I want to wish you all the blessings of Easter hope, and joy, and peace even -- and most especially -- in this time of coronavirus. We may feel isolated from our loved ones, unable to attend church liturgies in person, and anxious about health, loss of jobs and income, and the difficulty of getting food. But in spite of our fears, we venture in our hearts with the women to the tomb and find it empty of death. We hear the words: "He is not here; he has risen!" The fact that Christ is risen means that all our sufferings, all our mourning and weeping, all our deaths are not the whole story. There is always the reality that Christ is alive within us, working through every circumstance in our lives to bring us closer to himself and into his own eternal glory. Christ's resurrection is our certainty that our ultimate destination is eternal life, not death.
As many of you know, Julian of Norwich experienced Revelations of the great sufferings of Christ on the cross. Then, in a moment of transformation, Christ’s face changed from suffering to exquisite joy. Julian became “completely merrie” as she calls it; giddy with elation! Then Christ spoke to her: “Art thou well satisfied that I suffered for thee? . . . It is a joy, a bliss, an endless delight to me that ever I suffered my passion for thee. And if I might suffer more, I would suffer more.” Do we ever think about how much Christ wanted to suffer for us?
As a young girl, Julian of Norwich had sought the “mind of the passion,” by which she meant a deeper compassion in her own mind and heart for Christ’s sufferings and death. She had never expected to hear Christ reveal to her his own mind about why he suffered. From this locution, she became acutely aware that he endured his passion to convince her of his love and of his great compassion for her sufferings. The realization is heart-stopping. What Julian is telling her readers is that everything we suffer is not a loss, not pointless, and will never be forgotten by Christ. He considers our trials and agonies as part of his own. He took them on, even as he took on our flesh and blood. Christ’s suffering became, in a very real sense, his initiation into what human beings endure. And Julian understood that because of Christ’s stupendous sacrifice on the cross, every physical pain, every emotional loss, every spiritual torture, whether small or great, becomes part of the process of our salvation.
In fact, the only existential “mind of the passion” that we can have is through our personal sufferings. Our pain-filled lives, even more than our meditations on the passion, are our truest union with Christ on the cross. And Christ, by suffering within us and for us, radically changes the very meaning of human suffering from incomprehensible tragedy to transformation in glory.
By asking, “Art thou well satisfied that I suffered for thee?” Christ was forcing Julian to examine how completely she accepted his sacrifice on the cross. He was saying to her, in effect: “Are you finally convinced that I loved you this much?” It took Julian years to fully appreciate the magnitude of Christ’s gift and the depth of his compassion, much less to be able to accept it with all her heart.
During this Easter season, let us meditate on how much Christ longs to show us his love. Allow him to reassure us that all our sufferings, like his own, will be turned into joy. Perhaps that will give us courage to endure this pandemic with a measure of patience and foresight. We might even be able to give thanks in advance for the great work of salvation that the Lord is accomplishing in us all. Happy Easter!
Note: Quotations 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.
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All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.