Once upon a time, time merges with Eternity, like a flower’s petals that are about to fall but which remain inexplicably frozen in the air, defying gravity… When this happens, time is suspended and the light of grace streams down from the highest Heaven. At such times, grace will fall upon a wilted flower, like a golden halo that reveals beauty that is divine and Life that is Eternal. It is then that the flower will tilt up towards the Heavens, thirsting for the source of living water.
Such is the maiden whose slumber is filled with dreams that keep her asleep; while Death will surreptitiously entice her to surrender her life, little by little, like a flower’s petals at the mercy of the wind. But occasionally, a shaft of light will stream down and keep time suspended, until a sleeping maiden feels the warm caress of the light of Life until she awakens from her deep slumber and her eyes are opened…
Whenever the light of grace streams down in such a way, a maiden will awaken and look up towards the source of Light, thus becoming conscious of the loving presence of her Father in Heaven. But with the consciousness of his love, comes also the awareness of the great separation between them. Then, in her anguish, the maiden will cry out in prayer to her Father, but each of her prayers will seem to come back to her like a letter that is left unopened…
Prayer upon prayer, letter upon letter, piling up as high as her grief; while time will seem to trickle down like sand through the hourglass, like her hopes that appear to fall into a cup-full of tears… Oh, gentle maiden, if you could but lift up your eyes towards the sky, you would behold a land of rainbows full of promises, promises of hope and of a future!
But the maiden’s eyes would invariably be drawn to the land around her, as it was a land that was shrouded in such Darkness, that, despite the light of its sun, Darkness would creep in… Then, her heart would be filled with the Darkness of despair and her eyes would slowly become blind to the slightest sliver of joy… When such a maiden would awaken, she would become a stranger on Earth, as her heart would be lost to the Kingdom of Heaven, despite the vast separation between the two Kingdoms.
When, occasionally, the Earth seems to produce such a rare flower, a maiden who turns her face towards her Heavenly Father like a flower turns towards the sun, the breath of time stands still with hope… Thus, is the damsel who becomes part of all the times and seasons when such rare flowers suddenly appear in the desert and become part of a holy procession: The procession of the Daughters of the Heavenly Jerusalem!
Legend recalls that such brides-to-be were placed under a curse and fell to a faraway land called Earth… There, they were put to sleep; and, ever since the beginning of time, one of them would suddenly wake up and would endeavour to find the Way back to her Father’s mansion and to the valiant Prince to whom she was betrothed before her fall. But that strange land was under a curse, where reality appeared to be but a dream, and the fantasy land, where Darkness reigned, appeared to be real.
So, it came to be, that when the princesses were asleep to the reality of their fall, they would think that they were awake… They were therefore unable to wake up, always sleeping and dreaming while their dreams would slowly deceive their souls and entice them to stay in the Kingdom of Darkness forever…
In the world of dreams, magic reigns supreme, so the sleepers’ thoughts remain entertained, while they each imagine themselves to be the centrepiece and the creator of their own world. Such is the lure of the Prince of the Kingdom of Darkness, where happiness leads to despair, where dreams give the illusion of power to its author, until an awakened princess becomes a damsel in distress…
Distress holds immense power, the power to break the spell that binds to the Kingdom of Darkness where dreams can never meet reality. Only at such times, can memories surface, like glittering speckles of Life, and with each one of them comes the knowledge of Eternity, of predestination, of a future in the Kingdom of Light where love and joy burst into a rainbow of colours like so many blossoming flowers!
With the knowledge of Eternity comes a thirst to go back to the Kingdom of Heaven, and with such thirst, comes prayer upon prayer, shattered hope followed by hope. Hearts become faint, as hope settles on what the heart desires, but the mind ponders thoughts of unbelief; for while the mind hopes for love, the heart is set on despair…
At times such as these, the Highway to Heaven seems as unreal as the world of dreams; the existence of divine grace seems as unseemly to the mind, as coming rainfall would be to parched earth that would be waiting no longer.
Such was the terrible curse that befell one of these awakened maidens, perceiving the existence of her Father’s Heavenly Kingdom, but considering the impossibility of reaching up in her fallen state. In her constant prayers, her tears would fill the cracks of the parched earth beneath her feet, while she would look up towards the Heavens and cry out to her Father!
The maiden would then search the world over, while she would remember the lush green valleys and the flocks of sheep that her Prince, to whom she was betrothed before her fall, would take to green pastures! Along the way, she would come to meet other processions with pilgrims like her, and she would ask the other Daughters of Jerusalem:
“Have you seen the one that I love? I sought him, but I did not find him…”
But the other Daughters would also be seeking and would not be able to tell her where to find him. And each time, the maiden’s heart would burst into prayers to her beloved, her valiant Prince:
“Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you will feed and make your flock rest at noon! Because of the savour of your good ointments, your Name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love you! I will seek him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I did not find him. His head is as the finest gold, his eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set; his legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O Daughters of Jerusalem!”
