Today, May 8th, is Julian’s Feast Day—the day she received her Revelations of Divine Love from Christ on the cross. Let us pause to thank her for her presence in our lives and for her exquisite writings. And let us listen to what Julian is telling us in this challenging time of the Coronavirus: to live our whole life in love with Christ!
But he wills we take heed thus: that he is the ground of all our whole life in love, he is our everlasting protector, and mightily defends us against all our enemies that are extremely dangerous and terribly fierce towards us.
This theme of Christ as “the ground of our whole life in love” colors and highlights every aspect of Julian’s theology. Christ is not the unapproachable “other,” the distant God-man whose anger must be appeased by every extreme means possible. He is, in a very real sense, what we are, in our flesh and blood and bones, having taken on the fullness of our human nature, save sin, in order to help us combat the suffering of temptation and guilt, and to show his sublime peace and love. Christ knows exactly how our minds work, what our failings and compulsions are, and longs to teach us how to reorient our attitudes and desires toward the highest good. And he has endured every possible physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual agony we go through. This is the Christ Julian knows to be at the foundation, the very ground, of our being. This is where the “godly will” resides, that never completely wills sin: in our Christ-redeemed nature.
And this is the supreme friendship of our courteous lord, that he keeps us so tenderly while we are in our sinne. And furthermore, he touches us most intimately, and shows us our sinne by the sweet light of mercy and grace.
Julian is convinced that even when we are in the midst of harming ourselves or others, and seem to be abandoning God, he does not abandon us. Instead, he whispers in our heart and mind, moves our conscience to feel remorse, and leads us to ask forgiveness, guiding us by his own “sweet light of mercy and grace.” However, Julian is acutely aware that when we sin, “we see ourself so foule,” that we think (indeed, we assume) that “God is wroth with us for our sinne.” Here, Julian is describing her own sense of personal guilt, with a keen understanding that Christians persistently harbor a wrong view of God as being wrathful.
She explains that though we may remain convinced that God must be angry at us while we are in sin, it is precisely his ever-present mercy and grace which enable us to turn back to him, confess our failure, and ask forgiveness. Christ gathers us up like his prodigal son (or daughter) and encloses us in the royal robe (the restored innocence of our baptism), calls his servants to kill the fatted calf and prepare a banquet (the Eucharist), and invites all the saints to join in the celebration: “because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found” (Lk 15:32). What Julian is describing here is not only the parable of the prodigal son, but also the never-ending story of the exorbitant love of the prodigal Father.
And then our courteous lord shows himself to the soul merrily and with the happiest possible expression, with friendly welcoming, as if it had been in pain and in prison, saying thus: “My dear darling, I am glad that thou art come to me. In all thy woe I have ever been with thee, and now see for yourself my love, and let us be oned in bliss.” Thus are sins forgiven by grace and mercy, and our soul honorably received in joy, exactly as it shall be when it comes into heaven, as often as it comes back to God by the gracious working of the holy ghost and the power of Christ’s passion.
In contemplating Christ’s mercy and grace in never leaving us alone, even in our sin and suffering, Julian understands how “all manner of thing” is already being prepared for us in heaven, “by the great goodness of God.” This is so true that, whenever we feel ourselves “in peace and in charity, we are truly safe.” And we are, by implication, already saved.
Julian reports exceptionally intimate terms in this passage, such as “My dear darling” and let us “be oned in bliss,” more often employed between earthly lovers than between the sinful soul and God. She remembers the depth of personal feeling Christ showed her as he conveyed this Revelation about sin. He was not only joyous, friendly, welcoming; he was also deeply loving and all-embracing. His ardent desire for unity is that of a lover for the beloved, not in a sexual sense, but in that of complete spiritual oneing. Just hearing words like these spoken by Christ in one’s heart would be enough to convince the soul of his unconditional love.
During this time of global pandemic, fear, anxiety, and isolation, let us open our hearts to the Lord who longs to forgive, heal, reassure, and comfort us so tenderly. Let us trust “mightily” (as Julian would say) that nothing can separate us from the loving care of God—not sickness, sadness, or the loss of those we love. On the contrary, Christ is completely “in with us” in all our suffering, constantly strengthening us to bear our cross. All he asks is that we turn to him and ask for help. Then he will embrace us and tell us: “My dear darling, I am glad that thou art come to me. In all thy woe I have ever been with thee, and now see for yourself my love, and let us be oned in bliss.”
May Julian bless you abundantly on this, her very special day! And please join us in making “A Virtual Retreat with Julian of Norwich”—in the Life, Love, & Light podcasts: https://lifelovelight.buzzsprout.com/
Note: Quotations and excerpts above are from Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books, 2013). Copyright © by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved.
