On an evening before Easter Day, I sat at a table, and having (as
my custom was) in my humble prayer sufficiently conversed with my
Creator, and considered many great mysteries (whereof the Father
of Lights his Majesty had shown me not a few) and being now ready
to prepare in my heart, together with my dear Paschal Lamb, a small,
unleavened, undefiled cake; all of a sudden arose so horrible a
tempest, that I imagined no other but that through its mighty force,
the hill on which my little house was founded would fly into pieces.
But inasmuch as this, and the like from the Devil (who had done me many a spite) was no new thing to me, I took courage, and persisted in my meditation, till somebody in an unusual manner touched me on the back; whereupon I was so hugely terrified, that I dared hardly look about me; yet I showed myself as cheerful as (in such occurrences) human frailty would permit. Now the same thing still twitching me several times by the coat, I looked back, and behold it was a fair and glorious lady, whose garments were all sky-coloured, and curiously (like Heaven) bespangled with golden stars; in her right hand she bore a trumpet of beaten gold, on which a Name was engraved which I could well read but am as yet forbidden to reveal it. In her left hand she had a great bundle of letters of all languages, which she (as I afterwards understood) was to carry to all countries. She also had large and beautiful wings, full of eyes throughout, with which she could mount aloft, and fly swifter than any eagle.
I might perhaps have been able to take further notice of her, but because she stayed so little time with me, and terror and amazement still possessed me, I had to be content. For as soon as I turned about, she turned her letters over and over, and at length drew out a small one, which with great reverence she laid down upon the table, and without giving one word, departed from me. But in her mounting upward, she gave so mighty a blast on her gallant trumpet, that the whole hill echoed from it, and for a full quarter of an hour after, I could hardly hear my own words.
In so unlooked for an adventure I was at a loss, how either to advise or to assist my poor self, and therefore fell upon my knees and besought my Creator to permit nothing contrary to my eternal happiness to befall me. Whereupon with fear and trembling, I went to the letter, which was now so heavy, that had it been mere gold it could hardly have been so weighty. Now as I was diligently viewing it, I found a little seal, on which a curious cross with this inscription, IN HOC SIGNO VINCES, was engraved.
Now as soon as I espied this sign I was the more comforted, as not being ignorant that such a seal was little acceptable, and much less useful, to the Devil. Whereupon I tenderly opened the letter, and within it, in an azure field, in golden letters, found the following verses written.
This day, today
Is the Royal Wedding day.
For this thou wast born
And chosen of God for joy
Thou mayest go to the mountain
Whereon three temples stand,
And see there this affair.
And shouldst thou not bathe thoroughly
The Wedding may work thy bane.
Bane comes to him who faileth here
Let him beware who is too light.
Below was written : Sponsus and Sponsa.
As soon as I had read this letter, I was presently like to have
fainted away, all my hair stood on end, and a cold sweat tricked
down my whole body. For although I well perceived that this was
the appointed wedding, of which seven years before I was acquainted
in a bodily vision, and which now for so long a time I had with
great earnestness awaited, and which lastly, by the account and
calculation of the planets, I had most diligently observed, I found
so to be, yet could I never foresee that it must happen under such
grievous perilous conditions. For whereas I before imagined, that
to be a welcome and acceptable guest, I needed only to be ready
to appear at the wedding, I was now directed to Divine Providence,
of which until this time I was never certain.
I also found by myself, the more I examined my self, that in my head there was nothing but gross misunderstanding, and blindness in mysterious things, so that I was not able to comprehend even those things which lay under my feet, and which I daily conversed with, much less that I should be born to the searching out and understanding of the secrets of Nature, since in my opinion Nature might everywhere find a more virtuous disciple, to whom to entrust her precious, though temporary and changeable, treasures.
I found also that my bodily behaviour, and outward good conversation, and brotherly love towards my neighbour, was not duly purged and cleansed. Moreover the tickling of the flesh manifested itself, whose affection was bent only to pomp and bravery, and worldly pride, and not to the good of mankind: and I was always contriving how by this art I might in a short time abundantly increase my profit and advantage, rear up stately palaces, make myself an everlasting name in the world, and other similar carnal designs. But the obscure words concerning the three temples particularly afflicted me, which I was not able to make out by any after-speculation, and perhaps should not have done so yet, had they not been wonderfully revealed to me.