Not a day would go by without her soul sighing like a wilted flower striving for divine love. She would look at the desert dunes meeting the blue horizon above her, while the caravaners would drive the procession of camels carrying the flock of princesses of Jerusalem and their rich belongings through the desert. The caravaners would take nightly directions from the army of stars that stood watch, like sentinels, over the Earth for their master, the Prince of Darkness.
When the army of stars would blaze a trail overhead, the caravaners would look up, not only for physical direction but for hidden knowledge, which they would impart to the distressed maidens. While some of the maidens would steadfastly refuse to hear their predictions and mysteries, keeping their hearts resolutely set on the Kingdom of Heaven, others would slowly turn their eyes towards the depths of knowledge that were like mysterious wells that would keep them thirsting for more. With their eyes turned to the light of the stars, they would slowly forget to keep pouring oil into their lamps, until one fateful night, when their own light would shine no more…
It thus came to be, that some of the Daughters of Jerusalem were enticed back to the world of dreams, from which one cannot awaken unless time stands still once more; an event that occurs so rarely that few people ever heard of it, or if they did, they would call it a fairy tale…
The wise Daughters, on the other hand, would keep pouring prayers of love to their heart’s desire, thus keeping the flame of Life alive in their spirits. Then, the living waters would be like springs in their hearts, and they would blossom like flowers keeping the stems of their gracious necks green and their eyes cast heavenwards, so their souls would never wither.
At such times, when the night would hush all voices, the praying maiden would sing songs of love that would waft up towards the Heavens, and mysterious perfume would envelop them and fill the night sky with its fragrance:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his Name's sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no Evil: For you are with me!”
Sweetness would fill the air and the caravaners would come to inquire whether they had opened a bottle of incense or whether there were fragrant wildflowers around, but the source of perfume was never to be found… And each time, the praying maiden, who was captive in this dark world, would look towards the night sky and would sweetly sing:
“I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the Daughters! My beloved is mine and I am his: He feeds among the lilies!”
It thus came to pass, that several princesses let the light of their spirit be quenched and they fell back into a mysterious slumber… It was mysterious indeed, as, while their eyes seemed to be open, they were unable to see what the Brides of Christ, who had kept their lamps alight, were able to see. Their dark eyes were no more able to reflect the inner light of the spirit, but instead, they seemed to become like deep, dark pools full of secrets, while they would murmur about visions and mysteries…
When they would see this happen, the remaining brides would keep trying to awaken each one of their companions by calling upon the love the damsels had once professed for their Heavenly Father and for their valiant Prince: Jesus Christ. They would try to shake them awake and they would cry out:
“I have lit my lamp, my heart is awake, because my bridegroom is coming for me! Behold, Daughters of Jerusalem, awaken for you are asleep! Arise from the dead and Christ shall give you light!”
But such was the curse, that, though they were asleep, they thought they were awake; though they professed their love with their lips, their hearts were afar. Thus, the Daughters of Jerusalem parted their ways, each going her separate way.
The maidens who kept their lamps alight were still waiting for their bridegroom with constant prayers, though their prayers seemed like unanswered letters, piling up as high as their grief, but also as high as their hopes while they kept looking up!
The maidens thus each went her own way, turning away from the people who worshipped the knowledge of the mysteries, and following the Way of Faith - as faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
One of these princesses, the praying maiden, was like a rare wildflower among so few others that grew in the barren countryside: A spiritual flower whose mother was spiritual Jerusalem - that few eyes could see, and whose Father was the King of Heaven - that no eyes had ever seen. When the night sky would be arrayed with stars, the princess would go apart and she would sing prayers towards the Heavens. When she would go bed, she would remain awake and sing softly to her beloved, the Prince of Heaven:
“By night on my bed, I sought him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I did not find him… Until the day breaks, and the shadows flee away, I will go to the mountains of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense!”
