This is a dramatic tableau written for performance in a church, with three characters, all women, a (male) voice off-stage - and an apple tree. It is a resource - to be selectively edited for performance; the text as given would run for over 90 minutes. It was first performed in 2012.

Throne of Light

Music
Next to the platform board by the sanctuary is an apple tree (with three apples on it) and a display that includes, Anezka's black veil and Franciscan cord, a scroll and a basket Anezka walks on in her crown and train holding a model of her church. Though she has her habit on, it is bound by a grey belt. On the altar is a cushion. Anezka removes her crown and places it on the cushion she turns to face the public chapel beyond the sanctuary grille Music fades.

Anezka
Since I have known the grace of God through his handmaid Clare, no pain has seemed to me overwhelming, no penance too severe, no weakness too hard to bear. (LC)

Clare enters with Agnes of Assisi, Clare goes to her place on a platform in the choir, adjacent to the sanctuary, and Agnes waits before stepping up.

Clare
To the esteemed Lady Agnes, daughter of His Excellency, the King of Bohemia, I, Clare, unworthy servant of Jesus Christ and useless handmaid of the cloistered ladies of San Damiano, present myself!

The following has a light and brisk conversational tempo. At no point does Clare sound as though she is quoting something!

Anezka
Your letters have made you seem completely real to me, it’s as though you are here! 

Agnes
(Stepping up by Clare) And I, her Sister Agnes....

Clare
......the wise virgin of the parable......

Agnes
Recommend myself to you. (IV Letter)
Clare and Agnes sit

Anezka
(As if surprised) We have the same name!

Clare
You both follow the Lamb wherever he goes. (IV Letter)

Anezka
Oh! I should like to!

Clare
I have heard of the fame of your holy conduct and irreproachable life.

Anezka
Well if you have, its been greatly exaggerated!

Clare
No! It is known not only to me, but to the entire world!

Anezka
That is you Mother, yours is the light that has spread throughout the world.

Agnes
When Ortulana, our mother was expecting Clare she heard a voice from the crucifix say ‘you will bear a bright light’

Anezka
How strange! When my mother, Constance of Hungary, was expecting me, she had a dream that she saw in the royal wardrobe a grey cloak and habit like that (points) hanging among the silks and she heard a voice which said, ‘she will be a light for all the people of Bohemia’.

(Slipping off into a reverie and less conscious of Clare and Agnes

It was being brought up by Aunt Hedwig the Queen of Poland, like my cousin, Elizabeth of Thuringia, Hedwig was a saint, and she had such a happy family. I lived with her daughter, Sister Gertrude who was a Cistercian. I loved the nuns too, I used to play at saying the Divine Office. I was supposed to marry Aunt Hedwig’s youngest son, but he died and I came home (Sighs). I had a year with the nuns here to improve my Latin, then I was formally engaged to Henry, the Emperor’s eldest son And I was posted off to the Court of Austria where he was being brought up. (Wryly) We were both eight year olds.

Clare
It really is a great and praiseworthy exchange to leave the things of time for those of eternity.

Anezka
Exactly!

Clare
Particularly as you, more than others could have enjoyed the magnificence, honour and dignity of the world.

Anezka
The magnificence was empty, Henry liked poetry; he had no patience with prayer - and no honour! I was six years in Vienna. When I was eleven I sat in the front seat at the Cathedral at Aachen for his coronation as King of the Romans - and then we got back to Vienna and they decided he was going to marry Margaret Babenburg, the heiress of Austria.

Agnes Was she very pretty?

Anezka
Don’t be be such a simpleton, Agnes. She was 22 and he was 14, like me. She was an heiress and Henry was useful to her brother. I was sent home, thank God. 

Clare
Contempt for the world has pleased you more than its honours, (kindly) now that you have chosen to store up treasures in heaven more than on earth.

Anezka
I did my best to dissuade my father from going to war over it.

Clare
As is becoming to a daughter of peace

Anezka
He didn’t listen Mother, he was never much of a listener. And we were always fighting Austria or Hungary, usually both.

Clare
Blessed are the peacemakers.

Anezka
I didn’t have any peace. The next thing was King Henry III of England trying to marry me.

Agnes
Well at least he was devout.

