In our excessively active world, a world that assaults us daily with e-mail, faxes, junk mail, bills, memos, phone calls and television talk shows, we might think the life of a recluse, a person given to prayer and silence, would have little to say to us. And, in truth, she doesn’t have much to say, but she wants to show us something.
We don’t know her name. (Julian was the name of the church to which her cell was attached.) We know nothing of her life but only of her experiences in prayer with God.
Julian told of her encounters with God in her book The Revelations of Divine Love, which she wrote twice. Her first edition briefly records 16 “showings” or revelations given to her when she was 30 years old. The second edition, written approximately 20 years later, is almost three times as long because it included her reflections on these revelations.
While Julian’s meditations demonstrate a precise theological understanding, they are not dogmatic studies. As Carol Lee Flinders writes in her book, Enduring Grace, “Not intellectual curiosity, but desire, was her starting point.” Desire to know and love God is the culmination of her work.
Perhaps Julian’s revelations are most loved because of the strong comfort they offer. “All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” God bids us to rest in the divine love, living in confidence that God will work all things out—even, and most especially, our sins and sufferings—to our satisfaction and God’s glory.
Such certainty issues out of the revelation of God’s love that Julian received. The quality of this love shattered all the classifications with which she had previously understood it. Intensely personal and unwavering in its persistence, God’s love reaches past all our sin to embrace us. “Whether we are clean or foul it is all one to God’s love,” she writes.
We can guess at the relationship Julian had with her mother, for this mother-love becomes the matrix through which Julian comes to understand God’s tenderness and passion for her. Perhaps interpreting her revelations through her reminiscences about her mother’s affection, Julian experiences Christ’s solicitous concern for every detail of her life: “The mother’s service is nearest, readiest and surest.”
Julian believes that “this fair lovely word ‘mother’ is so sweet and so kind in itself that it cannot truly be said of anyone except of him and to him who is the true Mother of life.” She speaks of “Mother Christ” and “our true mother Jesus.” Julian’s use of feminine imagery leads us in memory back to a time of sitting on the lap of one who loved us, caressed us, kissed our wounds and tenderly reassured us that “everything’s all right now.” And it is.
“Love is our Lord’s meaning. Before God made us, God loved us. In this love we have our beginning, and all this shall we see in God without end.” Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich’s Feast Day happens to coincide with Mother’s Day on May 8, 2011. Read the appointed readings for her feast days as well as a The Order of Julian of Norwich devoted to her and her writings.
Living the Good News is a lectionary-based curriculum for ages 3 through adult published by Morehouse Education Resources, a division of Church Publishing Incorporated. This article is from the Living the Good News support site to enhance the weekly curriculum.