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Dante's 'Inferno' read on Maundy Thursday

Dante's 'Inferno' read on Maundy Thursday

Traditional reading at St. Philip's in the Hills Church

Arizeder Urreiztieta reads Canto I during an all-night reading of Dante's "Inferno" held at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church on April 9, 2009.

A tradition on Maundy Thursday - which commemorates the Last Supper - is to keep vigil through the night, meditating and praying, as Peter, James and John are said to have been asked to do in the Garden of Gethsemane.

For the past five years, St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church has observed this vigil by hosting an all-night reading of Dante's "Inferno." On Maundy Thursday, March 28, beginning at 9 p.m. in the church, hear the "Inferno" read the way Dante originally intended. Parishioners, poets, translators, visiting scholars and other guests will read selected Cantos in half-hour segments.

Each segment will begin with the tolling of the tower bells and include silent meditation, 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 and to arrive and 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 2013 include Fabian Alfie, head of the University of Arizona's department of French and Italian, as well as the Rev. Lucas J. Mix, Episcopal chaplain at the UA. This year the reader pool also includes several students from the department of Italian, as well as several students who participate in the Canterbury Club, the Episcopal campus group.

Other special guests include Wendy Wiese-Cohon, rebbetzin, Temple Emanu-El; playwright Patrick Baliani; Peter Foley, director of the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture at the UA; and David Alexander Johnston, a well-known local actor.

A special preview forum will be held at 10:15 a.m. Sunday in the West Gallery at St. Philip's. Alfie will discuss the organization of Dante's hell and the nature of the punishments (or contrapasso). He will also cover Dante's life and times. The hour-long forum is free and open to all.

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 titled "The Inferno" tells of the journey through hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil.

This 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. About 140 attended last year's Inferno reading at some point during the night.

St. Philip's is at 4440 N. Campbell Ave. at East River Road. Security will be on-site throughout the night. Parking is available in the north parking lot or under the solar covered parking structure on the east side.

For more information call the church at 299-6421.

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