Thus stuck between hope and fear, examining my self again and again, and finding only my own frailty and impotence, not being in any way able to succour myself, and exceedingly amazed at the forementioned threatening, at length I betook myself to my usual and most secure course - after I had finished my earnest and most fervent prayer, I laid myself down in my bed, so that perchance my good angel by the Divine permission might appear, and (as it had sometimes formerly happened) instruct me in this doubtful affair. Which to the praise of God, my own good, and my neighbours' faithful and hearty warning and amendment, did now likewise come about.
For I was yet scarcely fallen asleep, when I thought that I, together with an innumerable multitude of men, lay fettered with great chains in a dark dungeon, in which, without the least glimpse of light, we swarmed like bees one over another, and thus rendered each other's affliction more grievous. But although neither I nor any of the rest could see one jot, yet I continually heard one heaving himself above the other, when his chains and fetters had become ever so slightly lighter, though none of us had much reason to shove up above the other, since we were all captive wretches.
Now when I with the rest had continued a good while in this affliction, and each was still reproaching the other with his blindness and captivity, at length we heard many trumpets sounding together and kettle drums beating in such a masterly fashion, that it even revived us in our calamity and made us rejoice. During this noise the cover of the dungeon was lifted up from above, and a little light let down to us. Then first might truly have been discerned the bustle we kept, for all went pell-mell, and he who perchance had heaved himself up too much, was forced down again under the others' feet. In brief, each one strove to be uppermost. Neither did I myself linger, but with my weighty fetters slipped up from under the rest, and then heaved myself upon a stone, which I laid hold of; howbeit, I was caught at several times by others, from whom yet as well as I might, I still guarded myself with hands and feet. For we imagined no other but that we should all be set at liberty, which yet fell out quite otherwise.
For after the nobles who looked upon us from above through the hole had recreated themselves a while with our struggling and lamenting, a certain hoary-headed ancient man called to us to be quiet, and having scarcely obtained this, began (as I still remember) to speak on thus:
If the poor human race
Were not so arrogant
It would have been given much good
From my mother's heritage,
But because the human race will not take heed
It lies in such straits
And must be held in prison.
And yet my dearest mother
Will not regard their mischief,
She leaves her lovely gifts
That many a man might come to the light,
Though this may chance but seldom
That they be better prized
Nor reckoned as mere fable.
Therefore in honour of the feast
Which we shall hold today,
That her grace may be multiplied
A good work will she do :
The rope will now be lowered
Whoever may hang on to it
He shall be freed.
He had scarcely finished speaking when an ancient matron commanded
her servants to let down the cord seven times into the dungeon,
and draw up whosoever could hang upon it. Good God! that I could
sufficiently describe the hurry and disquiet that then arose amongst
us; for everyone strove to get to the cord, and yet only hindered
each other. But after seven minutes a sign was given by a little
bell, whereupon at the first pull the servants drew up four. At
that time I could not get very near the cord, having (as is beforementioned)
to my huge misfortune, betaken myself to a stone at the wall of
the dungeon; and thereby I was made unable to get to the cord which
descended in the middle.
The cord was let down the second time, but many, because their chains were too heavy, and their hands too tender, could not keep their hold on the cord, but with themselves beat down many another who else perhaps might have held fast enough; nay, many a one was forcibly pulled off by another, who yet could not himself get at it, so mutually envious were we even in this our great misery. But they of all others most moved my compassion whose weight was so heavy that they tore their very hands from their bodies, and yet could not get up. Thus it came to pass that at those five times very few were drawn up. For as soon as the sign was given, the servants were so nimble at drawing the cord up, that the most part tumbled one upon another, and the cord, this time especially, was drawn up very empty.
