Amid gorges, forests, and rocks, where religious recluses live, Fathers of the Church (including Pater Ecstaticus, Pater Profundus, and Pater Seraphicus) sing about love purified of trivialities, and how Love gives all things their form and sustains them such that nature is expressive of the Divine. A cloud of innocent children who died at birth floats through the forest, happy with existence—but Pater Seraphicus instructs them to fly to a higher sphere.
Fittingly, Faust’s last glimpse of earth is of nature at its most sublime. Indeed, the Fathers of the Church suggest that nature itself is really the language through which God expresses his infinite love. The cloud of children recalls Faust’s two dead children, by Gretchen and Helen, and suggests that at least his child by Gretchen is in a better place.
Angels hover in the upper sky, bearing with them the immortal part of Faust. They sing of how this worthy member of the spirit world was rescued from the devil. Younger angels exult in how their falling roses drove away hell’s legions. More perfect angels find it distasteful to bear Faust’s soul in its current state, for it is too intermixed with the base elements of earth. Only Eternal Love can disunite two natures conjoined in a single entity like this, they say.
Faust’s restlessness saved him. He was never satisfied with mere idle pleasures, but always wanted to improve himself and, in the end, to improve his world. He was a far from perfect man, suggested by his contamination here with base elements, but he did strive to harmonize with the whole of the world.
In the highest and neatest cell in the mountainside, Doctor Marianus, a saint, sees heaven’s High Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is surrounded by other women ascending upward, penitents anxious for mercy. Three sinful women who have achieved redemption—Magna Peccatrix (the Biblical Mary Magdalene), Mulier Samaritana (the Biblical Woman of Samaria), and Maria Aegyptica (a saint)— all ask the High Queen that another penitent (Gretchen) also be granted her forgiveness.
Mary completes the trinity of women important in Faust’s spiritual journey, along with Gretchen and Helen. She is a figure of mercy and divine forgiveness. Earlier, Gretchen prays to Mary after being corrupted by Faust. Now, other penitent women are praying on behalf of Gretchen’s soul, which also achieves salvation.
The penitent (Gretchen) clings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to look down on Faust, the love of her, Gretchen’s, youth, who has now returned to grace. The penitent watches as Faust’s soul frees itself from all earthly bonds with youthful vigor. Mary instructs the penitent to rise to higher spheres, where Faust, sensing her presence, will follow.
Faust has achieved transcendence, not through his own actions but through divine love. He still needs guidance, however. Mary instructs Gretchen’s soul to lead Faust’s to eternity, an image that contrasts with the tragic image of Euphorion chasing the chorus girl into the sky and falling to his death.
A mystical chorus concludes the drama. They sing that all that is transitory is only a symbol. What is impossible on earth is done in heaven, and what can’t be described below here is a fact. They conclude that Eternal Woman shows us how to rise on high. Thus ends Goethe’s Faust.
The chorus declares that by acting within our natural limits we harmonize with the divine, completing the theme of parts, wholes, and limits. Women have always aroused in Faust love and a desire for the ideal, and through the chorus Goethe suggests that this is universally the case (for men at least). Despite all his dealings with the devil, Faust is ultimately saved by his constant striving and intellectual restlessness.