Julian knows from her own experience that while we are sojourners
on this earth, “we have in us a marvelous mixture both of wele and
of woe." We hold the resurrected Christ in our hearts, but we are also marked by the “wretchedness and the harm of Adam’s falling." We are, in a very real way, “double” in our own existence.
In our living and dying with Christ, we know we will be everlastingly protected, and by his most gracious inspirations we are encouraged to trust in our salvation. Yet because of Adam’s falling, we are so deeply “broken in our feelings” that our minds and hearts have become darkened and “so blind that we can scarcely take any comfort." However, in our purest intention, at the core of our being, we still dwell in God, trusting in his mercy and his grace.
Christ's Werking in us
And this is his own werking in us, and in his goodness he opens the
eye of our understanding—by which we have sight, sometimes
more and sometimes less, according to which God gives us the ability to receive. And now we are raised into that one [given more sight],
and now we are allowed to fall into the other [given less sight].
Julian is keenly aware of the constant oscillation of our minds, our moods, our views, from the highest joy to the most wretched despair. And because of this medolour, or mixture, she admits we can scarcely know, at any given moment, what state of soul we are in, much less the state of any of our evencristens.
All we can do is simply assent to God when we feel him, “truly willing to be with him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength.”
Acts of love such as these lead us to hate our negative thoughts, our conflicted desires, and anything that could be an occasion of sin, either spiritual or physical. Yet even when we receive spiritual sweetness, it passes, and then “we fall again into blindness and so into woe and tribulation in diverse manners."
But then is this our comfort: that we know in our faith that by the
virtue of Christ, who is our keeper [protector], we never assent
thereto [to sin]. But we complain against it and endure it in pain and in woe, praying until the time that he shews himself again to us. And thus we stand in this medolour all the days of our life.
How wise Julian is! She has no illusions that because of her extraordinary visionary experiences, her life is, or could be, any different from the lives of the rest of us. This mixture of “wele and woe” is our common lot as long as we are in this human condition. But Christ wants us to trust that “he is continually with us."
Julian sees this is so in three ways:
He is with us in heaven, true man in his own person, drawing us up; and that was shewn in the ghostly thirst [Christ had on the cross].
And he is with us on earth, leading us; and that was shewn in the third revelation, where I saw God in a point.
And he is with us in our soul, endlessly wonning [dwelling at home], ruling and governing us; and that was shewn in the sixteenth revelation . . .”
Our Spiritual Work
Throughout her Revelations, Julian reminds us again and again that it takes determined and consistent spiritual work to hang on to hope in the midst of doubt and fear and grave temptations to despair. We must always be on our guard against our "inner demons" -- those strong tendencies to negative thoughts, the painful rehearsing of past sins, the subtle (or not-so-subtle) doubts that Christ could really be with us here and now -- in this particiular crisis, in this painful setback, in this rejection, in this suffering.
We must always remember -- as Julian would counsel us to do -- that Jesus promised to be with us "always, to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). And that means the end of every age! Sometimes, the most courageous thing we can do in challenging times is simply to hang on to hope: that "all shall be well" somehow, someway, in a manner we cannot possibly imagine right here and now. Such radical hope becomes our spiritual lifeline to Christ. In fact, we begin to realize that Christ IS that lifeline. Truly, he is our one and only sure hope.
PLEASE NOTE: Quotations above are from 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.