Anezka
He was pious and mean and the Emperor Frederick forbade the banns. By this time Frederick was a widower himself. It was the last straw!

Clare
(a little austerely) You could have been married to the illustrious Caesar with a splendour befitting you and his Excellency.

Anezka
His Excellency!? Illustrious! He was awful! He was born at Christmas near Ancona and he went around referring to it as ‘the Bethlehem of Our Nativity’ and he called his poor mother as ‘Our Divine Parent!’ He was an absolute tongue-in-cheek atheist.

Agnes
He liked to hear Mass

Anezka
Oh yes? Especially when he was excommunicated. He loved making frightened bishops say Mass for him three times a day!

Agnes
(apologetically) You have to remember he was reared in Assisi and Clare and I were baptised in the same font as he was.

Anezka
Does that make it any better?! Look at the list of ladies in his life! Queen Constanza, Queen Yolanda (they said he murdered her) Bianca, Caterina, Mathilda, Manna, Richina and the rest of his harem! - and he used to consult wizards!

Clare
(to Anezka) Agnes, do not repeat gossip inside the monastery (Rule 9) and beware of anxiety about the world (Rule 10).

Anezka
Oh Mother, I wasn’t anxious about the world, I was anxious about myself! Look what happened to Adelaide von Urslingen, she was your mother’s friend. They were brought up together.

Agnes
(Agog) What did happen to Adelaide?

Clare
Agnes!

Anezka
Well, she gave Frederick a son, Enzio. And basically he kept her a prisoner for the rest of her life. He kept Enzio a prisoner too. - And it did Margaret of Austria no good to marry Henry his son and my ex fiancée because the Emperor Frederick kept him in prison too......

Clare
Agnes, do not rejoice in evil, rejoice in good. Be filled with joy for though you had to suffer these things for a while, you have taken a spouse of a more noble lineage (Letter 1) whose power is stronger, whose generosity is more abundant and whose appearance is more beautiful. (Letter 1)

Agnes
Then you wrote secretly to Pope Gregory and he took your part. 

Anezka
It just about killed my father, Ottokar! He could almost see an imperial army occupying Prague! My brother Wenceslaus stood by me. After I came back from Vienna, I lived in his house, we were very close and he always supported my charities.

Agnes
The Emperor Frederick said “If she had rejected us for another man, we would not have hesitated to revenge such disgraceful contempt for our Imperial Person. But since the virgin has preferred a Lord greater than Us, We will let the matter pass!”

Anezka
My poor Wenceslaus was very relieved!

Agnes
You don’t mind me asking, but did you by any chance become a Poor Clare to escape the Emperor Frederick?

Anezka
No. Ever since I heard of you, I wanted to be a Poor Clare. Frederick pushed the thing on a bit. God is like that; he has a plan for you and deep inside you know it - but then he makes all the things that happen outside you, avalanche you along in the same direction.

Clare
It is His way of strengthening you in his holy service!

Anezka
Also I was only seventeen when it all began. I didn’t have much experience at ‘discerning’ my vocation!

Agnes
(Cautiously) But now you are under the protection of Pope Gregory IX 

Anezka
(a shade doubtfully) Such a good man.

Agnes
(Carefully) We know him well

Clare
Even when he became Pope he thought we were his one hope on earth.

Agnes
Unfortunately his kindness can be somewhat crushing.

Anezka
So....... (looks knowing) I have built my monastery And you have sent Sister Benina and the four sisters from Trent.

Clare and Agnes step down from the platform.

Clare
If by divine inspiration anyone should come to us desiring to accept this life (Rule 2) let the words of the Holy Gospel be said to her that she go and sell all and give it to the poor.

Agnes
We send you this veil and the bowl from which Francis ate when he lived in the hut at San Damiano

Music. Clare and Agnes come on to the sanctuary, Clare helps Anezka out out her train and Agnes collects the cloak and cord which Clare puts on Anezka. Agnes hands Clare the veil and she puts it on over Anezka’s white veil. Agnes places the bowl in her hands and Anezka & Clare kneel.

Anezka
‘I the little Sister Agnes, vow to God before the of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I promise you dear Mother to observe for the whole time of my life the most holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property and in chastity and I vow to observe enclosure.

