Santo, santo, santo: Dante’s Union of Prophet and Theophany in Paradiso 26

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Stephen Little


In Paradiso 26, St. John tells the blinded Dante that Beatrice’s gaze has the power to restore his sight. Paradoxically, Beatrice’s gaze does not directly heal the poet; rather, Dante sees anew when the blessed souls sing, Santo, santo, santo! These words and other clues in the canto evoke the biblical theophanies of Isaiah, Paul, and John. Dante’s direct vision of God does not come for another seven cantos; why then does he allude to several theophanies at the significant moment when he regains his vision? Focusing on one source for the Santo verse—the Sanctus in the Mass—I propose that Dante does depict a theophany. He has a revelation of God—as the Mystical Body of Christ—and of himself as a member of it. Dante is united to his own theophany.

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Author Biography

Stephen Little

Stephen Little hails originally from Washington State. At the University of Dallas, he majored in English and minored in Ancient Greek and Computer Science. He lived in Italy before earning an M.A. in Eastern Classics, with an emphasis on Sanskrit, from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM. He is currently in his sixth year in the Ph.D. in Literature program at Notre Dame, and is writing his dissertation on the influence of sacramental theology on the poetics of Dante’s Divine Comedy.