In the First Revelation, as Julian of Norwich beheld Christ on the cross, she also longed to see Mary, his mother. But by her own accounting, she did not Mary “in the flesh” as she saw Christ, but rather “ghostly, in bodily likeness.” This implies that Julian saw Mary appear suddenly and distinctly in her imagination, without any effort on Julian’s part to conjure her. Julian was granted a glimpse into the beauty of Mary’s soul and the holy awe in which she contemplated God:
God showed me in part the wisdom and truth of her soul, wherein I understood the reverent beholding in which she beheld her God, that is, her maker, marveling with great reverence that he would be born of her who was a simple creature of his making. For this was her marveling: that he who was her maker would be born of her who was made. And this wisdom and truth, knowing the greatness of her maker and the littleness of herself that is made, made her say so meekly to Gabriel: “Lo me here, God’s handmaiden.”
In this meditation, Julian is keenly aware that Mary was, like herself, “a simple creature,” uneducated, and without any earthly nobility. Yet Julian understood truly that Mary was more worthy than all other creatures God had ever made, because she was conceived without sin. All other creatures are therefore below her. And above her is “nothing that is made but the blessed manhood of Christ, as to my sight.”
This Christmas season, let us take time away from the hustle and bustle to enter into the stable – the silent stability of daily meditation – to join with Mary and Joseph, in “reverent beholding” of God in the flesh of a newborn baby. May we be graced to see that Christ is breaking through the darkness to reveal Divine Reality that is always and everywhere at work – even and perhaps especially when we cannot see or feel it. Christ is our Light who transforms the meaning of everything from sadness to serenity, from fear to courage, from helplessness to hope.
Let us open wide the manger of our hearts to receive this newborn God-Child, knowing the greatness of our maker and the littleness of ourselves. May we also “marvel with great reverence” that the little Lord Jesus is being born anew "of us" this very day through our own love and compassion, mercy and kindness, laughter and friendship. And may this be our marveling: that he who is our Maker is born of we who are made! And in this "wisdom and truth" may we always be ready to say: “Lo, me here, God’s servant” in whatever life situation we find ourselves. Then our Christmas will itself become a light to help dispel the despair of our discordant 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.
As we approach Christmas Eve, let us consider that in the first Revelation, Julian of Norwich had a “ghostly” or “spiritual” vision of the Virgin Mary at the moment she conceived the Savior. Julian glimpsed “the wisdom and truth” of Mary’s soul as the young girl marveled that God “would be born of her who was a simple creature of his making.” Julian realized that Mary was, like herself, uneducated, and without any earthly status. She observed Mary’s “reverent beholding” of her Creator. “For this was her marveling: that he that was her maker would be borne of her that was made.” Julian understood that it was Mary’s recognition of her very “littleness” that made her tell the angel Gabriel, “Lo, me here God’s handmaiden.” But because the Creator chose her, Mary was more worthy than all the other creatures below her. And above her there was “nothing that is made but the blessed manhood of Christ, as to my sight.”
This tells us a lot about how Mary marveled as she beheld her Son in her arms after his birth. Again she marveled that God “would be born of her who was a simple creature of his making.” Again she reverently beheld her Creator and marveled that “he that was her maker would be borne of her that was made.”
Nakedly, Plainly and Homely
Julian was certain that the Lord is greatly pleased whenever a soul comes to him like Mary: “nakedly, plainly, and homely”; that is, simply, humbly, and intimately [like home], full of eagerness to offer him everything. This Christmas, let us consider that God longs to be born of us, into every aspect of our daily reality with all its complexities, joys, and sorrows. Let us approach the newborn Christ Child in Mary’s arms “nakedly, plainly, and homely” -- like the poor shepherds, without anything to offer but our love. Then perhaps we, too, may realize that he who is our maker is being born of us who are made.
Then, contemplating Mary and the Child, we may whisper Julian’s own heartfelt prayer of wonder, adoration, and joyful surrender:
“God, of thy goodness, give me thyself. For thou art enough to me, and I may ask nothing that is less that may be full worship to thee. And if I ask anything that is less, ever will I be wanting. But only in thee do I have all.”
I wish you all a blessed Christmas, full of the love of Christ in your hearts!
PLEASE NOTE: The excerpts above are from "An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich" (InterVarsity Academic Press, 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.