Today, the 8th of May, is Julian’s Feast Day, the day she received her Revelations of Divine Love! Let us rejoice that Christ chose to show his sufferings on the cross as well as his transcendent joy and bliss to her in such a visceral way, with words of wisdom and comfort that echo through the ages. And let us give thanks that in spite of persecutions and the burning of books after her death, both Julian’s Short and Long Texts were spared, and copied, and so bequeathed to us for our own time. I think if Julian were to say anything to us on her special day, it would be this:
And thus I understood that any man or woman who willingly chooses God in this lifetime for love, he may be seker (certain) that he is loved without end, with endless love that works in him that grace [of choosing God]. For he [God] wills we recollect this trustfully, that we are as seker in hope of the bliss of heaven while we are here as we shall be in sekernesse (certainty) when we are there. And ever the more pleasure and joy that we take in this sekernesse, with reverence and humility, the more it delights him.
No matter how many trials and sufferings we may have to bear; no matter how dark and dangerous the world situation may look; no matter how little we understand who we really are and why this or that is happening in our lives; and no matter how long we may have to wait for Christ to reveal himself to us, we must never give up certain hope of the bliss of divine union that awaits us! We must hope and trust “mightily” that Christ is always at work in us, and in those we love, and in the world situations; hope and trust that “alle shalle be wele” because God is pure goodness and love; hope and trust that even though we may be distressed or tempted (and often fail), we are never less loved by God; hope and trust that we may be as “certain in hope of bliss in heaven while we are here as we shall be certain when we are there.” As Christ said to Julian: “Thou shalt not be overcome.” And she wasn’t.
Happy Feast Day, dear Julian, from all those who love you! Please pray for us!
PLEASE NOTE: Excerpts above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books, 2013), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
These revelations were shown to a simple creature that could [read] no letter the year of our Lord 1373, the eighth day of May . . .
Thus Julian begins the account of her astounding Revelations of our Lord on the 8th of May, 1373. Today is Julian’s Feast Day, when we recall her long and difficult life and her inspired Revelations – both of which I have written about in Julian’s Gospel. What do her Sixteen Revelations really mean? Julian asked that same question:
And from the time that it was shown, I desired oftentimes to know what was our lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in ghostly understanding, saying thus: “What, wouldest thou know thy lord’s meaning in this thing [the whole revelation]? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who shewed it to thee? Love. What shewed he to thee? Love. Wherefore shewed he it to thee? For love. Hold thee therein, thou shalt know more of the same. But thou shalt never know therein other without end.” Thus was I taught that love is our lord’s meaning.
Julian understood that all her Revelations were about God’s unconditional, eternal, abiding, indwelling, and (we might dare to say) utterly outrageous love for each and every one of us. Julian eventually understood this divine love as a Mother’s love that conceives, carries, gives birth in blood and water, suckles, nurtures, teaches, guides, protects, disciplines (when we are in need of it), comforts, and forgives over and over again – a Mother’s love that will never give up on us.
During Julian’s eleven hours of seeing Christ on the cross – suffering, thirsting, dying and finally in transfigured glory – Julian attests repeatedly that she never saw Christ angry, wrathful, or condemnatory. Only loving. She had watched him suffer horrendously for our sins, yet she felt no blame, only Christ’s thirst for our love. At times, she found this divine love quite overwhelming, almost unbelievable (as we also do). She had been taught that God would only forgive her after she was sorry for her sins and had done the prescribed penances. Christ showed her that it was his love that brings forth the very desire in our hearts to pray, to seek forgiveness and healing, to ask for some special grace. All Christ asks in return is her (and our) loving response.
Some have been fortunate in life to be loved unconditionally from the moment of birth. Others have no idea of what such a love might mean. It’s a love almost beyond belief. We cannot comprehend it could be so. We cannot “think” ourselves into believing it. We can only leap into it, as a child leaps into its mother’s arms. We can only trust our whole heart to it, as true lovers trust one other. We can only abandon ourselves to it and dare to assume this unconditional love in all our thoughts and attitudes about God, and in all the joys and sorrows of our lives. It takes a long time to get used to being loved that much.
But gradually, we begin to experience it, become surprised by it, accept it, and thrive in it. We feel ourselves being bathed and healed and renewed constantly within this all-embracing love. We fall into love with God and, as Julian tells us, we will never have to “come out” of this love. It is our true birthright, our “homely home.”
All of Julian’s Revelations on this very day, 641 years ago, were about love in many different forms. Her entire gospel is “a lesson of love,” a lesson we will continue to learn for all eternity: how much we are LOVED!
Happy Feast Day, Julian – and may you bless us all abundantly in love!
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.