Hell is a Hieronymus Bosch painting made after 1490.

Vadim did not perish in the Boiling Blood Pits. After a time, he was brought out and returned to his cell. After all his terrible pain and crushing despair, he now knew it was his own pride that brought about so much misery and ruin. Vadim wanted to die—even if it meant he would remain in Hell.

Then, none other than Archdevil Belphegor visited him. He appeared in ordinary devilish form with horns and a red princely robe. “They tell me you’ve been here for nine years,” he said pleasantly.

Vadim sat up, surprised.

“You didn’t know it was that long? Well, you lose track of time here in Hell. No night and day and all. Would you care to see what’s happening back home? Have a look in my crystal ball here.”

Vadim saw that things had continued on without him. Another high priest was selected to take his place and no rescue mission was planned for the lost party.

“Here now, you don’t look so chipper,” said the archdevil. “Why don’t you come with me? I’ll take you out to see a parade. You like parades, don’t you?”

In a flash, Belphegor and Vadim were on top of a parapet overlooking the hellish realm. Below he saw the hopelessness of the suffering spirits in the Pits of Despair and the grandeur of rank upon rank of disciplined devils marching on parade down the iron streets.

“You know, you really should reconsider our offer.” Belphegor smiled. “It’s really the best you’ll ever get now. Your people have forgotten you. Your god has abandoned you. Don’t waste your life! We fight evil too, you know. And maybe, just maybe, it’s your best destiny. Think about it, won’t you?”

Vadim gazed up as he had so many times to the tiny dim circle shimmering high above him. It wasn’t the moon but an opening far, far above: a rim impossibly high and unreachable, shining with hope and tragedy.

The rulers of Hell kept the opening visible to all but the farthest corners of the Pit. Why? To emphasize the hopelessness of the unattainable for the souls that fall into their grasp and to feed their arrogance against the celestial realms above.

Yet this despair that drove all others to resignation or anger turned Vadim’s heart to a greater understanding. For he somehow saw reflected on the dim circle above a tiny shadow like a hammer being held for him to see. He knew then Volund had not forgotten him and he knew he was forgiven. Vadim realized that Truth and Beauty and Love are not confined by space nor can they be kept out of hell. They are cultivated in the hearts and minds of all who have truly known love and forgiveness. Now, even the archdevil could not break him. Surrendering his pride and self-pity completely, Vadim leaped off the parapet. But rather than fall hundreds of feet to his death, he was caught up in a cloud of light and shot like a comet out of the Pit of Hell as the infernals looked on in wonder.

He still struggles to forget his terrible sins of pride and revenge. Even so, his faith in Volund and his conviction that hardship makes one stronger and contentment is possible in all circumstances has made him an inspiration to others. He is now the patron saint of hope and deliverance. Having escaped Hell itself he serves as Volund’s example—an example to all who seek to overcome—including those hells we make for ourselves.

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