As Danté seeks entry to the underworld, he is rebuffed by the ferryman Charon who refuses to bear him across the River Acheron because, well, Danté isn’t dead. It’s a journey Danté wasn’t all that eager to make in the first place–who really wants to visit Hell, anyways? But his way to God was barred by a clever leopard, a ferocious lion, and an insatiable she-wolf, and he was left to wander in the dark wood.
Troubled by doubt and his own menacing sins, Danté’s Divine Comedy opens upon a man trapped in a hopeless valley. He stumbles blindly in fear, beasts hot on his trail. He sees no way back to God’s presence. The sun grows mute.
In his panic, Danté nearly runs into a shade passing through the forest. The two men discover one another, Danté in need of a guide and Virgil sent for that very purpose. With fatherly gentleness, Virgil explains that the way back to the presence of God is not up but down. He must learn to hate his sin before it can be purged away. And only then can he behold the Divine once more.
It is at the gate of Hell that Danté encounters the first obstacle in his pilgrimage when Charon tries to deny him passage. However, Virgil puts the grizzly mariner in his place with this stern rebuke: “Thus it is willed where power and will are one; enough; ask no more!”
My own life has felt rudderless recently. I haven’t had to make a journey into the Inferno, but I identify with Danté’s fear, despair, and doubt. Life has felt a bit like a descent into…well, I’m not quite sure. God’s will has seemed hidden, his glory blocked from view, his purpose obscure.
However, Virgil’s admonition has been a comfort to my soul: “[His] power and will are one.” Divine simplicity is the belief that there are no parts to God. Thus, his power and will are not separate but one. This is good news for Danté, because if God’s will is for Charon to ferry him across the River Acheron, then Charon will ferry him across the River Acheron. God does what God wills. God wills what God does.
His power and will are one.
Divine simplicity is good news for you and me. In my own pilgrimage, there is nothing that God wishes would happen that he will not or cannot do. And everything that has happened and that he has done in my life is perfectly what he wills for me. His power and will are one. He accomplishes all his purposes for me. And what he purposes, he accomplishes in me.
Whatever sins may waylay me, whatever doubts may darken my sky, whatever failures or uncertainties may seem to block my way, they are all under the power of the One who “does all he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
Let us take heart. God is not a God who merely wishes to do us good, who hopes to do us good, who has intentions for our good. He is a God of divine simplicity–a God whose power and will are united so that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).
If divine simplicity was reason enough for Hell’s ferryman to obey, God’s unified power and will should be sufficient to quiet our own souls: “Enough; ask thou no more!”