The most famous words that Julian heard during her visionary experiences of Christ on the cross: "All shalle be wele, and all shalle be wele, and thou shalt see thyself that all manner of thing shalle be wele," might lead us to believe that we should be able to see all things turning out well for us and for those we love right here and now. But that would be a grave misunderstanding of our Lord's meaning.
Julian herself questioned: "Ah, good lord, how might alle be wele for the great harm that has come by sinne to thy creatures?" As Julian struggled "mightily" with the problem of sin and evil, she came to an absolutely essential realization that there are two parts to what may be known by God's creatures in this life.
Julian writes that the Lord gave her an understanding of two categories of truth concerning our salvation. The first part is what has already been revealed about “our savior and our salvation. This blessed part is open and clear and fair and light and plenteous." All human beings of good will who ever were or shall be are included in this part. It concerns knowledge of Christ as redeemer, the entire spectrum of moral and theological truths, as well as the sacraments of grace that lead to salvation. Through these, we become bound to God and taught inwardly by the Holy Spirit and outwardly by holy church. Christ wants us to be completely occupied and content in this part, “rejoicing in him because he rejoices in us."
The second part, which concerns what is not directly pertinent to our salvation, is kept hidden and locked away from us: "For that is our lord’s prevy councelle." Using the metaphor of an earthly monarch and his privy council of advisors, Julian explains that the royal lordship of God has the right to keep his secret counsels in peace and his servants must be obedient and reverent in not wanting to know them. She remarks:
"Our lord has pity and compassion on us, because some creatures make themselves so busy about them [the counsels]. And I am seker [certain] that if we knew how much we would please him and ease ourselves to leave it alone, we would. The saints in heaven, they will to know nothing but that which our lord wills to show them, and also their charity and their desire is ruled by the will of our lord. And thus ought we to will to be like them. Then we shall not will nor desire anything but the will of our lord, just as they do. For we are all one in God’s intention. And here I was taught that we should only rejoice in our blessed savior Jesus, and trust in him for alle thing."
With these words, Julian interposes a note of caution to her readers. By placing it at this point in her narrative, she implies that at the time, she, herself, was one of those creatures who “make themselves so busy” about what belongs solely to the Lord’s privy council. She knows only too well how desperate human beings can become to know not only that Christ saves (the open part of revelation), but when and where and how and whom Christ saves (the secret part). She is taught that the Savior does not want us wearying our souls in such speculation, but rather desires us to become like the saints in heaven who “will to know nothing but what our Lord wills to show them,” enjoying and trusting in the Savior for everything.
"And thus our good lord answered to all the questions and doubts that I might make, saying very comfortingly:
“I may make alle thing wele, and I can make alle thing wele, and I wille make alle thing wele, and I shalle make all thing wele. And thou shalt see thyself that alle manner of thing shalle be wele.”
Julian teaches us that we may only "see" God's continual transformation of everything with the eyes of heartfelt faith and through the most daring acts of trust because, most of the time, we will not see it now. God's work is always done "in secret," even and most especially in our souls and in the souls of those for whom we pray. We must be willing to wait however long it takes to experience the fruit of divine labors. One thing we may be certain of: they will be beyond our wildest imaginings!
PLEASE NOTE: Quotations above are from Chapter Sixteen of Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013, 2014),
Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the written permission of the author.
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.