Margery Kempe. Extract from Book 1.35

Margery describes how when she was praying in Rome, in the Apostles’ Church, God addressed her and told her that she is going to be joined in a mystic marriage with him. (This is modelled on the mystic marriage of Catherine of Siena.)  Margery is dumbstruck, as in her devotion she focused mostly (or even solely) on Jesus, and especially his “manhood”. Now, it may give some of contemporary readers dirty thoughts. Margery does seem to use the word in the sense “human nature”, but there are unmistakable sexual overtones, as when she writes that she perceived Christ in every handsome man she saw. But admittedly, her love extends not only to grown men, but even babies – provided they are male babies. She sees infant Jesus in each of them and if she can, she takes them from their mothers’ arms and kisses them, crying copiously in her wonted manner. Come to think of it, I don’t know which is more disturbing.

So, as she is silent, Jesus addresses her, asking her what she thinks about it and then excuses her to God, saying that she is still young and inexperienced. Then God the Father takes her by the hand “in her soul” and marries her, saying the usual marriage oath. After that Margery experiences for years all kinds of sweet sensations: beautiful smells, melodious music, tiny white specks which, as God tells her, are his angels sent to protect her. She also fear the constant fire of love burning in her and keeping her warm in the coldest weather. Margery doesn’t mention, however, whether it was as nice during hot summer days. Or maybe were these just hot flushes? Anyway, now Margery seems to be moving to quietism, as many mystics did after her, as God tells her that this kind of life pleases him more than penance and praying – he just wants her to meditate and receive quietly his words.


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