The Lady Juliana was born about 1342, and when she was thirty years old, she became gravely ill and was expected to die. Then, on the seventh day, the medical crisis passed, and she had a series of fifteen visions, or "showings," in which she was led to contemplate the Passion of Christ. These brought her great peace and joy. She became an anchoress, living in a small hut near to the church in Norwich, where she devoted the rest of her life to prayer and contemplation of the meaning of her visions. The results of her meditations she wrote in a book called Revelations of Divine Love, available in modern English in a Penguin Paperback edition. During her lifetime, she became known as a counselor, whose advice combined spiritual insight with common sense, and many persons came to speak with her. Since her death, many more have found help in her writings.
The precise date of her death is uncertain.
Her book is a tender meditation on God's eternal and all-embracing love, as expressed to us in the Passion of Christ.
She describes seeing God holding a tiny thing in his hand, like a small brown nut, which seemed so fragile and insignificant that she wondered why it did not crumble before her eyes. She understood that the thing was the entire created universe, which is as nothing compared to its Creator, and she was told, "God made it, God loves it, God keeps it."
She was concerned that sometimes when we are faced wiith a difficult moral decision, it seems that no matter which way we decide, we will have acted from motives that are less then completely pure, so that neither decision is defensible. She finally wrote: "It is enough to be sure of the deed. Our courteous Lord will deign to redeem the motive."
A matter that greatly troubled her was the fate of those who through no fault of their own had never heard the Gospel. She never received a direct answer to her questions about them, except to be told that whatever God does is done in Love, and therefore "that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."
Speaking of her visions of heaven and hell, she said, "To me was shown no harder hell than sin."
Of our response to the sins of others, she said (ch. 76): "The soul that would preserve its peace, when another's sin is brought to mind, must fly from it as from the pains of hell, looking to God for help against it. To consider the sins of other people will produce a thick film over the eyes of our soul, and prevent us for the time being from seeing the 'fair beauty of the Lord'-- unless, that is, we look at them contrite along with the sinner, being sorry with and for him, and yearning over him for God. Without this it can only harm, disturb, and hinder the soul who considers them. I gathered all this from the revelation about compassion...This blessed friend is Jesus; it is his will and plan that we hang on to him, and hold tight always, in whatever circumstances; for whether we are filthy or clean is all the same to his love."
"Glad and merry and sweet is the blessed and lovely demeanour of our Lord towards our souls, for he saw us always living in love-longing, and he wants our souls to be gladly disposed toward him . . . by his grace he lifts up and will draw our outer disposition to our inward, and will make us all at unity with him, and each of us with others in the true, lasting joy which is Jesus."
The following was translated by Liz Broadwell.
And from the time that [the vision] was shown, I desired often to know what our Lord's meaning was. And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: 'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.'A reader has sent the following message, which I reproduce slightly edited.
Thus I was taught that love was our Lord's meaning. And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us. And in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had a beginning. But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end ...
The (Anglican) Order of Julian of Norwich was founded in Norwich, Connecticut, by the Revd John (Julian) Swanson. It is an order for both men and women, with an emphasis on the Divine Office and work and contemplation. It seems to be holding its own in terms of new members arriving and remaining. Their Ordo includes the lessons for every day of the Year for the Daily Office, and the Mass for every day of the year with three lessons each day!. It sells for $6.00, is very useful and may be obtained by writing: The Order of Julian of Norwich, S10 W26392 Summit Avenue, Waukesha Wisconsin 53188. I would add that they are new, they are committed to poverty and thus do not and will not have endowments; and if, at this season of giving you can spare a bit, please send it to them. There was a time a year ago, I understand, when monastic poverty was not only not owning things, but nearly not eating anything either. We are fortunate to have them in the Church. John Julian has produced an annotated translation of Julian's works for devotional reading (Lesson of Love), which is stupendous.
Prayer (traditional language)
Lord God, who in thy compassion didst grant to the Lady Julian many revelations of thy nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek thee above all things, for in giving us thyself thou givest us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Prayer (contemporary language)
Lord God, who in your compassion granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Psalm 27:5-11 or 103:1-4,13-18