Friday, May 8, 2009

Julian of Norwich, Renewer of the Church, ca 1417

Icon by Robert Lenz

In late medieval Europe, people were dealing with constant outbreaks of plague, peasant wars, and if their physical suffering were not enough, there were plenty of priests and monks to try to convince them God was angry and hateful and sending horrible suffering to punish them.

In the midst of that horror and darkness, there was a woman who had herself imprisoned in a cell, who spent her life praying for and dispensing spiritual advice to the world she declared herself dead to. 

And she shared with the world her visions of God's love and tenderness.

In medieval times, people saw in suffering the wrath of God. Today people see the absence of God in suffering. 
Through a series of visions she received when she was gravely ill, Julian saw that the presence of suffering did not mean God was absent or even angry.

Julian saw Christ suffering with us in his Passion, as well as providing for us the means to overcome our suffering.

"He did not say, You will never have a rough passage, you will never be over-strained, you will never feel uncomfortable, but he did say You will never be overcome. :

In one of her visions, she saw God holding the world in his hands as a tiny, fragile nut. It seemed so insignificant compared to God and yet she was told, "God made it, God loves it, and God keeps it."

Julian also spoke of not only God as our Mother, but Christ as well. She also had an almost universalist outlook and believed that God would in time, save all of humanity.

Julian wrote down her visions and her interpretations of them in what may be the first book written by an English woman, "The Revelations of Divine Love". 

Modern folk are both drawn to her declarations of God's love and tenderness as well as put off by her medieval fascination with suffering. 

Today we don't want to see anything good in suffering. But Christians cannot get around the Cross. Julian adds another dimension to our understanding of salvation.

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