Divine Comedy by Botticelli

On Black Saturday, we inevitably reflect on the fifth phrase the Apostles’ Creed. It consists of the following twelve articles. And the fifth one is about hell.

  1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
  2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
  3. who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
  4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
  5. he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.
  6. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
  7. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
  8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  9. the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,
  10. the forgiveness of sins,
  11. the resurrection of the body,
  12. and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this phrase “he descended to hell” mean? This phrase scares us a lot. And various mystifications and demystifications took place in Christian histories.

One of the well-known literary works is Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is Italian writer Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem. In the poetic narratives, Dante travels from Inferno to Purgatorio to Paradiso. The first place Inferno means hell.

The concept of hell scared people in the medieval era. And like Botticelli, a lot of artists visualized it. Even in our modern days, despite the effort of demystification, it scares us a lot.

Why? It’s because both imaginations and concepts of hell contain the full states of human negativity and destructiveness.

For example, Inferno contains these nine circles of hell:

  1. Limbo
  2. Lust
  3. Gluttony
  4. Greed
  5. Wrath
  6. Heresy
  7. Violence
  8. Fraud
  9. Treachery

From them, we can see the value system of the medieval Christian worldview. At the same time, we can also relate them to the Seven Deadly Sins in Catholicism.

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

These seven sins are from the eight sins by one of the Desert Fathers, Evagrius Ponticus (345–399).

  1. Gluttony
  2. Fornication
  3. Greed
  4. Pride
  5. Sadness
  6. Wrath
  7. Boasting
  8. Acedia

Listing up these negative attributes makes us really depressive. Indeed, hell is the state of our negative, destructive existence.

God gave us free will. It’s up to us how we live our life and die. And this free will could even lead us to the state of hell. Jesus Christ saw them by Himself, the Harrowing of Hell in His descent.

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