In the Fourteenth Revelation, Julian of Norwich writes about the continuous work of divine mercy:
But our good lord the holy ghost, who is endless life dwelling in our soul, full securely keeps us, and works therein a peace, and brings it to ease through grace, and makes it obedient, and reconciles it with God. And this is the mercy and the way in which our good lord continually leads us, as long as we are in this life which is changeable.
At this point in her Revelations, Julian has just clarified that God’s mercy is not a divine “change of heart” from fury, nor even a gracious act of forgiveness after we have recognized our sin, asked pardon, and done penance. Now she defines God’s work of mercy as the unceasing, gratuitous outpouring of the Holy Ghost, who is “endless life dwelling in our souls.” This outpouring is like the water that flowed from Christ’s Sacred Heart on the cross. It is the cleansing waters of baptism, of sanctifying grace. This abundant mercy protects us even when we are trapped in our mistakenness. It is a mercy that constantly works to draw us out of the war between our mental afflictions, our inner drives, and our sensual needs. Who knows the willful and contrary “stuff” of our fallen human nature better than Christ does? Who wants our salvation more than the Savior who died to set us free from our own perversity? The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Ghost, will never stop trying to lead us out of our self-defeating ways. This is God’s sublime work of mercy.
For I saw no wrath but on humanity’s part, and that God forgives in us. For wrath is nothing else but a rebelliousness and a contrariousness to peace and to love. And either it comes from failure of strength, or from failure of wisdom, or from failure of goodness, which failing is not in God but is on our own part. For we by sin and wretchedness have in us a wrath and a continuing contrariousness to peace and to love, and that he shewed very often in his loving countenance of compassion and pity.
Again, Julian bears witness to what she experienced: the Savior does not look on us with anger and a desire to punish, but with divine mercy and a thirst to save. This is the loving face of Christ that Julian saw. . . and she could not see any wrath therein. She clearly articulates that the experience of wrath is all on our side, coming from ourselves, not from God.
For the ground of mercy is in love, and the working of mercy is our protection in love. And this was shown in such a manner that I could not perceive the property of mercy otherwise but, as it were, all one in love.
Just as Julian had been taught by Christ that he inspires every grace he wishes us to ask for in prayer -- precisely so that he can give it to us -- likewise the “mercy” we pray for is also offered by God even before we ask. God’s mercy, as grounded in his love, is inseparable from the reality of his existence. It is never conditional on us. Our pleading does not earn God’s mercy any more than our prayer bends God’s will. Still, Julian tells us, we must open ourselves to the experience of God’s mercy by requesting it repeatedly in prayer. Otherwise, we may not be able to accept the great blessing of being healed, protected, and inspired. Prayer, in effect, enables our minds and hearts to receive what God longs to give.
That is to say, as to my sight: mercy is a sweet, gracious working in love, mixed with plentiful pity. For mercy works, protecting us, and mercy works, turning all things to good for us.
May we heed Julian's example and pray for the divine mercy that cleanses, heals, and transforms the brokenness within our lives and in our world.
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.