JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2017 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM|| THE CLOISTER  || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER|| CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY || Translated, with permission, from don Divo Barsotti, C.F.D., Tre Mistici e il loro messaggio (© Vicenza: La Locusta, 1980), pp. 17-61.
 

THE OPTIMISM OF JULIAN OF NORWICH:

A CONTEMPLATIVE ESSAY ON THE SHOWING OF LOVE

DON DIVO BARSOTTI
 
 

Julian and
        Christ, by Alan Oldfield, 42K

The illustration is taken from the painting of Julian's Showings in St Gabriel's Chapel, Community of All Hallows, Ditchingham, Suffolk.
Painted by the Australian artist, Alan Oldfield, it was earlier exhibited in Norwich Cathedral; photographed, Sister Pamela, C.A.H.
© Reproduced by permission of the Community of All Hallows and the Friends of Julian.


THE OPTIMISM OF JULIAN OF NORWICH


{W HO was Julian of Norwich?

We know only a little about her. What we do know is because of a book she has left us, The Showing of Love . We know too that about ten years after the composition of her book she was still alive because a certain Margery came to find her in her anchorhold in Norwich's church of St Julian.

We can suppose that she was first a  Benedictine nun of the monastery connected with that church and that she came to live apart from her community, as a recluse, in a doorless cell, with a window giving onto the church's altar. She lived thus for decades in solitude, in silent contemplation, in humility and in profound joy.

Julian could have had a certain amount of learning, but that culture would not have been gained through education, apart from that in a convent. We know really so little about her, yet the simplicity, the elegance of her expressions, are enough to assure us of her nobility. Thomas Merton, speaking of Julian of Norwich, writes, ' Rather than 'Sister', one calls her the 'Lady Julian' '. One can suppose that she would have dictated her book. Yet the dictation would have been such that the secretary would not have been permitted to change even a comma. Her language has the personal seal of a soul, of a personality.

In 1373, when Julian was thirty, she had asked three things of God: to have the grace of a vision of the Passion of Christ, because she wished to learn to love him more; to have a mortal illness, because she wished to suffer like her Lord. These two graces, she said, she asked conditionally, according to God's will. The third grace she asked was without any condition: that God would grant her repentence of her sins and the grace to love him.

After this prayer, she fell ill and was about to die. The priest was sent for and came with an acolyte, carrying a cross. The priest administered the Last Rites; the cleric remained holding the cross before the dying woman. Julian gazed on it. Then the Crucifix came alive and she had the vision she had desired.

*

One could have had no vision in all one's life that would be as right as that one in that moment when she was in agony. All were praying round her as they watched her dying. But she was taken up into her vision. The carved and painted face of Christ became alive; from his forehead fell drops of blood, she remembers, like the ' scales of a herring'. They fell continually. For five whole hours the vision lasted and the vision renewed itself in fifteen different ways. She contemplated the face in one way, and in another; now she saw it bloody, then changed into sadness and pallor; now she saw it dead, then, following its death, she saw it transfigured into glory.

It seemed to be a bodily vision. She said that bodily visions count for little. But the bodily vision was immediately accompanied within her by a spiritual Showing. The Showing of the Holy Face put her suddenly in contact with the entire framework of Christian theology, so that she could see Adam and all Creation, and the end even of the story of salvation and the glorification of the elect. She saw the Virgin as she conceived the Word, 'like a young girl, ' she said, 'most simple and gracious '. She saw her next at the foot of the Cross. She then contemplated her in her eternal glory. In one sole act, which was the dying on the cross, in the mystery of the Passion of the Lord, all time was contained, all creation is present. In her Showing Julian lived it all. The dimensions of the mystery of the cross are the dimensions even of the universe. This she saw now in these spiritual Showings which accompanied and illustrated her bodily vision.

There were Fifteen Showings. Some were of sounds, and these fall into a another kind of vision, different from the first. First there was the physical Showing, which presented itself to her as she gazed upon it. Of others she would write ' it seemed to me'. One was of a dream and in the dream she had the impression that the devil had come to strangle her. She startled awake and smelled the stench of sulphur. She asked those about her whether they smelled the burning stench. They had seen nothing, they smelled nothing. Then she doubted the dream that she had had. But it was confirmed in the succeeding Showings until the last one, on that same day, in the evening. While the first Showing had lasted from four until nine in the morning, in the afternoon of that same day, the last and most brief Showing was only to confirm all that she had received. And then nothing.

