The cold is really the only thing you can feel. Your knees and ankles have grown numb from the stone beneath them. Your skin clenches with the chill of the stone around you. Your body shudders and your eyes leak from the painful cold of these cathedral walls, but you’re determined not to move from your knees or look anywhere but at the illuminated altar before you. The gold of the monstrance comforts you with its brightness.

You can feel the shadows behind you. They accumulate in the corners of your eyes and press upon your neck. You refuse to name them or acknowledge them. Let them be shadows. That is all they can be when you’re here. You have claimed sanctuary in this hall of candle light. They can’t touch you no matter what sort of legion they recruit in the crevices of these columns. Nonetheless, you have an absurd fear that your sanctuary will dissipate with the candle light. Thus you are in a silent panic to keep the wicks alight. However, the reasonable side of you knows that it’s not the physical light that protects you, but the God encased on the altar. You are in the Holy of Holies. Those creatures are mere specters here. Yet you remain anxious to stay in the light.

The roar of the wind outside is the only thing that you can hear besides your rapid breathing and uneven heartbeats. You know it’s the darkness. It’s trying to get in. In an instant of weakness you gasp and stumble on numb legs to the front of the altar. Your fingers unconsciously but weakly grasp at the altar cloth. You ask Him to forgive you for being such a coward, but you know He welcomes you closer, coward or not.

The glass in the high windows clatters under the force of the wind. You grip the altar as tight as you can, which means little in your fragility. You can feel only the strain in your chest and a thick fatigue in your head. You lay your head beneath the Monstrance, incapable of anything but being and breathing.

You’re so afraid, but so tired of being afraid. You are merely glad that He has allowed you in His presence, but you despair that you are unable to give Him anything but your frailty. You sorry you’re such a poor excuse for a servant, much less a bride. You lay uncomprehending at the mercy He’s shown you in letting you love Him. The only thing stronger than your regret is your gratitude. You are truly at His mercy here, and there is no place you’d rather be.

He’s given you so much, much more than you could ever know. He’s given you your very existence.

You can’t see any justice in asking anymore of Him, yet you do, yet you must.

Now at His feet, you only want one more thing. You want it more than anything. You want it more than you fear anything. The shadows creeping in from the night outside have no presence in your mind anymore.

No pain or fear could deter you from your final wish, your last request from Him.

You ask Him. It slips out of you, in small hoarse whispers.

You ask Him for the last thing you deserve, but the only thing you need.

Seconds pass in a sudden quiet. You don’t know if the wind has stopped or if you just can’t hear it.

For a moment you’re very afraid that you’ve been too rash.
You had no right to request anything of Him, much less request Him for yourself.
But that’s the only thing you can want now.

You wait in terrible calm.
What exactly have you done?

The stillness is suddenly and blessedly broken by pain.
You’ve never felt this level of agony before, climbing out your spine and into your chest.
Your heart can’t take it. The pressure in your brain takes your sight away. You can’t tell if you’re upright or falling.
All you can do is grasp at the altar, at the light, at Him.

Then there is sound.
Then there is silence.

Then you can see again, but there is nothing to see.
You’re so warm, but there is nothing to feel.
Your world is subdued by white.

You realize, so acutely you might as well be in agony again, the state you’re in.
You are surrounded. You are consumed.
You are with Him.

Suddenly you know Him, far better than you have ever known Him, as you could have barely dreamed of knowing Him.
He is in you and outside you and all around you.
And He feels far, far better than you could have fathomed before, than you can fathom now.

You know you are in a perpetual state of being utterly filled by Him, yet so unable to contain Him.
He’s granted your request.
He’s given you Himself, more than you’ve ever received before.
And your whole being is eclipsed by joy.

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