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Julian of Norwich – Feast Day 13th May

In May 1374, Julian, thirty years old, is dying. As a crucifix is held before her, she has a vision of the suffering face of Jesus in his agony of Love. A series of fifteen revelations follow, recorded in a short version, and expanded, through meditation and reflection over many years, into a longer version. Sometime after the revelations she became an anchoress, or a hermit living a life ‘dead to’ the outside world. Her residence was more a suite of rooms rather than a ‘cell’, but the enclosure was the sacrifice, and a sign of her commitment to God. Her vocation was to pray for all people, and to offer spiritual counsel to any who might seek it. Julian lived this life for about thi

rty-five years. She died in 1417. Remarkable in itself is the fact of three surviving manuscripts: the work of a woman in the late middle ages writing, with great literary style, in English, and quoting scripture and Holy Church, and teaching with remarkable humility what her revelations have to say to us about God and Jesus. These works are known as ‘Revelations of Divine Love’.

She is preoccupied in her mediations about many theological and spiritual issues. She does not have unlimited insight into the ways of God, but expresses the wisdom that God reveals to us what is good for us in God’s time, out of his great courtesy and compassion. God understands our human condition, and does not attach blame to us when we sin. Such is His, as distinct from our, judgement. She was aware that her heritage as a believer in Holy Church which in her time spoke vividly of hell and damnation, [ as is obvious from the stained glasswork of the era, or from Dante’s circles of hell and purgatory ] was in tension with her repeated affirmation that ‘I saw no anger in God’. This is consistent with her understanding of God’s unlimited love, a God who would suffer more if he could, for our sake.

The well-known act of hope and trust in God is expressed in the memorable lines ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. [Revelations, Ch. 27] She acknowledges the reality of sin, as a felix culpa, or ‘happy fault’. But she queries how all things can be well - which is her basic and underlying conviction - when there are sinners who will be lost, ‘as taught by Holy Church’. She is answered by God with: ‘what is impossible to you is not impossible to me. I shall keep my word in all things, and I shall make all things well’. [Ch 32].

A consideration of Julian’s revelations leaves the meditative reader with a renewed awareness of the great love-longing in God for each human person.

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