*

All Julian's life was spent contemplating upon, deepening, interiorizing, the teaching that the Lord had given her in that Showing. She only lived in the context of that experience. She had no other Showings, nor knew another one, except what deepened this unique gift, except to enter more into the mystery which the Lord had revealed to her. Julian had no more need of God's particular grace, her vision being sufficient to nourish her for the rest of her life. In the book called the Showing of Love she wrote that the Fourteenth Showing of the Lord and the Servant came to her only after fifteen years of continuous meditation. She had to wait almost twenty years, meditating continually and praying, before she could penetrate its teaching. Thus her Showing of Love is the contemplations of a soul who has lived alone and only in the presence of what the Lord had revealed to her. In them Julian was extremely reticent in speaking about herself.

Instead, while she writes about the highest things and leaves us breathless, she speaks of these as a humble woman might speak of the most obvious and common things. If she had experienced a great wonder, a certain sense of awe in confronting God who had revealed himself to her when she was thirty, this book was written twenty or thirty years later. She therefore lacks the sense of marvel and wonder that would have arisen from the novelty of the experience. During those years her mind was made one with mystery, breathing that atmosphere, living in that light, finding herself in his world. The simplicity of the writing, the serenity and the humility of the words, is not just due to English reticence; it is more a witness to the action of grace in a soul that is truly royal.

Her book of the Showing of Love is shaped as coherent and profound theological teaching. Blessed Julian's theology is excellent because it derives entirely from a mystic experience which she has deepened with forty years of contemplative living. She already had the unity of that experience, giving to it, through her continuing prayer, a largeness and a profundity that is unique in all the history of Christian spirituality. Indeed, Julian of Norwich can teach as much as the university-trained theologians who impart the public revelation of the Church. In her their public revelation is not negated; she remains always most humbly devoted to the Church, affirming many times that it is not acceptable ever for any teaching or any revelation to be against that taught by the Church and she draws theological doctrines only out of the vision she has had. Yet one must study the Mystics if one wishes to do Theology. Evagrius said: ' Pray? You are a theologian. You do not pray? You are not a theologian .' True theology is prayer animated by the Spirit which can examine even the depths of God. It is vain to assume that theology can be studied outside of prayer.

To be faithful to Julian we must examine what is the centre from which radiates all her theology. Many discuss the nature of God, from Creation; she examines him from his Passion. The 'Suffering Christ' is for her at the centre. And in Christ all becomes clear to the soul who contemplates. Julian discusses this vision of Christ and in this vision she sees all; humanity, creation and glory, sin and grace, all the 'history of salvation'. All in just this mystery. The truth is not an abstraction, but the translation of a present mystery. It is not solely about a past event, because if it were only a translation of a past event, Christianity would be just history and not theology. Theology must be the conceptual translation of a presence, a conceptual translation of a mystery, in which I participate.

Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love has a greatness and an importance even for the renewal of Catholic theology. Julian gives us a theology which is truly manifest. In its coherence and in its unity, all proceeds from a unique centre. There are not various treatises here, there are not separate theses; it is all one simple insight, yet one (in which she sees the face of Christ in his Passion) emanating, as with concentric waves, from an entire and whole system of theology, and which gives us the knowledge of God, of his nature, of his works, an understanding of Creation and of Time, and an understanding of humankind, in whom all is ingathered.

Slowly, while she meditates, her vision deepens and broadens. The simple insight and vision of Christ becomes, for her, a theology which embraces all and responds to all problems, resolving them in a united and deepened way, until she finds in Love, the reason for all, the beginning and the end of everything. The centre from which this theology emanates is Christ. But what is Christ for Julian? It is precisely the insight that she has of Christ that can justify, in this simple vision, the knowledge of God and humanity, a theology of Time, a theology of Creation. Who is this Christ then whom she contemplates? Christ is, for Julian, Everyman, eternal, one, in whom is God and Humanity, in whom is God and his Creation, in whom is all Time.

Not even St Thomas Aquinas is so profound. Before the treatise on God in his intimate nature, in his intimate life, traditional theology tends to treat of God as Creator, then the sin, then . . . . For theology follows a preconceived scheme. And from such an understanding of God how can the mystery of Creation be gained? God as God is apart from Creation. St Thomas inserts into a planned outline his various theological treatises, which do not seem to come from a unique and revealed centre. The forced synthesis of Scholastic Theology does not have the coherence of a book like that of the Blessed Julian.

