Reflection: 11-10


‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

So goes one of the most famous quotes of all time. It was given by Julian (or Juliana) of Norwich. She lived in England during the mid to late fourteenth century and died in the early fifteenth century (roughly a hundred years before Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses). When she was thirty, she suffered a terrible illness for which she was bed-ridden. What is interesting about that is that she prayed for this,

These Revelations were shewed to a simple creature unlettered, the year of our Lord 1373, the Thirteenth day of May. Which creature had afore desired three gifts of God. The First was mind of His Passion; the Second was bodily sickness in youth, at thirty years of age; the Third was to have of God’s gift three wounds.

Apparently, God answered her prayer - so let’s be careful for what we pray! But what is fascinating  to me is that she was even allowed to publish her book, Revelations of Divine Love (which may have been the first book published by an English speaking woman) and was not even debated or labeled a heretic for her views. At the time, and even now, her views would be considered heretical. She believed that God was all loving and not wrathful; that sin was necessary; and, perhaps most shockingly of all, she called Jesus ‘Mother’.

As I was reading this book, in the back of my mind, I wondered how this would have read if Julian was not ‘trapped’ in the six-line story?* That is, if she was not a child of the Greco-Roman reading of the biblical narrative, how different would her understandings of her visions been? At first, I thought they would have been greatly different. However, the further one gets in the book, the more one sees that her understandings of the ‘shewings’ were not really tied to the Greco-Roman way of seeing. More often than not, they were tied to the Celtic way of seeing and, in my mind, more of the biblical way of seeing. For example, on page 85 and 86 she wrote,

God is Nature in His being: that is to say, that Goodness that is Nature, it is God. He is the ground, He is the substance, He is the same thing that is Nature-hood. And He 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 man through the working of Grace...

Nature is all good and fair in itself, and Grace was sent out to save Nature and destroy sin, and bring again fair nature to the blessed point from whence it came: that is God; with more nobleness and worship by the virtuous working of Grace. For it shall be seen afore God by all His Holy in joy without end that Nature hath been assayed in the fire of tribulation and therein hath been found no flaw, no fault. Thus are Nature and Grace of one accord: for Grace is God, as Nature is God: He is two in manner of working and one in love; and neither of these worketh without other: they be not disparted.

And when we by Mercy of God and His help accord us to Nature and Grace, we shall see verily that sin is in sooth viler and more painful than hell, without likeness: for it is contrary to our fair nature. For as verily as sin is unclean, so verily is it unnatural...

Here we see what many ‘post post-modern’ theologians are saying: Creation is good, indeed ‘very good’ and that buried deep within humanity is the Light of God. This light is our true and ‘fair nature’ and sin is foreign to us and all of creation.

Nature, working with Grace, should be leading us back to God because the goodness of Nature is God. However, I believe deeply in my bones, the reason that a lot of people miss this is because of what has been ingrained within us from the Western churches: we and all of creation are lost; we and all of creation are enemies of God; we and all of creation are good for nothing save the pits of hell itself.  It is because of this belief - this way of seeing - that we can not believe that God is in Nature. This is one of the reasons for we have such a low estimate of the environment. We don’t see it as sacred. We see it as something that is to be exploited for our own benefit. We would not be in such a global mess if we took such a sacred understanding of Nature.

Furthermore, we don’t see God in the Other therefore we do not look for God. We hold to the old way of seeing that we are the only ones God loves and all the rest are lost. Not so with Julian:

For the fulness of joy is to behold God in all: for by the same blessed Might, Wisdom, and Love, that He made all-thing, to the same end our good Lord leadeth it continually, and thereto Himself shall bring it; and when it is time we shall see it (pg 38).

