Love, Longing, and Pity
The love, longing, and pity of God for souls has been a theme of
the Revelations since Julian witnessed Christ’s great thirst on the cross. “Therefore, this is his thirst: a love-longing to have us all together, wholly in himself to his endless bliss.” This
is the divine longing of the lover to be united with the beloved in the Song of Songs: “For I am faint with love” (Sg 2:5).
Near the end of her Revelations, Julian returns to this theme and recognizes three forms of God’s own love-longing (in
which human beings also share). First, God longs for us to know him and love him more and more, and if we do, it will be greatly to our profit. Second, God longs to bring us to heaven, removed from all the pains and sufferings of this life. Third, God longs to fill us with bliss on the Day of Judgment. And not only shall we receive the same bliss that souls before us have had in heaven, but also we shall receive a new bliss, which plenteously shall flow out of God into us and fulfill us. And these are the good things which he has ordained to give us from without
beginning. We shall be given resurrected bodies, reunited with our perfected souls, and we shall finally see the fulfillment of all Christ’s promises. These sublime gifts are still hidden in God because, until the end of time, the human creature is not empowered or worthy to know the privities of salvation.
In this we shall see truly the cause of all the deeds that God has
done. And, furthermore, we shall see the cause of all things that he hath suffered [permitted to happen]. And the bliss and the fulfillment will be so deep and so high that, by wondering and marveling, all creatures shall have so great a reverent dread for God--overpassing that which has been seen and felt before—that the pillars of heaven shall tremble and quake.
Julian becomes apocalyptic in her certainty of receiving a complete answer to all her persistent questions about sin, the value of suffering, and the Great Deed that will “make alle thing wele.” She believes firmly that everything good will be accomplished in the Parousia, when, in the words of the Book of Revelation, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rv 21:1). She has been granted a glimpse of this exquisite glory in her visions. In a true and mystical way, she has experienced not only the “mind” of the passion but also the “mind” of the resurrection! Now she seeks to make this
reality an ardent hope for her readers, against all present sorrow.
Julian assures us that the trembling and reverent dread of seeing the Face of God in heaven will not involve any terror; it will be a “trembling and quaking for greatness of joy, endlessly marveling at the greatness of God the creator, and at the littleness of all that is created.” This is the same wonder Julian had experienced at the littleness of the hazelnut that appeared in her hand at the very beginning of her Revelations. She stresses to the reader, as she must have stressed to those who came to seek her counsel, that God wills that we know, and our own natures need to know, that this ultimate fulfillment will truly happen.
Furthermore, we should ardently desire the sight of it and the completion of it. Thus we must cultivate reverent dread that is “the beautiful courtesy that is in heaven before God’s face.” For just as God will be eternally known and loved in heaven, far surpassing the way we know and love him on earth,
so much more will he be reverenced, high above the still-imperfect reverence we give him now. For Julian, “reverent dread” is the complete and intimate contemplation of divine power, wisdom, and love; the satisfaction of the heart’s desire to behold the Face of God.
Imagine what Christians we would become if we lived every day, no matter the circumstances, with Julian's ardent desire and absolute certainty that everything we experience, suffer, rejoice in, love, and give thanks for will find its culmination in the bliss of heaven?
PLEASE NOTE: Quotations above are from Chapter Twenty-four of Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013, 2014), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the written 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.