With this I do not intend to diminish the greatness of St Thomas, but I do mean to say that the intuition of Blessed Julian is more profound and simple than are the texts of St Thomas. There cannot be for us the possibility of 'knowing' God who mediates grace, except through infused contemplation, from an action of God which comes through your inner potential and which makes you penetrate into his mystery. And St Thomas, shortly before his death, had an extraordinary mystical experience. In the simplest intuition of the truth that was his contemplation, in an instant only, he penetrated the Christian mystery; such that all he had written in many years of teaching and research, seemed to him to be only a paltry thing.

For God cannot be taken as the object of discussion or research. He is himself whom you seek and you possess and it is in that that you know him. You may speak to God, but of God you cannot speak; for in that God becomes a 'he', the God of whom you speak then becomes an idol; no longer being the God who created you, the God who is closer to you than you are to yourself.

She has left us a little book and an immense one, but she says everywhere that it all began with the vision of the 'Suffering Christ'. And all begins with him because the Christ is the unity of all. To see all this we ought to consider attentively what she says about herself, what she says about sin, what she says about the Last Judgement.

*

There are precisely three great arguments upon which the largeness of her theological vision are based, God the Creator, ourselves as creature, and the Redemption and final glory.

She speaks of one who holds in a hand all Creation as if it were a little hazel nut. The Creation is not in the hand of God, but in that of the created one. Jesus the Child carries the Cosmos like a ball in his hand. But even the ball which the Child Jesus carries is a little larger than a nut. It is a ball with which he can play. One cannot play with a nut. The Creation is not only not a ball like that in the Child Jesus' hand, nor is it in the hand of any man, but it is in Julian's hand: we are is at the centre because humanity is Christ. Julian is not different than Christ. All men and women are one sole Man, and the unique man is Jesus Christ.

And the Creation is not greater than is man. Nor is it man who is made part of Creation, it is Creation who is made a part of man, because it is desired for him, because the human soul is God's dwelling place. Creation cannot contain God, but the human heart can contain him. He has made our heart his dwelling, he has made humanity large enough for God. He has created us to raise us to himself. The end of the beginning is how much is of the divine Incarnation; and in how much of the divine Incarnation do we find himself. Blessed Julian does not seem able to distinguish Jesus from Adam. This is a great insight recalling Franciscan, especially Bonaventuran, theology. Certainly Blessed Julian's insight can not accord with Dominican, Thomistic theology, according to which the Incarnation of the Word is only in consequence of sin. We can not be without Christ. But if we cannot be without Christ, we are already one with God. We are not a part of a whole, rather Creation and Time are part of Man.

*

Therefore in Christ's Passion all time is already made one, and in Christ all Creation is present. And from that come the doctrines which are not easily grasped when first encountered and read in Blessed Julian. For example, her teaching concerning sin. It is clear that if man is one and is Christ, that sin should remain forever apart from man, not touching him to the root. If all men and women are one and Man is Christ, it is clear that the Final Glory is assured and ' All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well ', as Blessed Julian repeatedly tells us. As Man is one, so is one his essential will, and that will is good.

Creation, our world of time, finds its meaning in these words, which are so simple, and yet whose simplicity is so splendid, of Julian. 'And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well'. Evil does not exist, therefore sin cannot exist. ' Sin is nought ', she says. The ultimate reality of all is Man, but man is that who is Christ.

Westminster Cathedral Manuscript

The world is in the hand of man. 'And in this he showed a little thing, the size of a hazel nut , lying in the palm of my hand, it seemed to me, and it was round as a ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding and thought, 'What may this be?' And it was answered generally thus, 'It is all that is made'' I marvelled how it might last, for I thought it would have fallen suddenly to nought for littleness.

And I was answered in my understanding, 'It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it, and so have all things their being by the love of God'. In this little thing I saw three qualities.

And then, ' This little thing that is made, I thought, it might have fallen to nought for littleness'. She cannot hold it. How marvellous that comment, how simple, making inadequate all metaphysical treatises which speak of the insufficiency of the creature and telling us at the same time of the relationship, the monstrous fragility, that the created being has with his Creator! Nothing by itself, yet Creation has value, weight and substance because of the infinite love of God. But how other than through Christ? Creation is through man and man has no other root than God himself. Man has no other foundation than God. 'Deus meus firmamentum meum '. Blessed Julian reuses the Psalmist's verse.

