As we approach the month of May, traditionally dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, let us consider three ways in which Julian “saw” Mary during her Revelations. In the First Revelation, Julian was granted a “ghostly” likeness of Mary; that is, an instantaneous appearance arising in her imagination. Mary was young, not much older than a child, small and meek, and in the position of prayer that she had taken at the time of her conception of the Savior. Julian enjoyed a glimpse into the beauty of Mary’s soul and the holy awe in which she contemplated God:
Also God shewed 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.”
Julian was struck by the utter humility of this maiden. She was just “a simple creature,” like Julian herself: uneducated, unlettered, without any earthly nobility. Yet Julian understood that Mary was more worthy than all other creatures God has ever made, because she was conceived without sin. All other creatures were therefore below her. And above her was “nothing that is made but the blessed manhood of Christ, as to my sight.” Mary was God’s perfect creature.
During the Eighth Revelation, Julian contemplated Mary as a mother, standing at the foot of the cross, suffering with her Son.
For Christ and she were so oned [united] in love that the greatness of her love was the cause of the magnitude of her pain. . . . For as much as she loved him more than all others, her pain surpassed all others. For ever the higher, the mightier, the sweeter that the love is, the more sorrow it is to the lover to see that body in pain that he loved.
In the Eleventh Revelation, Christ allowed Julian to envision Mary as a noble lady, rejoicing in heaven.
And for the marvelous, high, and special love that Christ had for this sweet maiden, his blessed mother, our lady Saint Mary, he shewed her highly rejoicing, which is the meaning of this sweet word, as if he had said: “Wilt thou see how much I love her, that thou might rejoice with me in the love that I have in her and she in me?”
This time Mary appeared in Julian’s imagination “exalted and noble and glorious and pleasing to Christ above all creatures.” Julian was certain that Christ wants it to be known that everyone who “likes” (an even more intimate form of the word “love”) and delights in him must also truly “like” Mary, with all the connotations of delighting in everything about her.
Julian was not disappointed that she was not allowed to enjoy Mary in a bodily vision, as she did Christ. In all her Revelations, Julian saw no one else in a “ghostly” likeness but Saint Mary. Julian was deeply touched that Christ had confided to her his own love for Mary as a young maiden, as a suffering mother, and finally, as an exalted and noble lady in heaven. In revealing to Julian his great love for Mary, by extension Christ was showing his great love for Julian. And for us.
PLEASE NOTE: The quotations above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books), 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.