This week, we’re exploring Julian of Norwich’s Showings. She was a fourteenth century Christian mystic who chose a solitary life in a small cell attached to a church building. People who chose this vocation were called anchorites because they were called to anchor the church and community in prayer. Others were allowed to come to the window in her little stone fortress to receive prayer and counsel. As far we know, Julian lived inside there until her death, through a time in European history that was racked by war and disease that affected her personally.

Besides being the first woman writer in English whose work survives, Julian’s contributions are theologically ground-breaking. Instead of a focus on sin and judgment like the church of her day, her experience of God is marked by love and joy. Sin is real for Julian, but it is not the preeminent reality. Jesus is the preeminent reality, with the mysterious but confident assurance that all will be well. Her experience of Jesus is matriarchal at times, not denying the traditional patriarchal understandings of God, but adding a nurturing and re-birthing dimension to them that helps us understand our resurrection life now, and our life with God as beloved children.

Today’s Bible reading

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as children, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:22-26

More thoughts for meditation

From Julian’s Showings:

God wants us to be enfolded in repose and peace.
Only then shall Christ’s spiritual thirst be satisfied.
This is his thirst:
His desire to love us
Which shall continue until the last day,
When we shall be completely gathered
Into his joy and happiness.
He yearns to integrate us into himself in bliss.
For we are not yet as fully immersed in him
As we shall be.

Christ Jesus is both human and divine.
Because he is divine, he is supreme happiness,
So he was from the beginning,
So shall he be until the ending.
This happiness can neither increase or diminish.
Because he is human,
He, though divine,
Suffered and died out of love to bring us to bliss.
And he takes joy in these deeds of his humanity.
For he told me;
It gives me joy, bliss, and eternal delight
To have suffered for you.
This is the satisfaction he receives from his work.

As Christ is our head,
He is glorious and invincible.
And as he is the body is which we are all conjoined,
He is not yet wholly glorified or invincible.
He still carries that same thirst
Which he had upon the cross.
And he shall continue to suffer it
Until the last spirit has been brought to join him.

Because he yearns for us, we in turn ache for him,
And no one comes to bliss without such an ache.
This thirst springs from God’s eternal goodness
Just as compassion does.
So he is compassionate towards us
And desires to possess us.
But his wisdom and love
Will not allow the end to come
Before the time is ripe.

Suggestions for action

Recall some recent moments when you felt some yearning for wholeness. Were you able to connect your own yearning with that of God yearning for you in turn? Have you had any moments of peace and rest recently? Recall them now and spend a few moments savoring them. See if in your recollection you can make them even more peaceful. And imagine how much more peaceful you might be in the future.

Pray: Thank you, Lord for the glimpses of peace and rest you have provided today. Help me to know your longing for me, and aid my desire to turn to you above all else. In my sorrow give me assurance that you suffer with me, and that eventually we shall be together in complete happiness.