante is faced in the dark woods alone realizing he is lost and needs to find the right path. Dante also gets to view and make a decision for his life based on seeing the eternal after life places. They both see salvation as a gift of grace that they could be saved after their past of sinful desires and passions. They can’t begin to think of their life any way other than following The Lord who is the truth and alone good. They see God as the way to truth and goodness while longing to seek him. They expressed what they had known with what the standard God was calling them to as a follower of him. Both pieces of literature show a true conversion of a life that was in complete darkness and sin coming into light and walking in it. Virgil played an important part in Augustine and Dante’s spiritual life. Virgil inspired Augustine through his writings and he would use Virgil’s text in his own life to share with others. Dante’s has Virgil as his guide through the certain parts of the afterlife. Dante looks up to Virgil with much respect and honor. Both Augustine and Dante believe God judges based on the sin one commits in life and there is punishment for sins. While they have different experiences to lead them to believe this, they have both come to the same conclusion. Augustine sees love as God should be at the center of it and that God is the source of love. Dante had the experience of an earthly love for Beatrice which he later encountered in heaven. In the Poets Inner Child, James F. McMenamin says, “Dante gently falls asleep where he is overtaken by a marvelous vision in which the lord (love personified) appears holding a person (Beatrice) who is unclothed, asleep, and wrapped in cloth.” This showed him love by connecting his earthly love with the heavenly one. They both agree that beauty is not evil. Augustine strongly believes that focusing in the beauty instead of the one who made the beauty can cause pain and evil. Which he uses his experience with the woman he loved as his frame for his view. He firmly believed to look to God for beauty because he is the creator of it and find him in the beauty you see.
Augustine is very transparent in Confessions. In Augustine’s biography written by Henry Chadwick he says about Augustine, “Without illusions about himself, he draws his readers into his personal quest for happiness as he feels himself driven to believe that there is nothing to keep the soul from starvation other than truth, beauty, and goodness; and they can be reached only by love, a purified and sublimated love, the beginning, middle, and end of all things.” He believes that his openness and testimony will help others long for the same love he has found in God. Dante’s journey we see more that it is philosophical and logical because he is seeing the after life places face to face. Robert McMahon says, “Because the principles governing its literary and philosophical unity are well understood, Chapter 1 repeatedly draws on Dante’s poem to illustrate the structure and implications of the meditative ascent.” Through out Augustine and Dante’s spiritual journey they have different situations that led them to their conversion. At the end of it all what mattered is they knew the Lord. Matthew 7:21-23 says it best, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” They came to know the Lord and that’s what is really important knowing God not just all about him but knowing him personally. Even though each literature piece was expressed differently it still displayed the conversions well for the readers to be impacted by.
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