THE SPHERE OF DREAMS
When we reached the Sphere, our angel released us, and we walked together through a wood. It was very peaceful there and we did not speak, for there was much to ponder over and to see. The revelation of our teacher concerning visions had made me feel humble, for I had indeed, while on earth, thought them to be ‘moving pictures’ of the mind. Not that I had scorned them, for many times I too had been lifted up in joy on vision’s sea, and had floated contentedly out beyond the world’s shore. All the same, I had not understood, and I resolved not to make this mistake again.
As we continued our way, birds flew down to welcome us. Some of them alighted on our shoulders or leaned from drooping boughs to blink at us. They were entirely fearless, allowing us to ruffle their feathers or lift the babies into our arms. Some of them were of the kind we had frequently seen on earth, but others were of the most brilliant hues. There was little pause in the joyous song they sent echoing through the branches, and my own heart lifted in praise to join them.
Butterflies, too, were in great variety. Some of them alighted on our heads, or rested near the path, splashing the brown branches with their flaming wings.
“This is the most delightful place,” Janet murmured at last.
“Is it not the Sphere of Dreams? See,” our angel went on, “we come to the Bower. Tread softly, for she who dwells here is the queen.”
There was little need for the warning, for our steps ceased utterly at the sight that met our eyes. Just off the woodland path was a clearing and here loving hands had trained the leaping foliage into ordered beauty. Down the centre was a broad path, arched overhead and covered with climbing flowers. Some of the blossoms peeped down at us, sending out their haunting incense. On either side were borders, massed high with plants and flowering shrubs. Right at the end of the path, half-hidden in drooping leaves, was the Bower.
After an involuntary pause, the angel led the way. We followed softly, and saw there was a movement in the dark interior and a woman appeared. At the sight of us, she paused, smiling radiantly. She had a look about her which I cannot describe, except to say that her eyes held a kind of startled wonder. She was robed in a flowing gown of leaf-gold, with a veil of the same material on her head. “So you have come,” she said, as though she had been expecting us. for a long irne.
In that fleeting moment I deepened my sight, as I had been taught in the Place of Vision, and then I saw that this woman had been unlettered while she lived on earth. A needlewoman, she had worked hard, while her fingers had grown gnarled and bent. As the years drew on she had dreamed, and her dreams had been all of the Holy Little One – and very dear.
“Will you come within?” she invited. Our angel bowed a grave assent and motioned us to follow.
Slowly, softly, we entered the Bower. It was dark within, so that at first we could see nothing, but gradually our eyes grew accustomed and we saw that the floor was carpeted with moss. The walls were clothed with creepers, starred with tiny white flowers. We saw that our angel was moving and made to follow, and then we almost gasped as he fell upon his knees. His head bent low, his hands were lifted up, set palm to palm, his wings were folded. He was very still.
“Janet,” I whispered urgently, my heart beginning to beat rapidly, “What can it be?”
She reached out and clasped my hand. It was cool and steady. Glancing at her face I saw it was lit by the same expression of startled wonder. She was leaning forward, smiling tenderly at some object against the wall. “Come,” she whispered. And then I saw it was a manger!
Silently, we knelt beside our angel, bowing low. The woman, too, had knelt on the other side. I did not dare to look up. My heart was beating so hard that it seemed to fill the bower with its thudding, but in between I heard little movements
Suddenly, the woman’s tender voice began in a kind of murmurous chant:
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should he delivered, and she brought forth her just born son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn…”
Her voice trailed away, for all at once the bower was filled with baby angels. They came dancing in, carrying flowers and chanting, “Glory to God in the Highest!”
They did not cease their song until they were gathered around the manger. Then, in the breathless pause, a tiny hand touched mine. I looked up to meet the wide gaze of the Babe.
How my heart leapt within me! The woman lifted Him tenderly, holding Him to her heart. The light that streamed from the little bundle illuminated all the Bower and I caught a glimpse of Janet’s enraptured face. “Would you like to hold Him?”
One by one the angels crept away as we each knelt to hold the Infant in our arms. In that moment of surging joy, I entered into the spirit of Simon, who cried, ‘Now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace!’ While Janet held the Babe, I heard her quickened breathing and caught the echo of her heart-song. The Bower was very still.
Presently, the woman carried the Babe to the doorway and held Him up to see the garden.
“I tend it always for His delight,” she whispered. ” When the morning dew is on the grass, and in the cool of the evening, I carry Him down the path, and every now and then we stop to admire a particular blossom. It seems even more beautiful after His touch.”
“What do you do between the morning and the evening?” Janet asked, holding her finger to be clasped in a dimpled fist.
“Then the shepherds come,” she answered, “the wise men and, the kings; Oh, not really,” she hastened to add. “Just those who love Him come to kneel beside the manger. On earth, the shepherds and the wise men were part of my dreams. I also longed to behold the Holy Babe, just once, when I came to Heaven, but I never dreamed of this.”
Tenderly, she carried the Babe within, and laid Him in the manger. Once more we knelt (for our angel was still there, motionless against the vine-clothed wall). As we bent over Him, our faces were lit by His radiance.
Later, as we walked on through the wood, Janet turned to our angel.
“You said once, that no-one stands still in Heaven’s realm. How long does she stay in the Bower, then, and is she not sad at the thought that one day she must leave it?”
“Child,” said our dear teacher, tenderly, “Every moment she remains in worship of the Holy Babe, she grows in wisdom, and one day the Spirit within will lead her on. The little Babe will beckon, and she will follow until she too reaches the Heights in the fulness of time, even as you will.”