As I write a paper about Lancelot this evening, I’m brought to tears by the way he dealt with his poor decisions as a young knight and how he tried to reconcile with Guenever, Arthur, and God. After hearing of the death of Arthur, Lancelot takes on the habit and lives in strict asceticism for a period as a monk and then, actually, graduates to being priest able to order mass. He is held in very high esteem by his brother monks. His influence is such that eight former knights also become monks with Lancelot. Despite Lancelot’s concern that he isn’t worthy before the eyes of men and God due to his past, others find him to truly be a devout and honorable man of integrity and station.
The truth of the matter, and as Lancelot realizes, is that because of his irresponsible actions, both Guenever and Arthur “were both laid full low.” At Guenever’s funeral, Lancelot’s moment of reflection is an especially moving and touching scene. Lancelot is completely overwhelmed by the emotions and paradoxes of the situation. He is not so much grieving for the loss of Guenever as much as he is grieving the loss of his companionship with both Guenever and his beloved King Arthur. He regrets deeply that his “orgule [arrogance] and pride” ultimately led to the demise of Guenever and Arthur, individuals “that were peerless that ever was living of Christian people.” Lancelot is truly brought to a lowest of lows at the funeral of Guenever, and yet, this is what makes him a man who is able to be used by God. The truth is that God is not able to use the influence of Lancelot until Lancelot is brought low by his own admissions of guilt, insolence, and relationship-wrecking.
It isn’t the man Lancelot that remains but, rather, it’s his influence that remains. After Guenever’s funeral, Lancelot is distraught, eats little, becomes sick, and dies six weeks later. During Lancelot’s time of remorse prior to his death, no one is able to make Lancelot feel better.
A special hermit shares some kind words with Lancelot during Lancelot’s period of regret. The words are profound, beautiful, and so true. The hermit says to Lancelot, “…ye shall be well mended by the grace of God to-morn.” These powerful words resonate in this story and sums up the whole of the life of Lancelot.
Of course, Lancelot dies in his sleep that night but the Bishop hermit, on the night that Lancelot passes, has a dream that makes the Bishop laugh out loud in happiness from his sleep. When asked why the laughter, the Bishop tells of a wonderful and beautiful dream scene where “mo angels than ever I saw men in one day” were surrounding Lancelot as Lancelot triumphantly enters heaven.
Later in the night when the monks visit Lancelot in his cell, Lancelot has expired but with a rapturous smile on his face. The story of the redemption of Lancelot is beautiful in that it is about the sad but victorious demise of a noble but broken man. The truth is that Lancelot – as the hermit had promised – was mended by God’s grace next morning when Lancelot woke up in heaven.