'God is love'
Why did Pope Benedict XVI write “Deus Caritas Est” (God is love), namely his first encyclical? Why did he choose this theme? What was his intention? The Pope himself responds to these questions by quoting Dante’s Divina Commedia:
The cosmic excursion in which Dante wants to involve the reader in his “Divine Comedy” ends before the everlasting light that is God himself, before that light which at the same time is the love “which moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradise XXXIII, verse 145). Light and love are but one thing. They are the primordial creative power that moves the universe.
If these words of the poet reveal the thought of Aristotle, who saw in the eros the power that moves the world, Dante’s gaze, however, perceives something totally new and unimaginable for the Greek philosopher.
Eternal light not only is presented with the three circles of which he speaks with those profound verses that we know: “Eternal Light, You only dwell within Yourself, and only You know You; Self-knowing, Self-known, You love and smile upon Yourself!” (Paradise XXXIII, verses 124-126).
In reality, the perception of a human face – the face of Jesus Christ – which Dante sees in the central circle of light is even more overwhelming than this revelation of God as trinitarian circle of knowledge and love.
God, infinite light, whose incommensurable mystery had been intuited by the Greek philosopher, this God has a human face and – we can add – a human heart.
In this vision of Dante is shown, on one hand, the continuity between the Christian faith in God and the search promoted by reason and by the realm of religions; at the same time, however, in it is also appreciated the novelty that exceeds all human search, the novelty that only God himself could reveal to us: the novelty of a love that has led God to assume a human face, more than that, to assume the flesh and blood, the whole of the human being.
God’s eros is not only a primordial cosmic force, it is love that has created man and that bends before him, as the Good Samaritan bent before the wounded man, victim of thieves, who was lying on the side of the road that went from Jerusalem to Jericho.