Clare
And I on the part of Almighty God if you do these things promise you life everlasting.

They stand

Clare
I rejoice and no one can rob me of such joy.! (Letter 4)

Anezka
O Mother!..... I entered the community which I had founded making the twentieth member of the family and we tried to live by the precepts and admonitions which you sent us.

Agnes
Unfortunately the Pope wants to support you financially. He will be very pressing.

Clare
My dearest, if anyone tries to tell you something or suggest something that would hinder your way of perfection or seem contrary to God’s call to you even though you must respect him, do not follow his council.

Anezka
(alarmed) You mean the Pope!

Agnes
(soothingly) It is very hard to say ‘No’ to someone who loves you and your life sincerely, who would do anything to help and who wants to protect you from every breath of wind, and tell them that you only want the fresh air of the Gospel!

Anezka picks up a scroll from the display and very briefly affects to read it.

Anezka
Now Pope Gregory wants to unite the hospital and the Church of St Francis with the monastery and impose their revenues on us. He is as bad as my mother, Queen Constance who wants to give us three manor houses, six farms and an army of serfs!

Clare
One thing only is neccesary; cling to the poverty of him who made himself contemptible for you (Letter 3)

Agnes
Dear sister, ask Gregory for the ‘Privilege of Poverty’ by that no one can force you to accept property.

Clare
You have sold all things and given them to the poor, cling to the footprints of the Way, the Truth and the Life who for our sake was made poor... You are not afraid?

Anezka
I am not afraid!

Voice off, Gregory
(resignedly) We confirm with our apostolic authority, as you requested, your proposal of most high poverty: granting that no one can compel you to receive possessions! If anyone should try to, let him know that they will incur the wrath of Almighty God and his blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

Clare and the two Agnes
(holding hands) No one can take our joy away from us!

Anezka
Mother! Do you think if I sent your ‘precepts and admonitions’ to him with the Premislav crest on the top he would accept them too?

Clare
(greatly pleased) Agnes! I consider you a co-worker of God himself!

Agnes
(not so hopefully) Well, you can but try.

They all turn and gaze (so to speak) to the back door of the choir

Voice off, Gregory
(markedly disapproving) The Form of Life which Blessed Francis gave to the lady Clare and her sisters is not solid food but a drink of milk - Please adhere to the rule which I wrote for the sisters it is... much better

Disappointed pause

Clare
Agnes, nothing is superfluous if you can draw some consolation out of it! Dearest, always remember your resolution and be conscious of where you came from. (Letter 2)

Agnes
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

Clare
All you have to do is persevere in this way, not believing anything or agreeing with anything that would dissuade you from this resolution

Anezka goes to her place

Anezka
We lived our life in Prague. I did the cooking and the cleaning and the washing up and mended the sisters clothes at night so they wouldn’t worry about it. My brother was generous, he gave me alms in money and I divided it three ways: for the service of the altar, the needs of the sisters and the support of the poor. An endless stream of displaced people came to Paradise House and the hospice. Prisoners of war, escaped serfs, men and women from the borders and driven off their lands. The starving, the homeless and those who were afraid. Bohemia seemed like the land of the dying, but it was nothing to what was to come....

Clare
It is this that has made us heiresses and queens of the heavenly kingdom (Testament)

Agnes
We sit on the door step of heaven laying before the Lord the needs of his people.

Clare
The heavens and the rest of creation cannot contain their creator; only the faithful soul is his dwelling place and throne, a thing only brought about by charity

Anezka
Oh Mother, teach us to pray!

Clare
O most noble Queen. Behold him, hold him, let yourself be enfolded by him. So that you may live his life.

Agnes
The first healing that you can offer to those who come to you is to allow yourself to be drawn nearer to God. Give yourself to God in love and every human being will be drawn closer to God by your surrender. 

Clare
Hold on to him by whom you and all things are held together.

Anezka
People call this place Paradise House. Perhaps because it is a place where God walks in the cool of the evening, or simply for the apple tree that you can see over the wall. 
Something happened about this time that seemed like a parable. A woman, Sophy, lived over the road and she had just given birth to a child and was dying - like our land

Agnes moves to tree.

