"Come along, daughter, cease dawdling about and bothering the good friar!"
"Oh, my lord mayor, she is no bother!" insisted the old friar, though
his tug of his sleeve to free it from the girl hanging on his arm
peering at his manuscript belied his words.
"Oh, father," she cried, “The words are so beautiful! Can I not stay and study?” She leaned over the seated friar's shoulder, the fine green wool and cream linen of her dress and undergown seeming almost too bright next to the friar's rough robe.
“Girl, you cannot even read. Leave him be! That work is surely destined for another.”
“Indeed it is, sir,” replied the cassocked priest. “A benefactor has commissioned it as a gift to the church at Norwich. And you, girl, should mind your father, and set your mind on what befits a girl who is to become a wife and mother.”
“But father!” cried the girl, but her father overrode her.
“Thank you for your words, Father.” The burgess led his daughter away. As they departed the chapel, though, the old priest could hear the girl whispering to herself, “Someday....”
* * * many years later * * *
Clad in dusty black, her feet aching gloriously from the long walk from Canterbury, Margery knelt at the shadowed stone embrasure before Julian's cell. It was some time before she prepared herself to speak.
"Dame Julian, I beg your guidance."
After a moment, a shadowed figure appeared at the window. As she leaned into the light, the anchoress's eyes were warm and kind.
“May the blessings of our Lord be upon you, lass. I see by your face that you have known these blessings in truth. Do tell your tale!”
“I am filled with bliss,” replied Margery, “for I have been blessed indeed. In prayer has our Lord spoken to me, and I have seen our Lady in my visions, and also the saints, Elizabeth and Anne. I have known the love of our Lord, and His will – that I speak of what I have seen.”
At this, the anchoress and the pilgrim loudly gave thanks together in celebration. “But yet, among all these blessings, I see a shadow. What troubles your soul?” asked the anchoress.
“Oh, thank you, dame Julian, for your kind words, for I am most troubled indeed. I have prayed and prayed until my knees bled, and I know not how to express what I feel. I have not the words, for the grace itself must make me abandon all reason. I know that I am called to a life of devotion, I have fasted and meditated upon the Cross, with the grace of the Archbishop I lain aside the eating of meat, and I have forsworn relations with my own wedded husband, and live chaste.
I wear black, but I would that I could wear nought but white. I seek to live a life of purity and piety, and now I am blessed and afflicted at once with these endless tears. The more I increase in love and devotion, the more I increase in sorrow and contrition!”
At this the anchoress took pity on her supplicant, reached through the window, and took her hand. “I call you sister, for sisters we are in the love of the Lord. While words may not and cannot expound the whole of God's grace, we must do our poor best, and then take our rest in that love. Take my hand and abide with me a while. We must thank our Lord for His visitation, and we must be obedient to His will always.” She expounded upon the virtue of tears, sent by God as an incontrovertible sign of love.
Margery gripped Julian's hand, and wept copious tears thereover. “Oh, sister, I thank you, and it gladdens my heart to say it.”
“We must above all else have trust,” Julian continued, “though often times it is easy to fall into doubt. But the Lord is our steady ground, and we his Earthly lovers must trust in Him who bears us up. Lay still by me, this night, and we shall pray together, trusting in mercy and in love.”
“I will, dear Sister,” replied Margery, drawing her robe around her, and laying against the stone. They abided together in silence for much time, their still clasped together across the sill.
As the day grew dim, it seemed as if a soft light came from beyond the arch of the window, and it shone down upon them, warming them and filling them, with pain and with joy and with fear and with love. The light reached out and enclosed them, as a mother might enwrap her children in the folds of her robe, and the Earth itself seemed to slip away to leave them afloat in the safe embrace of the sea of light.
As a girl, Margery had watched the tide roll up the banks at King's Lynn, and now she felt herself rising with it. Clinging to Julian's hand as her sole, solid point, she rose up with her on the tide onto a wharf made all of stars. Song rose up out of the sea of light like the fish drawn to Peter's net, and danced around them in the glowing night. The song brought them to their feet there among the stars, where they saw before them a gleaming throne.
“Dance with me, sister,” said Julian, and hand in hand, beyond Earth and Sea, held up solely by the Divine, they embraced, and danced before the Throne.
Many days and nights passed as one, as they shared the embrace of communion with the holy. In their visions, they flew out, and danced in the sky their joy and love. Hand in hand, they prayed and they slept and they prayed yet more, in tears and in laughter and in silence.
As the next dawn reddened the sky, they stirred from their meditations. Several days had seemingly passed as one, and yet also as a thousand, and they rose refreshed and untroubled. Seeing this, they exclaimed and wept in joy again at the blessings and goodness of the love of the Lord.
“Would that I could abide here in our communion for all time, dear sister!” cried Margery as they rose.
“We are of a kind, my dear,” replied Julian. “But in kindness, you know your calling as I do mine. It is in enclosure here that I have the freedom to live within our Lord's love, just as your road lies ahead to distant lands, to seek the very footsteps of our Lord and to carry your testimony afar.
“But must I go, dear Julian? I would not wish our conversation to end.”
“All things but God's eternal, unslaked love must end,” she replied. “But in endings are also beginnings; bliss is lasting without end, and pain is but passing. Your calling and path may lead you far, but you must walk it, and so walk it in love. For in love we have our own beginnings, our souls their quickenings, and that is without end.”
And so they parted, perhaps never to speak again in this life.
* * * many years later * * *
Prostrate on the cold stones of the Roman church, Margery felt the
cold that had seeped into her old bones fade away as she prayed.
“In all things thou art good, for all is charity. I pray only for thy union.”
A spark of light grew within her heart and within the stone of the cross. The light shone forth from all around as she prayed, lifting and warming her. She felt the surrounding light as an embrace and shroud of love, and a gaze within her soul.
The eyes were kind.