Thus man can carry in his small hand all of Creation. The love of God does not end in Creation but in man. It is because of him that all is done and he is the greatest of all. Creation itself is just as an object, a little toy, in his hand. For Blessed Julian man is not a part of Time, man is not made part of Creation. Man alone is willed absolutely by God. Man is the centre of all. God himself was made man and died for him. Man is the heart of the universe, and thus is greater than all Creation; in fact, he holds it in his hand.

*

While Creation is not large enough for God, man is made large enough for God. Julian says in Chapter 68: ' And then our Lord opened my ghostly eye and showed me my soul in the midst of my heart. I saw the soul so large that it was like an endless room, and also as it were a blessed kingdom , and by the condition that I saw in that I understood that it is a worshipful city'.

All Creation is as a hazel nut; the soul of man instead is as large, 'as it were an infinite world'. Here there is a certain proportion between man and God if man is capable of grasping it. Things are inverted: the language is of the greatest simplicity. Creation is nothing; the soul is an infinite world. If man can gather God, he gathers into himself all Creation and all the Church. Man is not just one part of all the Church, instead each soul carries within itself all the Church, in each soul is all the 'Holy City '. The soul of man is not less than the Heavenly Jerusalem. Each of us is all the Church. In fact if all the Church were not close to man, even though that man were in Paradise he would be lost, because then he could find his salvation only outside of himself. But if God, who is Immense, lives in the soul, even the entire Church could be within him. The Church cannot be greater than God. And the soul of man already possesses God! The Trinity already makes his dwelling in the soul of man!

Thus the soul is the place where God makes himself present, where he makes all mystery present, and is real from beginning to end, because Creation is already seen in man's hand; and for you this is all that has been created and at the end all shall be in you and for you. Man is the centre and end of all divine action.

Certainly, while man lives here below, in the visible world, he is part of Creation and of the Church. But in the truth of the mystery, the Church is either close to man or is unknown to him. The soul of man gathers to itself the glorious City; the Church of the Saints lives in the heart of each one because God himself has placed his dwelling there.

*

Julian writes in the Parable of the Lord and the Servant, 'The place that the Lord sat on was simply on the earth, barren and desert, alone in the wilderness. . . . But his sitting on the barren and desert earth is thus to mean, That he made man's soul to be his own city and his dwelling place, which is the most pleasing to him of all his works. (Chapter 51).

But greater than all else, in its literary simplicity is the affirmation in Chapter 54, ' Our soul is made to be God's dwelling place. And the dwelling of our soul is God, who is unmade'. And this stupendous comment written in Chapter 81, 'Our good Lord showed himself to his creature in different ways, both in heaven and on earth, but I saw him take no place but in man's soul '. That therefore is the place of God. And thus she even repeats, ' He showed himself several times as sovereign as it was said before. But principally in man's soul he has taken his dwelling place and his worshipful city. Out of this worthy seat he shall never rise or leave without end. Marvellous and solem is the place where the Lord lives' (Chapter 81). Perhaps never before, in language so humble, has been so sung the glory of man.

It is understandable that a soul who sees such grandeur feels all created things as nothing, understands nothing of all Creation and all Time. One act of man which unites him to God, is worth more than all of history. What would be the history of the world in relation to man, such as would unite man to the One who is Absolute? Julian's language is not metaphysical, but Julian only defines man in relation to God. Man, in fact, is only great because he is Christ. And no man is separated from Christ who is not separated from all humanity. Much more than all the other mystics Julian insists on saying that the Lord had not given to her the grace of the vision solely for herself. What God had given to her, he gave for all; for whom she writes (Chapter 9). She is required to make known all the Showings she has received. None of us is to be excluded. But that which is for all is truly for each one, and what God has given to only one is for all. Each man in some way identifies with Christ and all men are only one Christ, just as each man is inseparable from all, just so is he inseparable from Christ himself. Such knowing she gives of herself! ' In me are all persons of humankind in general, or such of all those who shall be saved' (Chapter 36). Each of us is all, not only all, but of all; in fact, as she said, the City which is the Church is not outside each man, but each one of us contains it in ourself.

'In me is all humankind'; 'In the eyes of God all humanity is only one man and only man all humankind'. (Chapter 51), she explains. Elsewhere, 'For in mankind who shall be saved is comprehended all, that is to say, all who are made, and the maker of all. For in man is God. And God is all', she had written in Chapter 9. This humankind is each man and the man is Christ. For this Julian identifies Adam to Christ in Creation. ' For in all this our good Lord showed his own Son and Adam as but one man ' (Chapter 51).