With her heart set on her desire, she would keep travelling through the wilderness, like a bride going to meet her Prince, in a procession with camels carrying her rich belongings, but her real riches were treasures none could see, but those who were able to see the Kingdom of Heaven! Oh, she was a sight to behold, with all her camels brightening up the desert, for she travelled with a very great train, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she met travellers along the way, she would open-up her heart and she would believe every word they would say…
However, when one travels through the valley of the Shadow of Death, one is unable to escape the many birds of prey who come in comely disguise, or the roaring lions that are seeking to devour her treasures but who look like innocence made flesh; or even the lone wolves that come in the night, but that are clothed with light. Their voices are like the honey they eat to sound sweet, their knowledge of Heaven does not seem to be mistaken, as they spin a tale of divine love that would easily sway someone to be led astray…
Oh, how far did the damsel fall! For such thieves only intended to kill the life in her soul, to steal her future and to destroy her by ensnaring her and uncovering the nakedness of her spirit, until her light would shine no more and she would no longer be able to reach the Kingdom of Heaven… Little did she know, when she would eat and commune with the kindly guides she met along the way, that her soul would become as dark as the tents of Kedar, that were covered with the skins of the black goats that roamed across this arid land. Only then did she realise that her precious crown of Life had been stolen from her, yet she knew not when or how; but one night, her spirit was filled with torment while she had a vision of her soul drowning in the deepest waters…
For in the land of Israel, as in that entire barren world, wild beasts were on the prowl, like cunning foxes that mastered the art of deception. She would have been wiser if she had remained sober, if she had been vigilant; because the adversary the devil, as a roaring lion was walking about, seeking whom he may devour…
But the unavoidable was not avoided, as the damsel let the deceivers into her tent, which spoiled her hopes of a happy ever after wedding with the Prince of Heaven - who was as pure as snow, with eyes as the eyes of doves; with legs as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold! For she had succumbed to the beautiful lies of those sent by the Prince of Darkness: For they had spoken of the Kingdom of Heaven with words that had tasted like honey, but which felt afterwards like gravel in the mouth, so she was unable to assuage the hunger in her soul which felt like a bottomless pit…
When the maiden finally decided to look up, she yearned for the light and joy that only her Father the King of Heaven could have given her, but her hopes were destroyed; for the sting of sin is Death and the only cure to Death was the crown of Life that her betrothed could have placed over her head, had she kept the lamp of her spirit alight and her eyes on the Lord of all Creation. In her despair, she looked up towards the Heavens above and she cried out:
“Alas! My soul is as black as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon, while my beloved’s soul is white as snow! Who gave Israel to the robbers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For we would not walk in His ways, nor were we obedient to His Law!”
The damsel’s mind would cling to thoughts of her long-lost love to whom her heart still belonged, but she was so full of despair that she felt like a piece of her heart had been stolen. She was unable to cling to him with a heart full of faith and her soul was nothing but ashes and misery. She could no more raise her eyes heavenwards, as she contemplated the filth of sin all around her but also inside her… She felt she belonged to the Prince of Heaven, yet she could not reach up to him. Often, she would hope against hope, as she felt the deep stirrings of her heart which pulled her thoughts upwards, towards a bright future in the Kingdom of her Father.
Because the bride-to-be had opened the door, her tent was at the mercy of robbers and her soul was ransomed by the Prince of Darkness. The damsel had fallen so low that she could not imagine her valiant Prince coming down from Heaven on his white horse to deliver her. For who would ever want to pay the King’s ransom from Heaven to redeem her as his bride, when her soul had become as dark as this fallen world?
But nonetheless, as the years slowly unfolded, the maiden still yearned for the Kingdom of Light and she spent all her time sending up prayers that seemed to remain unanswered… One day, she remembered her Father’s words of love as well as his promises. That day, when she prayed, all her prayers rose towards the Heavens, like countless sparkles of light, curling higher and higher up in the dark of the night, while the stars would twinkle but give no light. The air would suddenly fill with fragrance, like the perfume of myrrh and frankincense that were used to anoint a new birth. Little did she know that the fragrance of her prayers was like an anointment, as she was laboriously giving birth to a new spirit, where the light of holiness was slowly coming to pierce through the darkness that covered her spirit like a shroud.
Every night, as she lay on her bed, half asleep and half awake, she was able to see that her soul dwelt inside a tent that was as dark as the night. She was unable to sleep because tormentors kept prowling in the night and making sure she remained in constant fear…
Then, one night when the air was as sweet as lilies, the maiden lay in her bed and fell asleep. But while she slept, her heart was awake, and in her dream, she heard the voice of her beloved who was knocking at the door of her heart, saying:
“Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night!”
But, sadly, the maiden felt that her soul was as dark as the night, that her spirit was naked for she had lost the cloak of the Holy Spirit, and that her feet were defiled for she had walked along the Way of Darkness. Her eyes were no longer the eyes of a dove, filled with the beauty of the Holy Spirit, and she feared that her beloved would take one look at her and reject her. Constantly, she would think:
“My Father in Heaven let out a vineyard for me to keep, and each fruit produced was to bring a thousand pieces of silver; but my vineyard, which is mine, is before me and the work of my hand is as barren as this land! For every Daughter instructed by the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder, who brings forth, out of her treasure, things new and old; and each vineyard is to bring forth pleasant fruits, of all types, according to our Father’s Commandments, both New and Old.”
