‘My kingdom,’ said Jesus to his disciples, ‘is hard to win unless you come as a child, for this is the only way to enter; guiltless, faithful and uncorrupted, without the stain of any polluting sin. When someone of this description knocks upon the building, the gates shall be quickly opened to them. Here is the bliss that lasts for evermore, that the jeweller sought through precious stones and sold all his possessions for, all his wool and linen, to buy himself a spotless pearl, for which he gave all that he had. This matchless pearl, which the jeweller gave everything he owned for, is like the realm of heaven, as Jesus said, for it too is pure and clean and clear and perfect, endlessly circular and full of motion, open to all who have lived the right way. Look! It rests in the middle of my breast! My Lord, the Lamb, who shed his blood for you, put it there as a symbol of peace. I advise you to reject this mad world and secure your spotless pearl!’
‘Oh spotless pearl adorned with pearls,’ I replied. ‘Who gave you your beautiful shape and clothed you so wonderfully? Nature cannot have fashioned such beauty, nor a fine sculptor your face, and Aristotle could not have analysed any of its properties through logic or metaphysics. Your whiteness exceeds that of the lily. Tell me, darling, what kind of oyster produces such a perfect pearl as the one that lies on your breast?’
‘My peerless Lamb, who saves us all,’ she said, ‘made me his wife, however unlikely this may seem. When I went from your world baptized, he called me to his place of salvation. “Come to me, my sweetheart,” he said, “for you are without blemish and truly clean.” He gave me power and beauty and washed my clothes in his blood before his throne, crowned me a pure virgin and dressed me in spotless pearls.’
‘What manner of thing is this Lamb who would take you as his wedded wife?’ I asked. ‘You climb so high above all others to lead such an honoured life with him, when there are many ladies of high virtue who have given their entire lives to Christ. Can you drive them all away because you are so spotless, and deny them this marriage?’
‘Spotless I am,’ said that merry queen, ‘and forever unblemished, without any fault, but I have not said that I am a queen without equal. We dwell in bliss, all we who are the Lamb’s wives. Saint John the Divine saw a hundred and forty thousand of us in a gathering upon the Hill of Zion once, in a vision, dressed in our wedding clothes on the hilltop that is the city of the New Jerusalem. And I must tell you of Jerusalem if you wish to know the character of my Lamb, my Lord, my dear jewel, my joy, my bliss. The prophet Isaiah has spoken of his meekness and humility: “That innocent man was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a lamb taking up the shearing clippers, he steered his own destiny when Jews judged him so harshly in Jerusalem.” My love was slain in Jerusalem. He was torn open by criminals, willing to take upon himself all our suffering and bear all our sorrows. His beautiful face was broken with blows, he sacrificed himself for sins which he had never committed and let himself be stretched out on a cross as meekly as a little lamb. He died for us in Jerusalem.
‘When Jesus went about Jordan, Galilee and Jerusalem, where John the Baptist lived and worked, John gave him a prophesy that accorded with Isaiah: “Lo, you are God’s Lamb for certain,” he declared, “and you will banish away the sins of this world.” Jesus himself never committed a sin, although he took all the sins of the world upon himself and died alone for us in Jerusalem. And so twice, then, was my lover taken to be a lamb in Jerusalem: by the prophesying of Isaiah and by John the Baptist. And therefore it is quite appropriate to see it clearly written in the Book of Revelation how Saint John the Divine saw him as a lamb, unclasping a book with finely-trimmed leaves and with seven seals set upon the edge. And at that sight every creature bowed low − in hell, on Earth and in Jerusalem.
‘Every part of this Jerusalem Lamb is pure white, and no stain or blemish can adhere because of the whiteness and abundance of the wool and therefore every soul that has never had a stain, is, to that Lamb, a worthy wife. And every day he takes other wives as well as us, but there is no jealousy or dispute amongst us, and we would love to see five for each one of us who is here now. The more the merrier! Our love thrives in such company and our honour is never diminished. None of us who wears this pearl on her breast can ever lessen the bliss of others, nor would we ever wish to. Although our bodies are buried in the ground and you weep endlessly for us, we know for certain that on only one death alone is all our hope laid − the Lamb makes us joyful, he casts out all our cares and delights us at every feast, and our honour is never reduced. And if you think that I’m not telling you the truth, look in the Revelation of Saint John the Divine where John says: “I saw the Lamb standing healthily and vigorously with a hundred and forty-four thousand maidens, all with the name of the Lamb written upon their foreheads, and his father’s name also. Then I heard a great noise from heaven, as loud as many rivers in flood, or the thunder from a great thundercloud; but it was a beautiful sound and came from the maidens themselves, who were singing sonorous notes with clear and gentle voices. The melodies they sang together before the throne of God and before the four beasts that obey him, and the twenty-four stern elders, were beautiful. They sang without pause, and all who sang were numbered amongst those who follow the Lamb. They have been removed from the Earth as new fruits that belong to God by right, joined forever with the gentle Lamb and are like him in every way, incapable of telling a lie, and can never be parted from him.”’
‘May my gratitude to you never diminish, my pearl,’ I replied, ‘although I question you with some scepticism. I should not dispute with such a noble intelligence, you who have been chosen for Christ’s bedchamber, for I am but a mixture of muck and filth and you are so exquisite, like a beautiful rose, and you live here beside this wonderful hillside where life’s joys may never cease. But I would like to ask you a question, and although I may come across as an ignorant fool, please indulge me nonetheless.
‘I would ask you nonetheless, if you wouldn’t mind − and as you are wonderful and without fault please don’t be offended by this ignorant question − but have you no rooms within a castle wall, no manor where you live and meet with one another? You mention Jerusalem, that royal kingdom where David was seated upon the throne, but Jerusalem doesn’t lie beside these woods. It lies in a noble place called Judea. And this spotless multitude you speak of, thousands upon thousands; so immense a throng must doubtless have a great city to live in, since you are so many! And as you are spotless, your dwelling-place must be perfect too, for such a beautiful wealth of jewels would be hard done by indeed if they had to sleep out in the open! But beside these banks I can see no buildings of any sort. I assume that you have come down alone from some habitation to look upon the glory of this beautiful river. But if there are buildings anywhere, please take me to see them.’
‘The city that you speak of in Judea,’ replied this rare fragrance, ‘is the city where the Lamb chose to suffer for mankind’s sake. It was the old Jerusalem, where the ancient guilt that Adam bequeathed to us was paid for and redeemed. But there are two cities and both are called Jerusalem, for Jerusalem means ‘City of God’ or ‘City of Peace’. In the one place, our peace was made secure because the Lamb chose it to be the scene of his crucifixion. But the New Jerusalem exists through God’s command, where there is nothing but peace, and a peace that shall last forever. The spotless Lamb has taken his beautiful flock to it, and as his flock is without blemish, so his city is without stain. That is the place we hurry too when our body is laid to rot − those, that is, who are without blemish. A place where glory and bliss will continually flourish and grow.’
‘Perfect maiden,’ I said to that lovely flower. ‘Please let me visit your blissful home!’
‘God will not allow it,’ she replied, indignantly. ‘You may not enter his high place. But I have obtained permission from the Lamb to let you have a sight of it, as a favour. You may see that shining enclosure from the outside, but you may not take a single step inside. You have no power to enter, unless you are without a stain.