The solidarity of men and women, their unity in Christ, but also the unity of all and of all in each, is expressed many times in a language that is so simple and straightforward.

She tells us the Parable of the Lord and the Servant. The Lord is in a desert place; near him stands the Servant, with torn clothing, ready to do his will. He runs to carry out the will of his Lord and falls. His fall is the Fall even of Man. The Servant, Blessed Julian states, is Christ. He did not become flesh in the fullness of time. The Incarnation began with the Creation itself of man. The Creation is part of being raised to the heavenly order, but that raising to the heavenly order can not be achieved except in Christ. Already Adam is inseparable from Christ, and Adam is already mysteriously Christ.

*

From this derives the contingency of sin. Saint Ireneaus' conception of Time most conforms with the Showing of Blessed Julian. Sin does not seem something absolute, but an imperfection that shall be overcome. From the moment of the Creation of man already in some way the Word has been made flesh, Christ keeping for eternity that humanity which he has assumed. If in fact all humankind is Christ, from beginning to end, and if even the Fall of Adam is in some way inseparable from the Fall also of the Son of God (Chapter 51), it embraces the doctrine, which seems so new and disconcerting, of a will in man ' which always wholly holds to that of God' despite the Fall, and the doctrine of God's approval of that ' constant will' (Chapter 53).

Humanity, one in Christ, has in Christ who resumes all of humankind, from the beginning to the end, one single essential will, which remains faithful to God. And in that will are the chosen saved. And that is one of the greatest teachings of Blessed Julian. At the end of Creation man is one with Christ. Christ, in fact, is willed before sin. This unity implies 'a Keeper ', that has the same efficacy as divine Love, an efficacy that is greater than the will of man by himself to ruin the work of God. ' And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well in the end'.

Blessed Julian's Showing is seen in the 'Restoration' of Origen, of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, of Saint Maximus; it is similar to that held in his last years by one of the greatest theologians, Karl Barth. It does not negate the gravity of sin; Blessed Julian teaches expressly that sin is most grave, and more terrible even than hell, and above all that that sin itself is wrong to God, because God was before Adam's sin. But she does not see it. Man is one: he is Adam and Adam is Christ. God has willed man, man whom he has willed is his Son become flesh. Man is not thus separable from the Incarnation. In the mystery of the Incarnation man is already all of Humankind and all Humankind is one Christ. Now, if all Humankind is one sole Christ, not only is sin a ' deficere ab esse', a ' turning away from being' on the metaphysical level, but Julian also fails to see it anywhere as real. From this arises for her a grave problem; the Christian should hate nothing more than sin; he should hate it more than hell; and 'yet she never succeeded in finding it', she says. How to reconcile the traditional Chruch doctrine, to which she desires to remain absolutely faithful, with her Showing? She sees the effects of sin, but she does not see sin.

The Incarnation preceded sin, all humankind truly is one with Christ, and Blessed Julian recognises two wills: one a sensual will - she writes - and the other an essential will. Humankind, one in Christ, cannot, from its root, be separated from God - and thus has a will that remains kept in God; but if sin compromises that unity in reality, dividing its nature, then men possess also another superficial will, with which it is possible for a person even to sin. And above all man's sin is not 'mortal' sin. We cannot take lightly the language of Blessed Julian. A similar doctrine is found in the dialogue of Seraphim of Sarov with Motovilov.

Sacred Scripture seems to say otherwise. St John in his First Epistle speaks to us of unsinfulness as appropriate to Christian perfection. That is so much as to ask in what measure in relation to these things that the single person can be separated from humankind. If the humanity of Christ, who is Keeper and Saviour, in whose measure man is made part of this humankind, then is he Keeper and Saviour through the very fact that that humanity is one in Jesus Christ who is Son of God. In what measure can then the single person be separated from humanity? Blessed Julian's teaching can in some way recall that modern theological teaching, in which sins, even though very grave, may bring death, but do not condemn one to that death, if the person remains in the Church and lives in his Communion. Nonetheless the Excommunicate can experience a total separation. This is the common teaching. Yet even though the sinner experiences a brokenness he can remain in faith and hope. Such can sustain your link with Christ, that you are a member of his body. But when even all visible links are shattered with the Church, how could you also break all links to humankind? The problem of death! Julian does not resolve it. She explicitly teaches about hell, but does not resolve the problem. Perhaps death, as it separates the soul from the body, so separates the sinner from the one body of redeemed humankind? In that other mode the faithful will that what is the will of Christ, of the one Man in whom all men are one, can come at least for those who would be damned? Man is 'Keeper' in that will in so far as that man is one with Christ. Julian senses the problem and is disturbed by it, but does not resolve it. She senses the need to keep hold of the truth of hell and the truth that 'all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well'.

