Lightning Strikes Dome Of St. Peter’s Basilica On Feast Of Our Lady Of The Rosary! The Eagle – Terrible As The Lightning He Descended, And Snatched Me Upward

THE concubine of old Tithonus now
Gleamed white upon the eastern balcony,
Forth from the arms of her sweet paramour;

With gems her forehead all relucent was,
Set in the shape of that cold animal
Which with its tail doth smite amain the nations,

And of the steps, with which she mounts, the Night
Had taken two in that place where we were,
And now the third was bending down its wings;

When I, who something had of Adam in me,
Vanquished by sleep, upon the grass reclined,
There were all five of us already sat.

Just at the hour when her sad lay begins
The little swallow, near unto the morning,
Perchance in memory of her former woes,

And when the mind of man, a wanderer
More from the flesh, and less by thought imprisoned,
Almost prophetic in its visions is,

In dreams it seemed to me I saw suspended
An eagle in the sky, with plumes of gold,
With wings wide open, and intent to stoop,

And this, it seemed to me, was where had been
By Ganymede his kith and kin abandoned,
When to the high consistory he was rapt.

I thought within myself, perchance he strikes
From habit only here, and from elsewhere
Disdains to bear up any in his feet.

Then wheeling somewhat more, it seemed to me,
Terrible as the lightning he descended,
And snatched me upward even to the fire.

Therein it seemed that he and I were burning,
And the imagined fire did scorch me so,
That of necessity my sleep was broken.
Pur. IX

Strange how things happen.

Posted this yesterday on the feast of Our Lady Of The Rosary:
The picture I originally used when I first posted this a couple of years ago back in 2009 (here) was The Rape of Ganymede by Correggio:

The reason why I used this image for the post on The Roman Emperor and the habit of contemplation was influenced by what Dante had written down in Purgatory IX.

But using the image of  The Rape of Ganymede may confuse weaker souls into thinking that Sodomy and contemplation of Divine things is some how related, so I changed the image this time around. Don't wanna give scandal etc.

I saw yesterday that in my blog traffic, some where interested in this post from 2009 so I decide to post again yesterday.

The same day I posted this, this happened at St. Peter's:

Lightning strikes dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
VATICAN CITY — Rome shook this morning as a massive lightning bolt hit the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The strike came on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a celebration with origins not only in a humble prayer, but also in an historic battle. The bolt hit the dome of St. Peter’s at approximately 9:20 am, as a strong rainstorm passed through Rome. Vatican police confirmed the strike. No damage was reported. Those close to the Vatican, from Swiss guards to local shop owners, felt the shock. “I was in the shower and heard what sounded like a loud thunder clap which lasted a few seconds and seemed to shake everything. I knew it was storming but it sounded more like an earthquake than a thunderstorm,” a resident close to St. Peter’s told Aleteia. A local Italian coffee-bar owner added: “Everything shook. I could feel it in my lungs. It was as though the air was suspended for a moment.” Aleteia Read More>>>>>
First though when I saw this was Dante's Purgatory IX and the Eagle Terrible As The Lightning He Descended.

Dante uses this rape of Ganymede as an image of violence done to one who contemplates the things of God.

Dante conjures the violence of raptus and visionary experience through the many frightening details in the description of the eagle, as it hangs in the air preparing to strike, and then as it swoops down “terribil come folgor” (terrible as lightning [Purg. 9.29]). St. Thomas notes the violence that is implicit in raptus: “Rapture adds something to ecstasy. For ecstasy implies simply ‘standing outside oneself’ as when a person is placed outside his usual disposition. But rapture (‘being caught up’) adds a note of violence to this” (ST 2a2ae 175.2, in the Blackfriars translation, vol. 45, p. 101). Digital Dante
Here let experts explain the meaning therein (Princeton Dante Project):

Charles S. Singleton (1970-75), Purgatorio 9.22-24

ed esser mi parea... consistoro: Ganymede was the son of Tros and Callirrhoe and brother of Assaracus, who was one of the forefathers of Aeneas. He was the most beautiful of mortals and, according to one version of the story, was carried off by an eagle while hunting with his companions on Mount Ida in Mysia, so that he might take his place among the immortals as the cup-bearer of Jupiter. See Virgil, Aen. V, 252-57:

Inwoven thereon the royal boy, with javelin and speedy foot,
on leafy Ida tires fleet stags, eager, and like to one who
pants; him Jove's swift armour-bearer has caught up aloft
from Ida in his talons; his aged guardians in vain stretch
their hands to the stars, and the savage barking of dogs
rises skyward.