‘[The] fulness of joy is to behold God in all’. That is truly a key. It is a key to unlocking many doors in our time. For so long we have been told that it is only within Christianity (and by that we are to understand our brand of Christianity) that God can be found. But, more and more of us are finding God in the Stranger. It reminds me of a story Jesus told about a person who was robbed and left for dead (Luke 10.30-37). A priest happened upon the poor man and crossed the street so he wouldn’t have to deal with the man. Next came a Temple assistant who did likewise (maybe the assistant saw what the priest had done and followed that example). But next came a ‘despised Samaritan’. When he saw the poor man, the Samaritan treated his wounds, rescued him, and took the wounded man to a place of healing. The Samaritan then paid the man’s medical bill and stated that he would pay any incurring costs when he came back. As we know, this story was told to answer the question of ‘Who is my neighbor?’ After telling the story, Jesus asked those listening who the neighbor was in the story. ‘The one who showed mercy’ was the reply.

What is important about that story is that the hero was the ‘despised Samaritan’. It was the ‘Other’ that exemplified the character and nature of God. Not the religious people. They treated the injured man as someone less than human. In other words, God can be found in the least expected place. We are invited to look for God in those around us. We are invited to see that there is no difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’. We are all one. We are all God’s people. Some are further along the journey than others. But we are still on the same journey. Where does this journey take us? Back to God from whence we came. ‘All natures...shall be restored and brought again into Him...He made all-thing, to the same end our good Lord leadeth it continually, and thereto Himself shall bring it...’

To sharpen this point a little further, Julian states,

Truth seeth God, and Wisdom beholdeth God, and of these two cometh the third: that is, a holy marvellous delight in God; which is Love. Where Truth and Wisdom are verily, there is Love verily, coming of them both.

In the Lindisfarne Community, I have heard it said that ‘all truth is God’s truth’. And since that is so, those who are seeking Truth are seeking God. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find God within those people who are seeking Truth.

The last point I want to ponder is Julian’s idea that gender is not an issue with her understanding of God. In fact, she often used different nouns/pronouns within the same sentences when referring to God and/or Jesus. Here are some examples.

Jesus Christ that doeth good against evil is our Very Mother: we have our Being in Him, -- where the Ground of Motherhood beginneth, -- with all the sweet Keeping of Love that endless followeth. As verily as God is our Father, so verily God is our Mother; and that shewed He in all, and especially in these sweet words where He saith: I it am (or ‘It is I’ - J+) (pg 81).

And,

[Our] high God is sovereign Wisdom of all: in this low place He arrayed and dight (prepared - J+) Him full ready in our poor flesh, Himself to do the service and the office of Motherhood in all things (pg 82).

In particular, she saw in the very life and Passion of Jesus the preeminent example of Motherhood.

The Mother’s service is nearest, readiest, and surest: [nearest, for it is most of nature; readiest, for it is most of love; and surest] for it is most of truth. This office none might, nor could, nor ever should do to the full, but He alone. We know that all our mothers’ [bearing of] us to pain and to dying: and what is this but that our Very Mother, Jesus, He -- All-Love -- beareth us to joy and to endless living? -- blessed may He be (pg 82)!

I had never looked at the Passion in this way (and by Passion, I mean the events and suffering of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and crucifixion). But as soon as I read those words from Julian, it made a lot of sense. The image became more clear when I read this passage:

The mother may give her child suck of her milk, but our precious Mother, Jesus, He may feed us with Himself, and doeth it, full courteously and full tenderly, with the Blessed Sacrament that is precious food of my life; and with all the sweet Sacraments He sustaineth us full mercifully and graciously.

Here again, the sacrifices of a mother giving of her own body are but a glimpse of the true Nature of God.

But this way of seeing begs the question: Where has this been the whole of Christians history? How many lives have been discarded by only a Paternal understanding of God? How many more lives could have - would have - been rescued if this type of understanding was allowed to be heard? I would say the numbers are countless. Thank God that they are still made available! Thank God that common folk can find and read them. That we can have our eyes opened in new and exciting ways. That our understanding of God is not limited to one way of seeing - even if we are banished and scolded and told there are no other ways of understanding God. My prayer is that these types of writings, these ways of seeing, will continue to be made manifest. And because of them we will get a better understanding of God.

~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,
Jack+, LC

~~~
*The ‘six-line story’ and the ‘Greco-Roman’ reading refers to Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christianity.

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