The unity of all men and women in Christ is achieved at first radically as in baptism, with belonging to humankind. In fact the Word of God has assumed human nature and all men in some way are found in him. They are, with him, one whole Humankind. Thus Christ is not part of humankind, and humankind rather what belongs to him. Christ who has made one in himself our human nature, had even given to all of humankind one fundamental will. That will has its root in nature. Thus in God is one single will, while the divine persons are also Three.

The fundamental will of this humanity that is in Christ is one, which cannot ever be changed by sin, according to Blessed Julian: there is a double will in man, but only one essential will of all in the measure that are all one in Christ. For this man, while he remains in that unity, cannot but be saved. The will which sins not is the will of Christ, of the one living Christ, as Saint Augustine says, across all the ages. If he has effectively assumed humankind, the live of Christ, of 'Christus totus,' 'All Christ ', is the life which began with Adam in the Earthly Paradise and which will end with the end of the world. It is one man who lives. The life of Christ has the dimensions of all Time, all History. The Incarnation began in the Creation; Blessed Julian teaches this expressly when she identifies Adam with Christ . Thus are united to the others who are not living that there is one same life; that which is of one and that which is of the other.

*

There is no other true quality for the person but that only of love. The quality of each man in the unity of Christ is in his relationship of love. This is the unique quality which distinguishes us from him and amongst us in the 'Oneing of Christ. If then a man could deny that quality of love which distinguishes him but also sustains him in unity with nature, he would tear himself from that unity, would separate himself from that unity and that would be the point in which he would himself express 'the will' of man. But if all man is one man and the Incarnation begins with the Creation even of Adam, it comes about that we are all in some way created once at the beginning. We are all already in Christ as we shall be at the end and from that he posseses us all to preserve us even to the end. Jesus is the one heaven of men. Julian hears: ' Look up into heaven'. 'No', responds Julian, 'I will not look up to heaven, my heaven is in you', and her gaze remains fixed upon the face of Christ at the Passion. There is no other heaven for man or woman than Christ. The life of each one of us cannot be other than our relationship with him. As with God, in Christ, the relationship is total, exclusive, with each man, with all men; thus the lives of each of us cannot be other than in relationship with him. Man cannot seek another heaven, if he does not choose that Christ: his eyes, his face. Christ is truly a man for the others, he is the Saviour Jesus. His being is pure relationship with all men. If he does not save, he is no longer Jesus, the Saviour of all.

Upon him men lean, from him they receive life, he is man's only heaven. The joy of Jesus is in having suffered. 'Then Jesus, our blessed Saviour, replied: 'If you are paid, then I am paid, being for me a joy, a gift, a happiness to have suffered death on the cross for your love, and if I could have suffered more I would'' (Chapter 22). Jesus finds the joy his, the rest that he gives his. God finds his pleasure in man whom he has created and whom he loves. What is lacking, is if he lacks the same joy. As he is with the joy of man, so is man with his. If I lack God, what is lacking to God is his life. Julian speaks of Christ, of God made man: ' An indescribable joy it is to have suffered death on the cross for your love, and if it were given to me to suffer more I would suffer more '. All is there. Whatever thing he would reserve for himself would be for him a torment, would be suffering he could not give, being impeded from giving it to each. Naturally in this vision Julian has her theology of sin. This ought to be studied more attentively, because from this doctrine comes the conclusion of her work and her true message, ' And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well' (Chapter 28). She says this many times and in a magnificent manner. God transforms evil into good; in this God is manifest, in the fact that not only is that he is love, but that he is the omnipotence of love and can transform and truly transforms evil into good, making of evil itself a condition for the greatest showing of love.

Sins themselves became the occasion of a great Showing of good and through that of greater glory through the man himself who had sinned. The sin thus is not a limit to glory, becoming even a greater cause for joy because it brings about a deeper recognition of the allpowerfulness of Love. Our joy cannot be but for God; not that for which we are, but that for which God was, is and will be one day for us.