Robert Hollander (2000-2007), Purgatorio 9.22-24

John of Serravalle (comm. to vv. 19-33), following Benvenuto, allegorizes the eagle as divine grace and then equates Dante and Ganymede, thus making Dante 'one who lived with the gods.' Casini/Barbi (comm. to verse 24) suggest that Dante had in mind Virgil's phrase in Georgics I.24-25, 'deorum / concilia' (company of the gods) when he wrote 'al sommo consistoro'; whether he did or not, his meaning seems clear. Within the dream there is a certain aura of violence and fear (implicit reference to the forcible rape of Ganymede by Jove as eagle – see Aen. V.252-257) masking the happier nature of the event: Dante being carried aloft gently by Lucy, and indeed, in a still happier understanding, on the way to the Empyrean, where he will, for a while, share the company of the immortal blessed. In Virgil's ekphrastic moment (this scene appears woven on a cloak as a prize in the funeral games in honor of Anchises) the youthful prince (son of Tros, king of Troy) was hunting on Mount Ida on the Troad (not to be confused with the mountain of the same name on Crete referred to in Inf. XIV.98) and was snatched away from his companions while his dogs barked after him; Dante's version has a more heavenly perspective, and we see the scene from Dante/Ganymede's eyes, as though he were rising in a balloon and watching the shapes of Sordello, Nino, and Currado fall back beneath him (the later poet has had to omit those wonderful Virgilian dogs).

John S. Carroll (1904), Purgatorio 9.13-33

It is worth while to pause a little to examine Dante's view of dreams, which is substantially that of his Church. They may be agents of temptation or means of grace, according to their source. When, as in the case of many dreams in Scripture, they come from God, they are regarded as an inferior mode of revelation, given, as a rule, in a comparatively low state of spiritual knowledge. In the words of Joel (ii. 28): 'Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions,' 'it has been thought that dreams mark the decay, visions the flower of strength' (Catholic Dictionary, art. 'Dreams'). As an inferior means of revelation and grace, they are appropriate to Purgatory. In the Inferno, obviously they can have no place; and the perfect holiness and vision of Paradise no longer need them. Dante regards them as a means of grace in the comparatively low moral state in which he has lived up to this time. On the Mountain-top Beatrice reproaches him for resisting her inspiration when she 'called him back in dream and otherwise,' the allusion being probably to the dreams in the end of the Vita Nuova. Then when he has made with tears his final confession of unfaithfulness to her, she tells him that the time for dreams is over: 'Speak no more as one who dreams.'

(Purg. xxx. 134; xxxiii. 33; V.N. 40, 43.)

Dante shared in the common belief of the ancients that morning dreams are prophetic of the truth, and each of the three which he has on the Mountain occurs at dawn. His belief in them is expressed in the words in which he introduces the first:
In the hour when her sad lay begins
The swallow, nigh unto the morning,
Perchance in memory of her former woes,
And when the mind of man a pilgrim
More from the flesh, and less by thoughts imprisoned,
Is in its visions as it were divine.

(The other dreams on the Mount are Cantos xix. 1ff., and xxvii. 94ff. All these begin with the words 'Nell'ora.' Count Ugolino's dream [Inf. xxxiii. 22ff.] was also a morning one. Tennyson has the same idea:
'on to dawn, when dreams
Begin to feel the truth and stir of day.'

The divination of dreams is spoken of in Conv. ii. 9.) From this it almost appears as if Dante believed, as do many savage tribes, that the soul issues forth from the body during sleep. In the Convito he says: 'We behold a continual experience of our immortality in the divinations of our dreams.' Such a divination is the dream before us, carrying Dante, as it does, to the fire of the highest Heaven:
In dream I seemed to see an eagle
Poised in the heaven, with plumes of gold,
With his wings open, and astrain to swoop.
And meseemed I was there where his friends
Had been by Ganymede abandoned,
When to the high consistory he was rapt.
Within myself I thought, perhaps he strikes
By custom only here, and perhaps from other place
Disdains to bear up any in his feet.
Then meseemed that, having wheeled a little,
Terrible as the lightning he descended,
And snatched me upward even to the fire.
There it seemed that he and I did burn,
And the imagined flame did scorch me so
That of necessity my sleep was broken.

Starting up in dismay he grew pale as a man who freezes to find everything changed. Sordello, Nino, Malaspina, were gone – Virgil alone remained. The sun was already two hours high – so much of the good light wasted. The secluded valley in which he had fallen asleep had given place to the open hillside where his face is turned to the sea. His 'Comforter' quiets his alarm. No time has yet been lost. Lucia, his patron saint, came at early dawn and carried him up to this 'good point.' Yonder is the rampart which encloses Purgatory; and that is the open entrance which she showed him with 'her beauteous eyes.' It only remained for him to 'widen all his strength,' and enter in.

