Life, Love, and Light
Near the end of her Revelations, Julian of Norwich summed up her understanding of three distinct properties of God: “life, love, and light.” By God’s life, she meant his familiarity, intimacy, and enduring closeness to us in the ground of our being, out of which he will never come. By God’s love, she understood his all-embracing and courteous care for our souls. And by God’s light, she saw his everlasting Being that will never change or alter its expression toward us.
Julian recognized this trinity of properties as the one goodness of God, to which her mind wanted to be united and her heart wanted to cleave “with all its powers.” She marveled at the sweet feeling of unity she gained from realizing that our human reason exists in God. She appreciated, with much greater depth after many years of contemplation, that this reason “is the highest gift that we have received, and it is grounded in nature” In addition
to our reason, she marveled at the gift of faith:
Our faith is a light, naturally coming from our endless day that is our father, God; in which light our mother, Christ, and our good lord, the holy ghost, lead us in this mortal life . . .And at the end of woe, suddenly our eye shall be opened, and in clearness of sight our light shall be full, which light is God our maker, father and holy ghost in Christ Jesus our savior. Thus I saw and understood that our faith is our light in our night, which light is God, our endless day.
Julian further identifies the source of our light as none other than “charity” or spiritual love, which is measured out as is most profitable to us, according to the wisdom of God. The light of divine love is never allowed to be quite bright enough for us to be able to see our salvation clearly, nor is the heavenly light kept completely hidden from us, but it is enough light in which to live and work productively, thereby earning “the honorable thanks of God.”
Thus charity keeps us in faith and in hope, and faith and hope lead us in charity. And at the end alle shalle be charity.
Julian was also shown three ways of understanding this light of charity: uncreated charity (which is God’s love), created charity (which is the soul within God’s love), and charity given (which is the virtue of love). This gift of love that is bequeathed to us through the working of grace enables us to “love God for himself, and ourself in God, and all that God loves, for the sake of God.” She marveled greatly at this virtue of love because she realized that even though we live foolishly and blindly here on earth, yet God always beholds our efforts to lead lives of love. And he takes great joy in our good deeds. Julian reiterates that the best way we can please God is by wisely and truly believing that we please him, and “to rejoice with him and in him."
For as truly as we shall be in the bliss of God without end, praising and thanking him, as truly have we been in the foresight of God, loved and known in his endless purpose from without beginning, in which unbegun love he created us. In the same love he keeps us, and never suffers us to be hurt by which our bliss might be lessened. And therefore when the final judgment is given, and we are all brought up above, then shall we clearly see in God the mysteries which now are hidden from us.
The Great Deed
We will not understand how it is that each soul is given plenteous grace to rise again after every fall, or how even the most hardened sinners are converted into saints, until at last we come up to heaven and see in God’s eyes the hidden mystery of the magnificent process of salvation. But we can be sure of one thing: we will see that all has been done by God to perfection. This will be the Great Deed.
And then shall none of us be moved to say in any thing: “Lord, if it had been thus, it would have been well.” But we shall all say with one voice: “Lord, blessed may thou be, because it is thus, it is well. And now we see truly that every thing is done as it was thine ordinance to do, before any thing was made.”
In a world full of so much death, hatred, and darkness, let us seek courage and inspiration from Julian’s Revelations. Let us hope more than ever in God as Life, Love, and Light. Let us not succumb to depression and despair, for that would be to mistrust God. All the time these things are happening in our personal live and in our world, Julian reminds us that, even though we cannot see or feel it, God IS at work. Some day, in resurrected life, we will finally understand. Some day we will, as Julian assures us, “see truly.”
PLEASE NOTE: The quotations above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books), 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.