Life, Love, & Light
Some of you may wonder why I entitled my podcast series on the Revelations of Julian of Norwich: Life, Love, & Light. The answer is simple. I love this trilogy! They are Julian’s own words to describe her understanding of the Blessed Trinity. Near the very end of her Revelations, she tells us:
I had a partial touching, sight, and feeling of three properties of God, in which the strength and effect of all the revelations stand. And it was seen in every showing . . . The properties are these: life, love, and light. In life is marvelous intimacy, in love is gentle courtesy, and in light is endless being.
By God’s “life,” Julian means his familiarity, gentleness, and enduring closeness to us in the ground of our being, out of which he will never come. By God’s “love,” she understands his all-embracing and courteous care for our souls. And by God’s “light,” she sees his everlasting Being that will never change or alter its expression toward us. She recognized this trinity of properties as the one goodness of God, to which her mind wanted to be united and her heart wanted to cleave “with all its powers.” She marveled at the sweet feeling of unity she gained from realizing that our human reason exists in God. She appreciated, with much greater depth after many years of contemplation, that this reason “is the highest gift that we have received, and it is grounded in nature” – our human nature.
In addition to our reason, she writes:
Our faith is a light, naturally coming from our endless day that is our father, God; in which light our mother, Christ, and our good lord, the holy ghost, lead us in this mortal life . . . And at the end of woe, suddenly our eye shall be opened, and in clearness of sight our light shall be full, which light is God our maker, father and holy ghost in Christ Jesus our savior. Thus I saw and understood that our faith is our light in our night, which light is God, our endless day.
Julian further identifies the source of our light as none other than “charity” or spiritual love, which is measured out as is most profitable to us, according to the wisdom of God. The light of divine love is never allowed to be quite bright enough for us to be able to see our salvation clearly, nor is the heavenly light kept completely hidden from us, but it is enough light in which to live and work productively, thereby earning “the honorable thanks of God.”
Thus charity keeps us in faith and in hope, and faith and hope lead us in love. And at the end alle shalle be love.
Julian was also shown three ways of understanding this light of love: uncreated love (which is divine love), created love (which is the soul within divine love), and love given (which is the virtue of love). This gift of love that is bequeathed to us through the working of grace enables us to “love God for himself, and our self in God, and all that God loves, for the sake of God.” Julian marveled greatly at this virtue of love because she realized that even though we live foolishly and blindly here on earth, yet God always beholds our efforts to lead lives of love. And he takes great joy in our good deeds. Julian reiterates that the best way we can please God is by wisely and truly believing that we please him, and “to rejoice with him and in him.”
For as truly as we shall be in the bliss of God without end, praising and thanking him, as truly have we been in the foresight of God, loved and known in his endless purpose from without beginning, in which uncreated love he created us. In the same love he keeps us, and never suffers us to be hurt by which our bliss might be lessened. And therefore when the final judgment is given, and we are all brought up above, then shall we clearly see in God the secrets which now are hidden from us.
We will not understand how it is that each soul is given plenteous grace to rise again after every fall, or how even the most hardened sinners are converted into saints, until at last we come up to heaven and see in God’s eyes the hidden mystery of the magnificent process of salvation. But we can be sure of one thing: we will see that all has been done by God to perfection. This will be the Great Deed.
And then shall none of us be moved to say in any thing:
“Lord, if it had been thus, it would have been well.” But we shall all say with one voice: "Lord, blessed may thou be, because it is thus, it is well. And now we see truly that every thing is done as it was thine ordinance to do, before any thing was made.”
Let us take these reflections by Julian of life, love, and light into our hearts -- to strengthen our faith, encourage our hope, and deepen our love. That we might become bearers of God's own light, love, and light to our dark and saddened world!
NOTE: Excerpt above and translations from the Middle English are from my book, Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books. 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf
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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.