The most difficult question here is: What is meant to be symbolized by the Eagle? Botta's idea that it is 'the symbol of genius' is absurdly wide of the mark: Dante knew perfectly that not his own genius, but the grace of God, could raise him to the fire of the highest Heaven. It is not easy to understand how Dr. Oelsner arrives at his interpretation that it represents baptismal regeneration. 'The eagle, in the “Bestiaries,”' he writes, 'is said to fly up in his old age into the circle of fire, where he burns off all his feathers and falls blinded into a fountain of water, whence he issues with his youth renewed. This is a symbol of baptismal regeneration' (Purgatorio [Temple Classics], p. 114). What this can have to do with Dante it is hard to see, since neither he nor the Eagle falls into a fountain of water. The commonest interpretation identifies Lucia with the Eagle, and regards her as Divine grace, prevenient, illuminant, or co-operant. 'In Lucia,' says Dr. Hettinger, 'prevenient grace comes to the poet's assistance, and enables him of his own free-will to make those acts of faith, fear, hope, love, and repentance which predispose him for justifying grace, and which are beyond his natural power' (Dante's Divina Commedia, p. 152 [English Translation]). Without denying such interpretations, Butler in his most interesting note on the three dreams, suggests that the Eagle is Contemplation – 'the emblem from the earliest Christian times of the soul that most aspires to meditate on divine things, and as such adopted for the special “cognisance” of St. John the Divine (The Purgatory of Dante, App. A., p. 424). There is doubtless truth in this, but it appears to me to be stated too vaguely and generally, instead of being evolved from the context of Dante's feelings and situation at the moment. The Eagle is Contemplation, but contemplation of the Empire. Lucia is Divine grace, but grace working through that imperial vision.

The immediate context is the Valley of the Princes where the dream takes place. Now, that Valley represents to Dante the unideal Empire. Princes and rulers from the Emperor downwards had just been pointed out to him, who had neglected their high imperial task. Immediately before entering it he had burst out into indignant rebuke of both Pope and Emperor for this criminal neglect. It is almost impossible to believe after all this, that the Eagle of Dante's dream is grace or contemplation in general, and has nothing to do with the Eagle of the Empire. We must bear in mind also that Dante's dreams are prophetic, or, to use Butler's word, 'prefatory' of something to which the poet is about to move. Now, he is on the point of beginning the ascent of the Seven Terraces which lead to the Earthly Paradise on the top, and this, he has told us in the De Monarchia (iii. 16), is the figure of the ideal Empire upon earth. But there is also an ideal Empire beyond earth. In Jupiter, the Sixth Heaven, more than a thousand souls of Righteous Kings in the form of bright starry lights form themselves into the head and neck of the imperial Eagle. It is the heavenly ideal of Empire; and although, as he tells us, it is shown locally in the Sixth Heaven as an accommodation to human weakness, it is really nowhere else than in the Tenth Heaven, the Empyrean or Sphere of Fire (Par. iv. 28-48; xviii. 52ff.). With all this before our minds, it seems reasonable to suppose that the Eagle with feathers of gold which swooped down into the Valley of Negligent Princes is the heavenly and ideal Empire to which Dante is finally to rise. The vision of it is given to strengthen and encourage him in this low valley: in spite of all the neglect of their imperial duty of which these Princes had been guilty, an ideal heavenly Empire was forming itself, an Eagle with golden feathers and outspread wings, swift and terrible as the lightning, and powerful to lift men up even to the fire. (There is a reference in Villani's Chronicle [i. 40] which bears out this interpretation. Speaking of the Roman standard, he says that Augustus 'changed it, and bore the golden field and the eagle natural, to wit, in black colour, signifying the supremacy of the Empire, for like as the eagle surpasses every other bird, and sees more clearly than any other creature, and flies as high as the heaven of the hemisphere of fire, so the Empire ought to be above every other temporal sovereignty.' Doubtless Villani means the sphere of fire between air and moon; but Dante, regarding the Empire as more than a mere 'temporal sovereignty,' raises the Eagle to the fire of the Empyrean. See Conv. ii. 4.) By means of the mere vision of it in a dream, Lucia, the prevenient grace of God, lifts the Pilgrim out of the Valley and carries him up almost to the Gate of St. Peter. If it be objected that this is to give to Dante's contemplation a mere political colour, the reply is that, in spite of his separation between the sphere of Pope and Emperor, he did not draw our modern line of distinction between the religious and the political. Church and Empire were two sides of the one same Kingdom of God, and their apparent separation of spheres was only for the temporary purposes of a sinful earth. Even here the antagonism should be minimized to the utmost; but in the Sixth Heaven, ruled over by the Angelic Dominations, it has no existence. Dante could not have understood if he had been told that contemplation of the ideal Empire of eternity had in it nothing spiritual or religious. It was the goal of all his highest, purest hopes.

