In the Twelfth Revelation, Julian of Norwich writes:
Oftentimes our lord Jesus said: I it am, I it am. I it am that is highest. I it am that thou lovest. I it am that thou likest. I it am that thou servest. I it am that thou longest for. I it am that thou desirest. I it am that thou meanest. I it am that is all. I it am that holy church preacheth to thee and teacheth thee. I it am that shewed myself before to thee.”
This litany of holy names that Christ pours out of his glory in this revelation to Julian, not once, but “oftentimes,” evokes an endless stream of ways in which he is present to the human mind and heart. Various scholars have translated Julian’s seemingly awkward syntax, “I it am,” as “I am He,” or “It is I.” However, Julian must have deemed her exact words important, since she repeats them again and again. Thus it seems imperative to honor and retain her transcription of the precise phrases she understood Christ to say. What is the it to which the I of Christ refers? To consider this, we must recall Julian’s First Revelation in which she understood that:
The trinity is our maker, the trinity is our keeper [protector], the trinity is our everlasting lover, the trinity is our endless joy and our bliss, by our lord Jesus Christ and in our lord Jesus Christ. And this was shown in this sight and in all. For where Jesus appears theblessed trinity is understood, as to my sight.
The it, therefore, is the Blessed Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The it is also Yahweh, the eternal “I AM” revealed to Moses. And wherever Jesus appears, God, three-in-one, is understood. Thus the it also refers to Christ himself, he who is highest, he whom Julianloves, he whom she personally and intimately likes (and in whose image and likeness she is made). Christ is he whom Julian serves and for whom she longs, he whom she desires, the one her heart “means” when she thinks or speaks of God. Christ tells Julian that he is “all” she could possibly long for, love, or ever need. He is the one whom “holy church” preaches to her in the gospels and teaches her to know, love, and serve. He is the one who has been showing himself to Julian all this time.
Earlier in her Revelations, Julian had understood that Christ is our clothing . . . the sea ground of our very existence . . . the Creator of the simple hazelnut in her hand that symbolizes all that is made . . . the still “point” out of which all that is comes forth and to which it returns. Christ has revealed to her: “See, I am God!” Now, he reiterates the numerous ways in which he is power and presence to her. Because Christ is both God and man, the it applies to every divine and human activity of Christ as creator, protector, and lover that Julian could possibly imagine.
He might have added: I it am who enables you to live, and move, and have your being (Acts 17:28). I it am who walks and runs and sings and dances and grows up within you, laughs with you, cries with you, teaches you, listens to your heart, speaks to you in the innermost recesses of your mind, guides and encourages your every choice. I it am, your creativity, your knowledge, your courage, your gentleness, your loving heart, your truthfulness. I it am, your capacity to envision and enjoy a sunrise, to cherish the tenderness in your beloved’s eyes, to delight in your child’s smile or funny word, to work and serve others unselfishly. I it am, the thrill of achievement and the hard-but-necessary lesson learnt only through failure. I it am present in your deepest worry, fear, agony, betrayal, or shame, and who sustains you through the darkest nights of body and soul. I it am comforting you in tragic loss, tending you in sickness, protecting you in times of danger, and sending you help from the most unlikely source just when you need it most. I it am who sustains you even when you fall into sin. I it am close by who picks you up, forgives you, embraces you, and sets you on the path again. I it am, your awareness of being alive. I it Am Who Am. . . Christ Incarnate, long ago, now, and forevermore: your creation, birth, life, death, and salvation. By becoming human, Christ took on all these variations of human thought and feeling, joy and suffering, longing and love.
Indeed, Julian writes:
The number of the words [Christ spoke] passes my wits and my understanding and all my powers, for they were in the highest number, as to my sight. For therein is comprehended I cannot tell what. But the joy that I saw in the shewing of them surpasses all that heart can think or soul may desire. And therefore these words are not declared here. But every man, after the grace that God gives him in understanding and loving, receives them in our lord’s meaning.
The Divine Names that Christ reveals to Julian are numberless, as are his manifold works in us. Julian is at a loss to count them. . . or to recount them. She cannot declare in writing all that she heard and understood that Christ showed her. It is beyond what “heart can think or soul may desire.” It is beyond what any “poor creature” such as Julian could possibly record. She simply attests to her inexpressible joy in realizing Christ’s manifestations. Like John the Evangelist, she understood that “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (Jn 1:3). The Divine Nature becomes incarnate in and through all creation and all creation is the eternal extension of Christ. I it am is, in truth, all that exists.
In her great desire for her readers to understand this Revelation, Julian encourages “every man” (and by extension, every woman) to receive these words and make them their own, as the Lord will personally give them grace to do so. In each individual’s life, I it am will mean something entirely unique, a personal revelation. It is up to each one of us to set aside time every day to be still and silent and consider the different ways in which Christ's words, "I it am" manifest themselves in our own lives. Then we will discover we are never alone, but always embraced by the love of Christ.
Please Note: Excerpts above and my translations from the Middle English are from my book: Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books), copyright © by Veronica Mary Rolf.
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.