Perhaps the tree of life grows in our garden, bearing fruit every month and giving healing! - it seemed so to Sophy. She felt that if she could eat of its fruit she would be healed. It was not the season for fruit, but, by a miracle, there grew just three apples on the tree.

Anezka takes the basket and picks the fruit. She lays it at the foot of the altar.

We gave them to her. She ate and was healed. It was strange that there was only three apples.

Agnes
Why did it seem to you a parable?

Anezka
Because of what came next. We were trying to live and give life. And over the borders of Poland swept the Golden Horde, the great armies of Mongolia under Subutai and the grandsons of Genghis Khan. It was so quick, and so complete...

My brother, Wenceslaus set out to join forces with Henry of Poland, our sister Anna’s husband, but when the Mongolian generals discovered this, they raced to meet Henry’s army before my brother got there. Henry was killed and countless men with him. My uncle King Bela of Hungary fell in battle at Mohi, two days later - and my brother and his men were left to face them unsupported at Klodzko. We prayed, and amazingly, though my brother’s army broke and fled before their huge numbers, he managed to re-form them. When they faced the vanguard of the Mongolian Army it gave way before him.

Agnes
In the cross is our victory.

Clare
Be strengthened in the holy service you have undertaken out of love for the poor crucified (Letter 1) who took upon himself the passion of the cross and delivered us from the powers of Darkness. 

Anezka
That is how it seemed at the time - and the next year the whole huge Mongolian army disappeared!

Clare
By the mercy of Christ, you were strengthened in his Holy Service to progress from good to better and he bestowed on you that for which you longed.

Anezka
No, Mother, people tried to tell us it was a miracle of prayer, but we learned afterwards that Ögedai Khan had died and all the grandsons of Genghis hurried home to get themselves elected, taking their armies with them.

Agnes
I still think it was your prayers. God shows his presence and fulfills his will in history.

Clare
If you suffer with him, you will reign with him.

Anezka
We all had to rebuild our lives. My brothers infant daughter had died and they brought her to the monastery and asked us to pray. We did. But as I prostrated before the Lord I heard the child’s voice say Why would you call me out of bliss, back into exile and wretchedness? Know that, if you do this, I shall neither be a consolation for my parents or anyone else; such will be their sadness. It taught me more than anything else how powerful prayer is and how one must always unite what one asks for with God’s plan and his loving will.

Clare
If you weep with him you will rejoice with him.

Anezka
I know you are right, Mother, but it seemed I was left trying to shelter my paradise tree from storm, it was around this time that the Lord said to me ‘Agnes do not think that you will come to die until you have seen all your dear ones depart from this life’.
Henry, Emperor Frederick’s son whom I was to have married when I was fourteen, had been kept prisoner by his own father for ten years and when finally summoned to appear before him, Henry rode his horse over a precipice rather than meet him; henry had becme a leper, poor man! My beloved brother Wenceslaus died. Then you, my Mother, were taken to the Lord and your sister Agnes went to join you - leaving me an orphan.

Clare
Dearest Agnes, what more can I say: we will meet at the throne of the Great God

Agnes
You never saw us while we lived - and we are infinitely nearer to you now in the presence of God.

Anezka
It is true. For those of us who live cloistered in this world, death seems very unreal. Eternity is only in the next room and it never really feels as if our dear ones have gone away.

Clare
And you have our Form of Life, my Rule that Innocent IV confirmed as I was dying.

Anezka
We were the very first community to do so!

Agnes
Then lift up your heart!

Anezka
Dear Sister Agnes, I cannot seem to do so. 
My Wenceslaus was buried in our Church. He was a good brother and he would have been a good king. His sin lay in forcing his 18 year old son, young Ottokar to marry my childhood companion in Vienna, the unfortunate Margaret Babenburg who was was 50. But she was the heiress of Austria and my brother coveted Austria. Young Ottokar may have loved me like a son, but though he supported us and was generous and caring to all in need, he did not exactly take advice.

