Listening to the Saints – Julian of Norwich: “All Shall be Well” (Part 2)

I previously wrote about 14th century Christian nun and mystical writer Julian of Norwich here.  Welcome to part two.

What use is there in a book written 700 years ago by a woman who lived alone, seeing visions of Jesus which some today would say make her crazy?  I was skimming through reviews of her book on Goodreads and one long review was by a woman whose life was changed by reading this book, she started out an atheist and ended up crying in a church as she connected with her Creator.

There is much value and worth in reading long dead men and women who loved Jesus.

Julian of Norwich writes that in every human is a part that has never sinned. I think she means by this that even as broken, messed up, sinful people we still retain the image of God.  We are not so fallen as to lose the divine spark which all humans have instilled in them.  That said, we are still broken and in need of the forgiveness and restoration available in Christ (which the second quote reveals):

 For in every soul that shall be saved is a Godly Will that never assented to sin, nor ever shall. Right as there is a beastly will in the lower part that may will no good, right so there is a Godly Will in the higher part, which will is so good that it may never will evil, but ever good. And therefore we are that which He loveth and endlessly we do that which Him pleaseth.

Our failing is dreadful, our falling is shameful, and our dying is sorrowful: but in all this the sweet eye of pity and love is lifted never off us, nor the working of mercy ceaseth

Controversially in her day, and certainly controversial in our day, Julian had no qualms about referring to God as “Mother”.  She never did this in such a way as to say God is “mother” rather than “father” but that God consists of both fatherly and motherly traits.

 AND thus I saw that God rejoiceth that He is our Father, and God rejoiceth that He is our Mother, and God rejoiceth that He is our Very Spouse and our soul is His loved Wife. And Christ rejoiceth that He is our Brother, and Jesus rejoiceth that He is our Saviour. These are five high joys, as I understand, in which He willeth that we enjoy; Him praising, Him thanking, Him loving, Him endlessly blessing.

“God is Very Father and Very Mother of Nature: and all natures that He hath made to flow out of Him to work His will shall be restored and brought again into Him by the salvation of Mankind through the working of Grace”

Yet be we not adread of this, save inasmuch as dread may speed us: but meekly make we our moan to our dearworthy Mother, and He shall besprinkle us in His precious blood and make our soul full soft and full mild, and heal us full fair by process of time, right as it is most worship to Him and joy to us without end. And of this sweet fair working He shall never cease nor stint till all His dearworthy children be born and forthbrought. (And that shewed He where He shewed [me] understanding of the ghostly Thirst, that is the love-longing that shall last till Doomsday.)

If female imagery used for God makes us nervous, we can remember that the prophet Isaiah said it was as unlikely for God to forget his people as it is for a woman to forget her child (Isaiah 49:14-15)

14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”  15 Can a mother forget the baby at her breast  and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget,  I will not forget you!

Or we can turn to the words of Jesus in Luke 13:34: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

God is our Creator who sums up all that is good about both fathers and mothers and we are incomplete without this God in our lives.

the place that Jesus taketh in our Soul He shall never remove it, without end, as to my sight: for in us is His homliest home and His endless dwelling

For in Man’s Soul is His very dwelling; and the highest light and the brightest shining of the City is the glorious love of our Lord, as to my sight.

It is often difficult to see God in our lives now.  In my darkest days it is easy to wonder whether God is really there.  We certainly see only partially now, but we move through life with the hope that one day we shall see God face to face:

And at the end of woe, suddenly our eyes shall be opened, and in clearness of light our sight shall be full: which light is God, our Maker and Holy Ghost, in Christ Jesus our Saviour. Thus I saw and understood that our faith is our light in our night: which light is God, our endless Day.

And I saw full surely that ere God made us He loved us; which love was never slacked, nor ever shall be. And in this love He hath done all His works; and in this love He hath made all things profitable to us; and in this love our life is everlasting. In our making we had beginning; but the love wherein He made us was in Him from without beginning: in which love we have our beginning. And all this shall we see in God, without end.

Once again I end with her trust that “all shall be well“.  In the face of a world that is often a mess, filled with sin and death, we hold to the truth that one day it will all be put to rights and made well.

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