Whenever I lead a Retreat with Julian of Norwich, I am invariably asked: "How do we apply what Julian tells us about God in the fourteenth century to our vastly different lives in the twenty-first century?”
Julian tells us that God loves us unconditionally – that God is not angry with us, even for our grave sins, but has pity and compassion on us for what we must inevitably suffer as a result of our misdeeds. She affirms again and again in her Revelations that she never saw Christ on the cross “wroth” – or full of anger. On the contrary, she envisioned Christ full of longing to forgive us with a boundless abundance of mercy, and to heal us with his overflowing grace.
The Real Problem
The real problem is not the six hundred and forty years between
Julian’s Revelations in 1373 and our reading them in 2013. The message of divine love is the same in every age. The real problem is our post-modern lack of daring to believe.
Why do we hold back our total commitment to faith, yet we so want to “hear” the gospel and ache to “believe” what it’s telling us? What are the deep spiritual and emotional scars we carry that somehow prevent us from allowing God to love us unconditionally? Why are we so reluctant to give ourselves
totally to a divine love relationship? Are we afraid of what God might ask of us? Or are we even more afraid of living as Julian is convinced we should live: as “resurrection people” – already sure of our salvation?
It is not God who set limits on love. We do. And that, perhaps, is the most important gift Julian has to give us: encouraging us to live our lives enfolded in God’s love -- experiencing God as our very clothing, our truest skin. And she urges us repeatedly to live totally secure in God’s love (one of her favorite Middle English words is seker) – and to trust that we are always one of God’s most precious beloved.
Lo! how I loved Thee!
“Lo! how I loved thee!” Christ spoke to Julian during her vision of him dying on the cross. And Julian insists that everything Christ said or revealed to her was meant equally for her evencristens, her fellow Christians . . . indeed, for everyone ever created. So, “Lo! how I loved thee!” is exactly what Christ speaks to each and every one of us. We just don’t allow ourselves the time and stillness to hear it. Or the total trust of a child to believe it.
All of Julian’s teachings on prayer, on the transforming value of every suffering borne in patience, on the tender Motherhood of God, and on God’s unfathomable but very immediate love, mercy and grace, are meant to enable us to make the leap – the childlike jump! – into the arms of God who is both Father
This attitude of what Julian calls homely intimacy did not come easily for her. By her own testimony, she had many doubts, persistent questions, and a deep awareness of her own sinfulness. She also admits to being slothful or lazy about her prayer life at times. And yet the Revelations she received from Christ on the cross convinced her that God is not the God of wrath and retribution, but the God of unimaginable love and complete forgiveness. We simply have to dare to believe that this is so.
And that would make Julian’s Revelations more relevant than anything else.
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.