All-Night Reading of Dante’s Inferno: Maundy Thursday Vigil

candlesA tradition on Maundy Thursday is to keep vigil through the night, meditating, praying, and remaining with Christ’s presence, as Peter, James, and John were asked to do in the Garden of Gethsemane. As we have the past six years, St. Philip’s will observe this time of vigil by hosting an all-night reading of Dante’s Inferno. On Maundy Thursday, April 2, beginning at 9 p.m. in the Church, hear the Inferno read the way Dante originally intended. Selected Cantos will be read by parishioners, distinguished poets, eminent translators, visiting scholars, and honored guests. Each half-hour segment will begin with the tolling of the tower bells and will include silent meditation, atmospheric music, and the reading of one Canto. The reading will continue until 10 a.m. on Good Friday. Attendees are welcome to stay for as much of the reading as they would like or to arrive or depart at any time. Other areas of the Church and Columbarium garden are available for prayer and to keep watch throughout the night.

Many St. Philippians will participate as readers, hosts, and musicians. Guest readers for 2015 include Dr. Fabian Alfie, Head, Department of French and Italian, University of Arizona, who is a six-year veteran of the event. Other special guests include Patrick Baliani, playwright, and David Alexander Johnston, a well-known local actor.

dawn in church

Dante’s epic poem the Divine Comedy is an allegorical account of Dante’s journey through the three realms of the dead, during the last three days of Holy Week (which begins with Maundy Thursday) in 1300. The portion entitled the Inferno tells of the journey through Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. Dante’s trip through hell is an inward journey to the dark heart of the human soul.

richard croppedThis annual tradition draws a wide and diverse community. It has become the custom of a United Methodist youth group from Phoenix to arrive in the wee hours of the night and keep watch until the break of dawn. More than 140 attended last year’s Inferno reading and some point during the night, and “meaningful” was a common refrain among the varied reactions to the experience. One participant remarked “Observing the early light of Good Friday through the altar window is too moving to put into words.” Other comments included “It really brought my faith alive,” “I felt a kind of wonder on Maundy Thursday night,” “It was all rather ethereal. Although we were reading about hell, we were experiencing something of heaven,” and “It was an amazing experience.” The format of 30-minute segments enables attendees to participate in the experience on their own terms and find meaning in their own way. This event offers the opportunity to delve more deeply into meditation on the final days of Jesus’s life.

The public is cordially invited to attend. St. Philip’s In The Hills Episcopal Church is located at the northeast corner of River Road and Campbell Avenue (4440 N. Campbell). Ample parking is provided on the church campus at the north or east sides. Security will be on site all night. The office phone number is 299-6421.


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