(She has gone into a reverie, forgetting Clare and Agnes)

Because he was my brother’s second son he had been trained for the Church and he had acquired some original ideas from the Bible. Margaret could not give him children, so, reflecting on Sarah presenting Hagar to Abraham and the Patriarch Jacob’s peculiar family relationships, he had a child by Margaret’s Lady in Waiting and, citing these scriptural precedents, asked the Pope to have young Nicholas accepted as his legitimate son and heir. The Pope naturally refused. 
We were always having to pray for Ottokar. He really wanted to be King of the Romans, but they elected someone else and my Ottokar went off in a temper and declared war on him. We were all processing round the garden praying for peace (Anezka walks as she speaks) behind the relic of the Holy Cross, reciting the penitential psalms.

Agnes takes the processional cross and leads Aneska round the sanctuary singing 'This is the wood of the cross.'

Clare
Look into this mirror suspended on the cross and from this moment O Queen of the Heavenly King let yourself be inflamed more strongly with the fire of charity. 

Anezka
(Sadly) I can see my Ottokar seriously wounded, being led between two tall men.... He is dead. 

Clare
(Comfortingly) Whoever loves me will be loved by my father and we shall come to him and make our home in him.

(Agnes hands the cross to the sister from whom she has received it and returns to her place on the platform)

Anezka
We laid him to rest by his father in our Church

Clare
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

Anezka
Ottokar’s son little Wenceslaus II was only 8; his guardian imprisoned him and tried to rule independently. My Ottokar’s widow had never cared for him and remarried almost immediately; her husband Zavis set up as a rival claimant. Civil war... famine... and, suddenly, we little ones at Paradise House had truly to live the poverty we had professed!

Clare
O holy poverty who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her

Agnes
Now, truly you are heiresses and queens of the heavenly kingdom.

Anezka
I said to my sisters: Give praise to the Lord, my sisters, that we lead a poor life. If we keep holy poverty as we ought to, God will not desert us in times of trouble

People left food in the turn secretly at night. Paradise trees and hunger... once our Portress found a basket of apples in the turn. She was so hungry she took one of the apples but her conscience gave her no peace so she put it back and brought it to me in the kitchen, I could read what she had done in her eyes and I said it is better to have two apples with the blessing of obedience than one with a guilty conscience.

It was the poor, who were starving themselves, who fed us. And they did this not because I was the only Premisyl left in Prague but because we had tried to be faithful to your life, Mother Clare.

Clare It has always been easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into heaven.

Agnes
But when it is the poor who support you, you must live like the poor...

Anezka
....and die like the poor.

Music. Anezka composes herself to die. Clare and Agnes come down and arrange themselves appropriately

Anezka
My sisters wanted me to bless them with the sign of the cross, but I did not feel worthy to do so. They brought our dear Sr Katherina to my bedside, she was crippled. She took my hand gently and made the sign of the cross on her own head with it and was healed.
I humbly begged my sisters to be faithful:
My dearest daughters, 
observe loving God and neighbour with the utmost endeavour. 
Take care to imitate the humility and poverty
which Christ has lived and taught; 
make yourselves subject to the Roman Church. 
Follow the example of our holy Father Francis
and the virgin Clare, 
whose rule has been handed down to us. 
You will know with certainty
that the merciful Lord never deserted them, 
so in like manner, you will not be deserted by Him
provided you follow their example. 

Agnes
We saw Agnes surrounded by a wonderful brightness, like that of a cloud. We could not see her face, but only distinguish a human shape immersed in this light.

Clare
Happy, indeed, is she to whom it is given to share this sacred banquet,
to cling with all her heart to Him
whose beauty all the heavenly hosts admire unceasingly,
whose love inflames our love,
whose contemplation is our refreshment,
whose graciousness is our joy,
whose gentleness fills us to overflowing,
whose remembrance brings a gentle light,
whose fragrance will revive the dead,
whose glorious vision will be the happiness
of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Clare and Agnes take her hands and lead her off

Sisters
Now the humble handmaid
will be rewarded in the heavenly dwelling-place
with the crown of glory in place of ashes
and with the oil of eternal bliss in place of earthly sadness. 
Now, the dress of mourning having been torn apart
she is clothed with the garment of joy
and arrayed like a bride
with the jewellery of her dowry.

Through the intercession and merits of this glorious virgin
may Our loving Redeemer Jesus Christ
make us sharers of His glory. 
To Him together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, 
be honour and glory for ever and ever. 
Amen

Music ends

 

Please acknowledge Ty Mam Duw if you use this for a public performance.