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Dante's Paradiso: The Religious Orders

            "The providence that governs all the world.
             with wisdom so profound none of His creatures.
             can ever hope to see into Its depths,.
             In order that the Bride of that sweet Groom,.
             who crying loud espoused her with His blood,.
             might go to her beloved made more secure.
             Within herself, more faithful to her Spouse,.
             ordained two noble princes to assist her.
             on either side, each serving as a guide."".
             (Canto XI, lines 28-36).
             Dante and Beatrice are now in the Realm of the Blest, where the souls of the Wise are circling and singing. Cantos XI and XII introduce Dante to the two monastic orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic, as related to them by two of the followers of these orders. Dante discovers much about their teachings and beliefs, the founders of each order, as well as the self-proclaimed weaknesses of each one. Through the orders represent different teachings, the strengths and weaknesses of each are intertwined, the outer circle of love being a reflection of the inner circle of wisdom.
             The importance of these two orders is related to us by St. Thomas, a follower of St. Dominic, and by St. Bonaventure, a follower of St. Francis. St. Thomas introduces us to the two most important mendicant Orders of the Middle Ages and their leaders in the above preface to his story of Francis of Assisi. Providence ordained two princes, Francis and Dominic, to help sustain the Church, the Bride of Christ. On either side, Francis with love and Dominic with wisdom, they keep the Bride faithful to the Bridegroom who had "married- her by means of His Crucifixion. Francis is characterized by his "seraphic love- (Canto XI, line 37), as the seraphim are the highest order of angels and symbolic of the greatest love for God. He is portrayed with pastoral images of love and court chivalry, with many references to "lord,"" "lady,"" "court,"" "love,"" and "power."" Dominic, known for his learning, is associated with the cherubim, "a splendor of cherubic radiance- (Canto XI, line 39), which was the second order of angels and those acknowledged as the wisest.

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