Whereupon the greatest part, and even I myself, despaired of redemption, and called upon God that he would have pity on us, and (if possible) deliver us out of this obscurity; who then also heard some of us. For when the cord came down the sixth time, some of them hung themselves fast upon it; and whilst being drawn up, the cord swung from one side to the other, and (perhaps by the will of God) came to me, and I suddenly caught it, uppermost above all the rest, and so at length beyond hope came out. At which I rejoiced exceedingly, so that I did not perceive the wound which during the drawing up I had received on my head from a sharp stone, until I, with the rest who were released (as was always done before) had to help with the seventh and last pull; at which time through straining, the blood ran down all over my clothes, which I nevertheless because of my joy did not take notice of. Now when the last drawing up on which the most of all hung was finished, the matron caused the cord to be laid aside, and asked her aged son to declare her resolution to the rest of the prisoners, who after he had thought a little spoke thus unto them.
Ye childer dear
Ye who are here,
It is completed
What long hath been known,
The great favour which my mother
Hath here shown you twain
Ye should not disdain :
A joyful time shall soon be come.
When each shall be the other's equal,
No one be poor or rich,
And who was given great commands
Must bring much with him now,
And who was much entrusted with
Stripped to the skin will be,
Wherefore leave off your lamentation
Which is but for a few days.
As soon as he had finished these words, the cover was again put
to and locked down, and the trumpets and kettle-drums began afresh,
yet the noise of them could not be so loud but that the bitter lamentation
of the prisoners which arose in the dungeon was heard above all,
which soon also caused my eyes to run over.
Presently afterwards the ancient matron, together with her son, sat down on seats before prepared, and commanded the redeemed should be told. Now as soon as she had demanded everyone's name, which were also written down by a little page; having viewed us all, one after another, she sighed, and spoke to her son, so that I could well hear her, "Ah, how heartily I am grieved for the poor men in the dungeon! I would to God I could release them all."
To which her son replied, "It is, mother, thus ordained by God, against whom we may not contend. If we were all of us lords, and possessed all the goods upon Earth, and were seated at table, who would there then be to bring up the service?"
Whereupon his mother held her peace, but soon after she said, "Well, however, let these be freed from their fetters," which was likewise presently done, and I was the last except a few; yet I could not refrain (though I still looked upon the rest) but bowed myself before the ancient matron, and thanked God that through her, he had graciously and fatherly vouchsafed to bring me out of such darkness into the light. After me the rest did likewise, to the satisfaction of the matron.
Lastly, to everyone was given a piece of gold for a remembrance, and to spend by the way, on the one side of which was stamped the rising sun, and on the other (as I remember) these three letters, D.L.S.; and therewith everyone had license to depart, and was sent to his own business with this annexed limitation, that we to the glory of God should benefit our neighbours, and reserve in silence what we had been entrusted with; which we also promised to do, and so departed one from another. But because of the wounds which the fetters had caused me, I could not well go forward, but halted on both feet, which the matron presently espying, laughing at it, and calling me again to her said thus to me: "My son, do not let this defect afflict you, but call to mind your infirmities, and therewith thank God who has permitted you even in this world, and in your state of imperfection, to come into so high a light; and keep these wounds for my sake."
Whereupon the trumpets began to sound again, which gave me such a shock that I woke up, and then first perceived that it was only a dream, but it so strongly impressed my imagination that I was still perpetually troubled about it, and I thought I still felt the wounds on my feet. Howbeit, by all these things I understood well that God had vouchsafed that I should be present at this mysterious and bidden wedding. Wherefore with childlike confidence I returned thanks to his Divine Majesty, and besought him that he would further preserve me in fear of him, that he would daily fill my heart with wisdom and understanding, and at length graciously (without deserting me) conduct me to the desired end.
Hereupon I prepared myself for the way, put on my white linen coat, girded my loins, with a blood-red ribbon bound cross-ways over my shoulder. In my hat I stuck four red roses, so that I might sooner be noticed amongst the throng by this token. For food I took bread, salt and water, which by the counsel of an understanding person I had at certain times used, not without profit, in similar occurrences.
But before I left my cottage, I first, in this my dress and wedding garment, fell down upon my knees, and besought God that in case such a thing were, he would vouchsafe me a good issue. And thereupon in the presence of God I made a vow that if anything through his grace should be revealed to me, I would employ it to neither my own honour nor my own authority in the world, but to the spreading of his Name, and the service of my neighbour. And with this vow, and good hope, I departed out of my cell with joy.