The great lesson he had to learn here in this Valley of Negligent Princes was that this ideal Empire is still far off. He can see it indeed 'in clear dream and solemn vision'; but he is not yet able to enter in. When the Eagle snatches him up to the fire, he is so scorched that the agony awakes him, and, instead of the highest Heaven, he finds himself outside the Gate of Purgatory, with the whole long journey and purifying discipline before him. It is the idea worked out in Newman's Dream of Gerontius: the soul which, 'with intemperate energy of love,' begs to see Christ before it is purified, is seized and scorched and shrivelled by His 'keen sanctity,' and thereby made willing to undergo the Purgatorial pains. Just so does the burning agony of the fire of the highest Heaven reveal to Dante his great need of purification and lay him in humble self-abasement at the Gate of Purgatory,
'Consumed, yet quickened, by the glance of God.'

The whole incident is intended to show also that the Divine grace can penetrate far deeper than our own conscious life and efforts. When the active powers are laid asleep, and the guidance of Reason is in abeyance, and all the ordinary means of grace fall away from the soul, even then God keeps the pathway open for the feet of His messengers. 'So He giveth His beloved in sleep' (Ps. cxxvii. 2). One momentary flash of 'the fire' in a vision of the night may sometimes accomplish more for the soul than struggling hours of its own climbing, and outrun Reason's slower pace. Virgil himself gladly yields place to Lucia, the Divine grace of the dream, content to follow humbly in her footprints, and to learn from 'her beauteous eyes' the opening in the rocky rampart which lies between the soul and the next stage of the new life. (St. Lucy's 'eyes' are probably the 'demonstrations' of truth which grace carries intuitively to the Reason; and they were 'beautiful' because she had plucked them out in order to remain pure [Mrs. Jameson's Sacred and Legendary Art, ii. 613-619.)
For God speaketh in one way,
Yea in two, though man regardeth it not.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falleth upon men,
In slumberings upon the bed;
Then he openeth the ears of men,
And sealeth their instruction,
That he may withdraw man from his purpose,
And hide pride from man;
He keepeth back his soul from the pit,
And his life from perishing by the sword.
(Job xxxiii. 14-18.)

Yet these visionary moments are not unconnected with the waking life. They never come until the soul has climbed some height in the struggle against sin. Dante indicates this by confining the swoop of the Eagle of his dream to the place where he fell asleep, the Valley of the Princes:
I thought within myself, perhaps he strikes
From habit only here, and from other place
Haply disdains to bear up any in his feet.

'Only here' refers, as the context plainly shows, to Mount Ida in Mysia, from which Ganymede was 'caught up to the high consistory,' and where Dante imagined himself to be in his dream. Now, the mere mention of Ganymede is the poet's way of connecting his dream with the Empire. Rome was through AEneas the direct descendant of Troy; and it was from Tros, the father of Ganymede, that Troy derived its name. The allusion therefore carries us back to the very source of the Empire, from which alone the Eagle deigns to bear up any in its feet. Translating all this into its moral equivalent, the meaning seems to be that the soul must first climb up to this Valley of the Princes where the sin of neglect of duty to the Empire is borne in upon the conscience; this, in its turn, carries the mind back to the origin of the Empire and its Divine election and purpose; and from this the soul is caught up in dream and vision to the celestial ideal of Empire, too fiery-bright for the sinful spirit yet to bear. 'Only here' and from no other place, can the vision be given.


  1. You might possibly be the craziest blogger out there... sometimes the good kind, sometimes the not so great, but this is a fantastic piece. Good work!

    Oh, and for the love of God can you try to clean up the language/imagery so that you don't get blocked by sex filters? A Canon 1370 filter I could understand, but don't let your blog(s) get grouped in with that kind of vulgarity if you can help it. If you have to you have to, like quoting Trump or Francis or something but I definitely don't ever need to see that naked man gif again... or another demonic ghetto flakka street rave from Liveleak.

    Stay fresh!

  2. And Putin's birthday too, Our Lady of Victory. 2017 gonna be an interesting year.


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