I begin this blog on May 8th, 2013, the 640th anniversary of the visionary experiences of Julian of Norwich. These mystical Revelations completely transformed her life and have the power to transform ours, as well.
Why Julian now? First of all, because she was a fourteenth century woman who was not allowed to preach, teach, or write theology under pain of excommunication, and today, women's voices are still being silenced in many parts of the world. And in the churches. Women like Julian need to be heard.
Secondly, because Julian was the first female mystical theologian to dare to write in the English language, and her words are as relevant now -- perhaps even more so -- as they were when she first set them down on parchment.
Virtually unknown for over 600 years, Julian of Norwich was rediscovered in the early 20th century and has become the mystic for our time. Thomas Merton called Julian of Norwich “one of the most wonderful of all Christian voices” and “the greatest medieval theologian.” Her lucid style and clairvoyance, her frank honesty about her spiritual struggles, and her intimate account of her visionary experiences of Jesus Christ appeal directly to post-modern readers of all ages who seek inspiration and spiritual guidance.
We in the 21st century thirst for a visionary viewpoint that can lead us beyond the scandals and conflicts and polarities erupting within our churches into a divine dimension where we may enjoy our own personal experience of God's love. We seek the encouragement of a reliable witness that God will always be there for us, that we can turn to Christ and ask forgiveness without fear or guilt, that we are always kept safe in God's tender care. We long to discover the true meaning of our lives: to love and be loved. Once we allow ourselves to feel enfolded in love, we may gain greater hope. And this hope, in turn, is able to increase our radical commitment to faith in the ever present Holy Spirit, leading us at every moment.
Julian is our trustworthy guide here. From her own Revelations, she invites us to experience what she herself experienced: God’s “homely dwelling” in our souls. She encourages us to feel totally secure because we are enclosed in God’s unconditional love. While the medieval view of God as "wrathful" turned many people away from the Church, Julian assures us that God is never angry - the "wrath" is all on our side! On the contrary, God's mercy and grace are always available to us. Furthermore, Julian wants us to know that even though our life circumstances may look bleak, or the world seems overwhelmed by sin and evil, eventually “all shall be well” precisely because God promises each one of us: “You shall not be overcome.”
Julian was bold. She was not afraid to ask tough questions about sin, suffering, and salvation. She also knew how to listen intently in contemplative prayer for God’s answers and to be open and receptive to divine “touchings” or insights. Pondering the meaning of her visions and locutions, Julian spent over twenty years writing and rewriting her Revelations. She did not write for priests and nuns, theologians or scholars (although these are now among her most ardent admirers.) By her own testimony, Julian was an “unlettered” woman who could not read or write Latin, the theological language of the Church. So she wrote in Middle English (the vernacular tongue that as yet had no precise spelling) for her “evencristens,” her fellow laity whom she longed to guide toward a deeper intimacy with God. Julian was absolutely convinced that she had been shown the sixteen Revelations not just for herself, but for every man and woman who seeks God in good faith.
Why Julian now? Because Julian bears witness that all God is and all God does is Love. And that Revelation is always relevant.