The Epiphany sign of hope, Dante's stars in the Divine Comedy, source of peace and self esteem

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed 

(Matthew 2:10)

Stars are used to distinguish the quality of hotels. Stars are used to reward good restaurants. Stars, from one to five, are used to rate books, all kinds of purchases and services, and people.

For centuries stars have been associated with magnificent events, with memorable births, with a sign of security. The North Star in the north and the Southern Cross in the southern hemisphere have guided sailors around the world.

The star well represents the meaning of one's life

Two thousand years ago, narrates the Gospel according to St. Matthew, a star also served as a sign to some wise men from the East. They were probably Persian priests, wise men with a knowledge of astronomy, who set out on a long journey, suspecting that a king was to be born in a distant land. Arriving in Jerusalem, they lose sight of the celestial guide and ask where the future king of the Jews is expected to be born.

The king of the time, Herod the Great, who was seething with fear of a possible usurper, and had already had his two sons killed, was startled. He hastily gathers the learned men and high pontiffs of the country, to put them the question. The designated historical place will be Bethlehem.

The magi set out on their journey there and the star that had disappeared shone again

"When they saw the star, they were filled with great joy". Matthew sums up the magi's reaction. That star may have been the conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars which, according to Kepler's calculations, would have taken place in the years of Christ's birth.

Many scientific explanations have been given about that star and about those magi. Christians have always linked them to an intervention of God, who guides along a path of hope towards the happiness of heaven.

Dante and the stars in the Divine Comedy

Dante ends each of the parts of the Divine Comedy, hell, purgatory and heaven, precisely by mentioning the stars. 

The poet, on his way from his crisis and affliction, from the dark forest in which he finds himself, where nothing has made sense, sees the light again with the help of Virgil. He climbs little by little until he sees the stars of paradise. When he reaches heaven, all his inner needs are satisfied, as he contemplates the One who moves the sun and the other stars.

We can see the endings of the three parts of the Divine Comedy in its original with an explained translation.

The final song of the Hell:

Salimmo sù, el primo e io secondo, / tanto ch'i' vidi de le cose belle / che porta 'l ciel, per un pertugio tondo. / E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.

The master (Virgil) and I (Dante himself) entered that hidden path to return to the sunlight; and without resting for a moment we climbed up high, he first and I behind, until I saw the stars of the sky through a circular opening. And from there we went out to see again the stars.

The final song of Purgatory:

Io ritornai da la santissima onda / rifatto sì come piante novelle / rinnovellate di novella fronda, / puro e disposto a salire alle stelle.

I walked away from the sacred river completely renewed, like young plants in bloom and covered with new foliage, purified and ready to ascend to the stars.

The last song of Heaven:

A l'alta fantasia qui mancò possa; / ma già volgeva il mio disio e 'l velle, / sì come rota ch'igualmente è mossa, / l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.

My lofty imagination lacked strength here; but now divine love, which moves the Sun and the other stars, made my desire and my will turn, like a wheel that moves in a uniform and regular way.

Dante ends his journey to God, and leaves us teachings similar to those of the magi in the Gospel:

  1. We need to see the star, to find meaning in one's life.
  2. On our path we are not alone: others are the best stars, who guide us.
  3. Reaching heaven requires a persevering effort, enlightened by hope.
  4. The joy of Heaven begins here on earth, when a star shines.
  5. When life becomes cloudy, the star remains behind, ready to shine again. 

The star that the wise men of the East saw 2000 years ago, announced the amazing birth of God among men. That God gives us five stars. Let us take care of them and give no less to others.

Wenceslao Vial

Read in Spanish