If only she had believed that her Father was able to justify the ungodly … One night, when she finally resolved to have faith, despite her defiled feet, and to open the door of her heart to her beloved, her Prince had withdrawn himself and was gone. She sought him, but she could not find him! So, she dropped to her knees and called out to him, but, as she heard no answer, she believed that her letter had been returned to the sender, unopened…
If only she had known then, that her Prince was just a thought away, respectfully waiting outside her tent for her to invite him in… But her eyes were unable to see, and her ears were unable to hear, for doubt and fear had been quick to take the place that was vacated by hope; while the trials of affliction rained down endlessly, and all there was ahead of her, was an endless desert, without a single sign of hope to show her that her Prince was indeed listening.
Then, one day, when the sky was the colour of love, the maiden felt her heart soften and a memory came back as softly as the breeze that came to refresh her. She recalled how her Father had prophesied her future and how she had insisted that she would never forsake him, but he had gently foretold:
“Because I knew that you are obstinate, I have even from the beginning declared it to you. Behold, I have refined you, I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, even for my own sake, will I do it: For how should my Name be polluted? O that you had listened to my Commandments! Then your peace would have been as a river…”
She remembered that, upon hearing those words, she had wondered if her Father would afflict her because he was forsaking her, and he had lovingly reminded her of who she was:
“O Daughters of Jerusalem, where is the certificate of your mother’s divorce?”
Her Father had reminded her that all the Daughters of Jerusalem, ever since the beginning of time, had sold themselves for their own iniquities; but he had reassured her that he would send his Son, her valiant Prince, to redeem all his Daughters. He would pay a Kingly ransom and show them how priceless they were in his eyes. His love was such that he would pay the ransom for their lives with his own life, for the price of sin is death. But her Prince, Jesus Christ, would have victory over Death and would save all the Daughters who would ever walk the Earth from eternal Death. Her beloved was the good shepherd: The good shepherd gave his life for the sheep. He would come down to this place of Darkness to bear their sins and to pay the price for them all. And while he poured out his life for them, he would plant a seed of light in their spirit that would show them the Highway of Holiness, that reached up to the third Heaven and that only the Daughters of Jerusalem would be able to see.
When darkness would fall, the princess would sing a song of love to her beloved and the land around would be filled with a beautiful light that would cause every eye to look up and admire the Father’s creation! Their hearts would soften, and the maiden would sing:
“I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely! My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies, until the day breaks and the shadows flee away!”
While the desert stretched endlessly in front of her, the damsel kept her beloved in her heart and her Father’s promises filled her thoughts. She imagined how, at the end of her pilgrimage, her Prince would fly down from Heaven on his white horse, surrounded by countless angels of light, to take her and all the Daughters of Jerusalem away! Then they would go far away from this land of darkness, to the Kingdom of eternal Light.
Meanwhile, she would complete her pilgrimage knowing that he would keep her under his wings. But her life seemed like Death and the years seemed to speed past like an hourglass that was nearly empty. While years sped past, in the Kingdom of Heaven, there was no such thing as time. When the damsel would pray, she would sometimes glimpse time standing still, and she would feel the stirrings of her spirit. Then she would remember the long-forgotten words that her Father used to say:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honourable, and I have loved you.”
When her Father’s promises would come back to her, she would also remember the words he had asked her not to forget:
“Bring out the blind people who have eyes, let all the nations be gathered together, let them hear, and say: It is Truth. I will say to the North: Give up; and to the South: Keep not back, bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the Earth; even every one that is called by my Name, for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yes, I have made him.”
For those who would believe her testimony, the eyes of the blind would be opened, while in the wilderness waters would gush out, and create streams in the desert! The parched ground would become a pool, and the thirsty land would be filled with springs of water. And a highway would be there, and a Way, and it would be called: The Way of Holiness. The unclean would not pass over it, no lion would be there, nor any ravenous beast would go up there, but the redeemed would walk there. And her Father in Heaven, who sat upon the throne, had added:
“And I shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more Death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Behold, I make all things new! And he said to me: Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
The princess would then stop feeling despondent, for she would be reminded of the reason why she was part of the processions of the Daughters of Jerusalem that would suddenly spring up in the desert, like a wildflower that would bloom in a place where there was no water and where the earth was cracked and athirst. She would know in her spirit the reason why she had been chosen to go through such difficult trials. She would delight at the fact that her failures would not be considered a failure in the eyes of her Father, for he was her Redeemer. His words and the gentle tone of His voice would settle once again in her heart:
“You are my witness and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe me, and understand that I Am He. Tell my people that before Me, there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I Am the Lord and besides Me, there is no Saviour. I am the Lord your Redeemer, the Holy One, the Creator, your King. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth, shall you not know it? I will even make a Way in the wilderness: A Highway of Holiness, and rivers in the desert! If you will walk along this Way with all your heart, though your sins are as scarlet, I will remember your sins no more; though your soul is as black as the tents of Kedar, I will make you as white as snow!”
