In our sadly divided nation, torn apart by mistrust, hatred, and horrific acts of violence, we ache to know how it is that Christ will “make alle thing wele” when it is obvious that all is not very well. In her own war-torn, divisive, and plague-filled fourteenth century, Julian longed to know the same thing. In the course of her visionary experiences, she dared to ask Christ on the cross: “‘Ah, good lord, how might alle be wele for the great harm that has come by sinne to thy creatures?’ And here I desired, as far as I dared, to have some more open teaching wherewith I might be eased in this.” In other words, just like us, Julian needed reassurance that even the worst evil could be transformed by Christ’s sacrifice.
Christ was not at all offended by Julian’s insistent questioning. With a loving expression, he answered that “Adam’s sinne was the most harm that ever was done or ever shalle [be done] to the world’s end.” Yet Christ did not want her to focus on that (or any other) devastating sin, but rather behold his own glorious atonement, which is more pleasing to God and gives more worship than ever Adam’s sin was harmful. The Lord wants us to take heed of this: “For since I have made wele the greatest harm, then it is my will that thou know thereby that I shall make wele alle that is less.” In other words, no sin is too terrible to be forgiven by the love and mercy of God (or too trite not to need forgiveness).
Deep within her soul, Julian heard a glorious locution concerning the ways in which Christ makes all things well. “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.’”
Here, Jesus reveals five distinct ways in which he makes “alle thing wele.” First, because he is Divine Power, Christ may do it in the sense that he is able to do all that needs to be done. Second, because he is Divine Wisdom, Christ can do it, which implies that he knows how to accomplish it. Third, because it is the Father’s wish, Christ will do it because he chooses to do so. Fourth, since it is Christ’s own intention to make everything well, he shall do it. And fifth, because he wants to comfort her, Christ promises Julian that she shall see herself that “alle manner of thing shalle be wele.” Julian further understands that where Christ says “I may,” that indicates the Father; where he says “I can,” that is the Son; and where he says “I will,” that is the Holy Ghost; and by the “I shall,” that is the unity of the Blessed Trinity. Finally, where Christ says, “Thou shalt see thyself,” she understood “the oneing of all mankind that shalle be saved into the blissful trinity.” (It should be noted that since the Middle English wele was a form of weal, it meant not only “well,” but the greatest possible happiness and “well-being.” Also, shalle in Middle English conveyed much stronger intent than will.)
Julian understands: “Therefore this is his thirst: a love-longing to have us all together, whole in him to his endless bliss, as to my sight.” Christ’s love-longing is like that of a parent who stands watch at the window, expectantly waiting to have all the children arrive back home at last, safe and sound. Julian further acknowledges that God is continually “making well” not only the noblest and the greatest things, but also the least little things. Nothing will be forgotten.
Yet Julian still laments that “there are many evil deeds done in our sight and such great harms suffered, that it seems to us that it would be unpossible that it ever could come to a good end.” Like us, she considers why we cannot see evil being made well right now. Julian explains why: “And the cause is this: that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low and so simple, that we can not know the high, marvelous wisdom, the might, and the goodness of the blissful trinity.”
Furthermore, we are burdened by sin, which is “the sharpest scourge that any chosen soul may be smitten with.” But Julian affirms that there is always hope for a complete transformation of every person: “by contrition we are made clean, by compassion we are made ready, and by true longing for God we are made worthy.” As we are purified by suffering, both individually and communally, we will develop the minds and hearts to see how all things are being made well—in an ultimate sense. That is Christ’s promise.
PLEASE NOTE: The excerpts above are from the just-published An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich (InterVarsity Academic Press, June, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express 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.