In Canto 28 of Paradiso Beatrice explains, “the measure of their vision lies in merit, produced by grace,” (112-113). A balance and interplay can be found in the elements “merit” and “grace” because they are an allegory of the entire book in which the whole focus of the sanctification of Dante, and all souls for that matter, is based upon merit and grace.
Beatrice’s representation of God’s grace is reflected by her radiance in that she plays an image of nobility, virtue, the Redeemed Life and, to a certain extent, of God Himself. “[Dante] saw [his] lady filled with so much gladness that, at her joy, the planet grew more bright. And if the planet changed and smiled, what then did [he] – who by [his] very nature [is] given to every sort of change – become,” (Par 5 95-99). The book reveals that the destination of Dante’s journey with Virgil is Beatrice. However, it is not Beatrice herself that they want to reach but her grace with which can only be received after going through the experiences in Hell and Purgatory in order to see the process of sanctity. The amount of brightness Dante sees through her radiance demonstrates how deeply his merits have developed for they show his clarification of everything he doubted about the grace of God and has now finally achieved it.
In the beginning, doubts are seen when Dante does not know that blaming others prevents one from moving forward. This causes him to wonder why some souls are placed in Hell. Moving forward can only be achieved by changing merit. Recognizing that one has sinned and accepting the fact that the sin was committed by his own will helps the soul reach grace. As seen in Inferno, Francesca recognizes that she has sinned for she tells Dante that her “[soul] … stained the world with blood,” by cheating on her husband (Inf. 5 90). However, she refuses to believe her adultery is her own fault. She mindlessly blames her brother-in-law, Paolo Malatesta, and the provocative readings for encouraging her to sin and for being placed in Hell. Since she recognizes her wrongdoing as a sin yet denies any responsibility for her own actions, she is prevented from moving forward towards God’s grace. Throughout Dante’s pilgrimage in Hell he is told over and over again by different souls that they know they have sinned however they keep repeating the same excuses as to why they did it and how it could not possibly be their fault. Dante’s innocence impedes him from realizing the falsehood of their reasons for not becoming sanctified and reaching God’s grace through their merit.
During Dante’s journey through Purgatorio he learns to recognize his sins, take accountability for them and ultimately repent, which is the only way to obtain God’s grace. “From that most holy wave I now returned…remade, as new trees are renewed when they bring forth new boughs, I was pure and prepared to climb unto the stars” (Purg 33 142-145). He has experienced sanctification through the full understanding...