But, under the starry dome, the Arabian thieves gathered and whispered… They murmured that she had a magic lamp which she used to light her path and that her lamp had the power to make the Highway of Holiness appear to her in a way that no other was able to see and that she was able to go to Heaven! They tormented her, but she remained at peace… They tried to tempt her with the delicacies of their Kingdom, but none seemed to be more attractive to her than the Way that she was able to contemplate, but which none else could see…
Yet, the Prince of Darkness had laid claim to her soul, for it was more precious to him than any other. Jealousy is as cruel as the grave and its flames are flames of fire, it is like the waterflood that overflows and the deep that swallows-up. But many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it!
The thief called Holiness came up to the maiden and asked her about her magic lantern and she replied:
“How far are your thoughts from the thoughts of the Holy One who lives in Heaven? How far is your way from His Way? The distance is as far as the distance between the Heavens and this dark world…”
So, the robbers would whisper outside her tent and then gather in a circle on a Persian carpet to eat delicacies and to drink wine. They would consider the spoil and plan against the Lord of Heaven and against his Daughters. It was only a matter of time, they would say, until they would stumble and fall, until they would surrender to the will of the Prince of Darkness…
But the damsel in distress would resist, steadfast in her faith, knowing that the same afflictions had to be overcome by all the Daughters of Jerusalem; and that, after they had suffered for a while, they would be made perfect for they would be strengthened, and they would win the crown of eternal Life. She knew that she would rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live. She also knew that the chastening she had to submit to as a pilgrim was grievous, but nevertheless, afterwards, it would yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness to all who would submit to this refining process: That was the Highway of Holiness that none could see, as no one was willing to see how much more desirable it was than all the treasures of the Kingdom of Darkness…
The damsel heard the whispers in the night, she felt afflicted by the tormenters, but she recalled her Father’s reassuring words:
“In righteousness you shall be established, you shall not fear, for whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.”
Therefore, the maiden lifted her hands that hang down, she strengthened her knees and made straight paths for her feet, until the Highway of Holiness sparkled like gold in front of her, all the way up to the Kingdom of Light!
She recalled her Father’s promises to all the Daughters of Jerusalem:
“The wilderness and the solitary place will be glad for you, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose! It will blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing!”
While the maiden walked along the Highway of Holiness, her spirit was clothed with light that reached up to fill her eyes with gentleness and beauty. Her spirit was like a fountain sealed, a well of living waters, a fragrant garden. What a sight she was to behold, how fair she was, for she had dove’s eyes! How much better than wine was her love, and the scent of her perfumes than all spices! She walked clothed in light and the fragrance of her garments was like the fragrance of the cedars of Lebanon.
The thieves, who were sitting among the caravaners, were looking towards where the Daughters of Jerusalem were camped. They looked upon the maiden who was praying a short distance away, for she was the fairest of them all, and whispered:
“Who is she that looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and awesome as an army of banners during the dance of the two camps?”
While the princess knelt on the warm sand, her prayers flew high up to the Heavens, and perfume filled the air… Her prayers were like Holy Perfume, and while they ascended towards the Heavens, an angel came to collect the fragrant letter in a golden censer, that he would offer upon the altar which was before the throne of Heaven. All of Heaven filled with the music of harps and burst into song, full of praise for the valiant Prince, Jesus Christ, who had answered the multitude of letters, by redeeming with his own blood, all the King’s Daughters of every language and of every nation!
Lyrics of the closing Arabic song:
I only knew love when I knew love of Thee, I sealed up my heart against Thy enemy.
I stood long in converse with Thee, who doth see My heart's inner secrets, but Thou I don't see.
My love is twin loves, yet the twain are for Thee, The first's for Thy love, and the other's for Thee.
And as for the first, which is love of Thy love: Remembrance complete, not distracted from Thee.
I only knew love when I knew love of Thee, I sealed up my heart against Thy enemy.
And as for the second: my true love of Thee, I see Thou as present in all that I see.
All praise to Thy name, and no praises for me, For Thine is the glory in all unity!