Julian of Norwich

Standard

All will be well
And all things will be well
And all manner of things will be well.
Julian of Norwich

We have been Looking at some of the words and thoughts of some of the great teachers of prayer within the Christian tradition, at our Wednesday Eucharists during Lent. Here is the talk and presentation by Heather Scott, one of our layministers on Dame Julian of Norwich.

Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich lived in the late fourteenth century, during the time of Chaucer and the flowering of the English language, during the time of the Black Death which claimed a third of the population of England. It was the time of great famine and the Peasants’ Revolt, which incidentally was led by a former priest, and the 100 Year War, as English kings laid claim to the French throne. – A time when feudalism was disintegrating and people were deserting villages and failing estates to seek opportunities in towns and cities.
It was a time of turmoil in the church, and the death by burning of John Wycliffe, scholar, philosopher and translator of the Bible into English, who was one of the forerunners of the Protestant reformation.
I noted that, in her writings, Julian often refers to Holy church, – ‘as Holy Church teaches’, and I wondered if she was a bit worried that her writings would get her into trouble too. She is the first woman writer in English whose work survives.
Other spiritual writings of the time were the Cloud of Unknowing – author unknown, the Scale of Perfection by Walter Hilton, and The Force of Character.
The common theme in all their writings was the loving relationship between God and the souls if the just, in an age when indulgences were big business.
Julian’s writings, ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’ were the result of visions, or ‘showings’ as she calls them, that she had during a severe illness, which she had in fact prayed for as an aid to her dedication to, and worship of God, asking through her illness to be granted three wounds: true contrition, kind compassion and an earnest longing for God.
She writes that she had also asked God that she would be able to remember Christ’s passion in a special way – and her writings include in detail these visions and emotions accompanying them.
Her experience determined the course of the rest of her life.
She wrote down ‘the showings’ soon after they happened, and spent the next twenty years delving prayerfully into the meaning of the visions, her ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ being the expanded result. She wrote to pass on the riches that she had received from God to those she called her ‘even Christians’ ‘that they be sped on the way of Salvation’. She writes for ‘God-lovers who find in their hearts this love-longing’, which is placed in their hearts by God and satisfied by God, asserting that, as we reach up to God, he reaches down to us.
Julian became an anchoress, living a solitary life of prayer and silence and self-discipline, in accommodation attached to the parish church of St Julian, in Norwich.
Norwich had a rich spiritual life, with many churches and religious houses, and it is thought that Julian may have lived the Rule of St Benedict. It was on a busy trade route, so she was not out of touch with current affairs, and penitents and pilgrims came to her for spiritual counselling. If my experience with the enclosed order at Masite is anything to go by, this would have been a very important part of her ministry, to pass on the love and acceptance that she had experienced in God.

There are echoes of Scripture in much of her writing. There are progressively deeper insights into the meaning of ‘suffering with the crucified Christ’, reminiscent of Paul’s prayer : what it means to share His sufferings, moulded into the pattern of His death. I found her writing on pain and suffering particularly interesting in the light on the debate around assisted dying.
She writes about sin and damnation, pain and suffering in the world, and returns again and again to the mercy, love and power of God, in which we can believe. – “All will be well’.
It is one of her most often quoted writings, which she includes in various ways.
This is one. God assures her:

All will be well
And all things will be well
And all manner of things will be well.
Julian of Norwich

Her awareness of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in all of God’s work with mankind comes through all of her writing. One revelation that she has is of the Trinity in the suffering Christ – all of God is involved, from before the beginning of time, in the redemption of man.
She gives the picture of, as Adam falls, Christ falling into the womb of Mary, which I found very powerful.
Julian speaks of Christ as Mother, and sees Jesus’ passion as the birth pangs of a mother. He suffered that we might be born, He nourishes us and cares for us and loves us as a mother loves her child.

Meditation using hazelnut reading and ‘We are created to be God’s dwelling-place’.

I saw that He is ceaselessly at work in everything, so well, so wisely, so powerfully, that it surpasses anything that we could imagine, expect or think.
He that was highest and most worthy was totally rejected and utterly despised. But the love that caused Him to suffer all this as far surpasses His agony as heaven is above earth. For His suffering was accomplished in time, through the activity of love, but love has no beginning and is and ever shall be without end.
We are His joy. We are His reward. We are His honour. We are His crown. This is so great a joy to Jesus that He disregards His suffering, His bitter Passion, and cruel and shameful death.
Contrition makes us clean
Compassion renders us ready
And desire for God makes us worthy.
So shame is transformed into joy and glory.
For our courteous Lord does not wish his creatures to lose hope. Our failure does not prevent Him from loving us. Peace and love are always present, living and labouring within us.

In our true Mother, Jesus, our life is grounded, in uncreated wisdom which foresees all, along with the Father’s almighty power and the Holy Spirit’s sovereign goodness.
By taking upon Himself our nature He restored us to life, and by dying upon the cross He carries us to eternal life.
And from that moment until the end of time He nurtures us and helps us on, just as the great loving concern of motherhood wishes, until we are brought to our Father’s joy. In that joy we will be shown: All will be well, and you yourself shall see that every manner of thing will be well.
As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother.
He reveals this in all things, especially in these sweet words:
It is I.
That is to say, It is I, the power and goodness of the Fatherhood,
It is I, The wisdom of the Motherhood.
It is I, The light and grace that is all blessed Love.
It is I, The Trinity
It is I, The Unity.
I am the highest good of all manner of things.
I am the one who makes you love.
I am the one who makes you long. It is I, the fulfilment of all true desires.

Do you wish to understand your Lord’s meaning?
Understand truly: Love was His meaning.
Who revealed it to you? Love.
What did He show you? Love.
Why did He show it? For Love.
Hold firmly to this and you will learn and know more of this. But you will never know or learn anything other than this. Ever.
It is God’s eternal will that we remain secure in love, and peaceful and restful as He is to us. Just as He is to us, so too is His will we should be to ourselves and to our fellow Christians.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s