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How Love was seen with her Handmaidens—A Parable.

In the night I spoke thus to our Lord, “Lord, I live in a land that is called Misery; it is this evil world, for all that is in it cannot 121 comfort me, nor give me joy unmixed with sorrow. In this land I have a house, which is called Painful. It is the house in which my soul lives, namely, my body. This house is old, and small, and dark. In this house I have a bed, which is called Unrest, for all things are a grief to me which have not to do with God. Near this bed I have a chair, called Discomfort, wherein I hear of sins committed by others in which I had no part. Before this chair I have a table, that is called Distress, for I am grieved to find so few spiritual people. On this table lies a clean tablecloth, which is called Poverty, that has much good in it, and if it were rightly used it would be dear to those who use it. On this table my food is placed for me; it is called the Bitterness of sin, and Willing suffering. The drink is called ‘Scanty Praise,’ because, alas! I have far too few good works to be remembered.”

All this I saw as it were dimly in my soul. And then was the true Love of God revealed to me. She stood before me as a noble and royal maiden, of stately presence, fair, and with the roses of her youth, and around her stood many maidens, who were the graces of the Spirit, and they were come to be my handmaidens 122 if I desired to have them as mine, for they were willing to serve me. They wore crowns brighter than shining gold, and their clothing was of green sendal.

And as I beheld her my dark house was lighted up, so that I could see all that was therein, and all that happened there. And I knew the damsel well, for she had often been my dear companion, and her face was familiar to me. But as I have written of her oftentimes in this book, I will not speak of her further.

Then said I to her, “O beloved damsel, that art a thousandfold higher than I am, yet thou dost serve me with honour and reverence, as if I were greater than an empress.”

And she said, “When I saw that it was thy desire to renounce earthly things I desired to be thy constant handmaiden, for I was seeking those who from the love of God turned away from the things on earth.”

And I said, “Beloved damsel, so long hast thou served me, I would gladly give thee for thy service all that I have or might have on the earth.”

She answered, “I have gathered up thy gift, and will restore it to thee at last with glory and honour.”

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Then said I, “Lady, I know not what more to give but myself.”

“And that,” she said, “I have long desired, and now at last thou hast given me my desire....”

The parable proceeds to relate the service of each handmaiden bestowed by Love upon the soul, first True Repentance—then the maiden called Humility—Gentleness—Obedience, Tenderness (who was to give her help in tending the sick, and in making coarse food and hard labour sweet to her who served). Then came the “beloved damsel” Purity, then Patience, Holiness, Hope, and the “glorious and holy maiden called Faith.” Then Watchfulness, Moderation, Contentment, “the dear maiden who made the hard bed soft, and the coarse food pleasant.” Then the mistress of the maidens, Wisdom, and a “maiden unwillingly praised,” called Bashfulness. And lastly came Fear and Constancy.

And these all being ready to serve, the soul gave thanks, “O thou dear Love of God, I thank Thee that Thou hast brought to me so many helpers on my way to heaven.” And the soul saw how all the saints and angels bowed down in the wonderful glory of God, because all they were, and all they did, was a 124 gift of grace from God to them. “The saints kneel down and bow themselves before God in blessed love, and in joyful longing. They thank God that His grace was ready and waiting to bring them through this earthly need, and to bear their sorrows.”

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