A Glorious Lady in Heaven

Like Dante’s Divine Comedy, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce takes a first-person tour of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Dante had a next-worldly guide in the Roman poet Virgil, while Lewis had the Scottish author George MacDonald. While on the Plains of Heaven, Lewis beholds the following (abridged) scene:

Some kind of procession was approaching us, and the light came from the persons who composed it.  First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever again grow sick or old. Between them went musicians; and after these a lady in whose honor all this was being done. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

“Is it?…  Is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of.  Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be… well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones.  Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”

“No.  There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives. It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”

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