In her last Revelation, Julian understood that “our soul may never have rest in any thing that is beneath itself.” Furthermore, she realized that when the soul rises above all creatures in a state of contemplative prayer, it cannot even rest in beholding itself. It must set its concentration on the vastness of God’s presence within the soul. “For in man’s soul is God’s true dwelling,” and “the highest light and the brightest shining of the city” within that soul is God’s glorious love.
And what could make the soul happier than to know that God “delights in us, the highest of all his works”?
For I saw in the same showing that if the blessed trinity might have made the human soul any better, any fairer, any nobler than it was, God should not have been fully pleased with the making of the soul. But because the trinity made the human soul as beautiful, as good, as precious a creature as it might make it, therefore the blessed trinity is fully pleased without end in the making of our soul. And God wills that our hearts be mightily raised above the deepnesse of the earth and all vain sorrows, and rejoice in him.
Julian takes great comfort in this final Revelation that God dwells in her soul. And she is certain that God wants us all to take the same comfort through the practice of “beholding.”
This was a delectable sight and a restful showing that is without end. And the beholding of this while we are here, it is very pleasant to God, and a very great benefit to us. And the soul that thus beholds, makes itself like to him that it is beheld, and oneth it in rest and in peace by his grace. And this was a singular joy and bliss to me that I saw him sit, for the security of sitting showed endless dwelling.
This type of contemplative prayer (waiting on God, in stillness, without asking for anything) gives God great pleasure and the soul great profit. Such silent prayer forms the soul into a truer image and likeness of the very One who is being contemplated. Julian is especially delighted that she saw the Lord seated in her soul (rather than standing or moving), because sitting symbolizes the familiar rest one takes at home, in complete contentment, peace, and love. God is not going anywhere. It is we who rush about, too busy with our lives and too distracted by our sufferings to take time to experience his inward presence. He thirsts for us to “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Ps 46:10). And if we come to him with our labors and our heavy burdens, he promises to give us true rest (Mt 11:28).
In spite of all the anger, hatred, and violence in the world, we, too, can find rest in contemplating the goodness of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ that is transforming all suffering into eternal honors. Julian’s fourteenth century was also a violent, tumultuous era. Nevertheless, Julian could rejoice on a daily basis that God’s true dwelling is forever in the human soul. As Christ said to his disciples: “the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21). Let us learn from Julian how to behold that divine reality and unconditional love within our souls. Then we ourselves may become sources of light, healing, and peace for the whole world.
PLEASE NOTE: Excerpts above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
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All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.