At the end only love will overcome. As love has created all, so will love glorify all; as love was at the beginning, so will it be at the ending. There is nothing but love. A love divinely efficacious, which converts evil into a greater Showing of divine good.

Julian writes ' Our sins even will become for us a motive of glory, our wounds shall be as worships!' She is moved in that light with such ease that she leaves us breathless and in awe.

Yet even so spoke also St Bernard. We do not rejoice because of ourselves, but we rejoice in God. And our sin becomes for us a cause for the experience of divine goodness, of that divine mercy which already more glorifies us. But that which glorifies us is not our virtue but the love of God, and the divine love in us is so much more shown than that vain love of our weakness and our sins. Sins thesemves in God's hands become a means for greater glory, for by them we will have of God a deeper experience.

Our present life is one of being protected, defended, kept in the heart even of the Divinity. God is in our heart, but we are also in the heart of God and cannot get out of it, whatever thing we might do. He holds us well hidden in the nearness of his heart. There is no Mystic who speaks in such a language while at the same time being so simple, so serene and so marvellously deep as the Blessed Julian.

Nothing perhaps is more beautiful than how Julian writes regarding this 'Keeping ' of God. Human life is hidden in the secret jealousy of an eternal and infinite love. 'Though our Lord showed me that I should sin, by me alone is understood all. And in this I conceived a soft dread, and to this our Lord answered, 'I keep you most surely'. These words were said with more love and sureness of ghostly keeping than I can or may tell. For as it was earlier showed to me that I should sin, just so was the comfort showed now of sureness of keeping for all my even Christians .' (Chapter 37). And she adds: 'In our depths we never consent to sin, through the virtue of Christ our Keeper ' (Chapter 52). 'And thus I saw surely that it is readier to us and more easy to come to the knowing of God, than to know our own soul. For our soul is so deeply grounded in God, and so endlessly treasured that we may not come to the knowing of it until we have first knowing of God, who is the Maker to whom it is oned ' (Chapter 56).

If the true life, the real life, of man is internal, this is less closely the depth of man than it is the abyss itself of the love of God. Man does not know that in God and the knowledge that man has himself identifies himself with that knowledge that man has of infinite love. For this is the major obstacle which separates God from his Creation which he loves and to which he would be ' all Love and will do all' (Chapter 73).

But Julian truly knows the love of God, and his message is thus a message of joy, the most pure and extraordinary that a mystic could have transmitted: 'But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that I needed, answerd by this word and said, Sin is needful, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well' . . . But I saw not sin. For I believe it had no manner of substance nor any part of being, nor might it be known, but by the pain that it causes. And this pain is something to my sight, for a time, for it purges and makes us know our selves and ask mercy. For the Passion of our Lord is comfort to us against all this. And so is his blessed will. And for the tender love that our good Lord has to all those who shall be saved, he comforts us readily and sweetly, meaning thus, 'It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain. but all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well'. These words were showed most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to anyone who shall be saved ' (Chapter 27).

We ought to blame ourselves, said Blessed Julian, but in God is no blame. In God is no rage, in God is no anger, in God there is only peace, only love. God condemns no one. We condemn ourselves, to the extent that we separate ourselves from him. ' Then were it a great unkindness of me to blame or wonder at God for my sin, since he blames me not for sin. And in these same words I saw a high, marvellous secret hid in God, which secret he shall openly make, and which shall be, known to us in heaven. In which knowing we shall truly see the cause why he suffered sin to come. In which sight we endlessly have joy ' (Chapter 27).

*

From the message of emptiness and of nothing of The Waste Land, to the message of love, of salvation and of glory of the Four Quartets, we find the pilgrim road of T.S. Eliot repeating that of Dante Alighieri between the Vita Nuova and the Divine Comedy, and in which it is Julian of Norwich who becomes his Beatrice of Florence. For it is Julian who can solace him in the midst of his vision of rose and of fire. The Anglo-American poet has rediscovered God. He has recognised what was taught five centuries earlier by the greatest English Mystic, that ' All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well '. Modern man can overcome the abyss of his damnation with the faith that God gave to Julian and which Eliot proposed for his contemporaries. We know that the fundamental theme of the Four Quartets is Time. The curse of Time, that it is above all death, comes to be cancelled out by the mystery of the divine Incarnation. The Incarnation witnesses that, above all who live in time, he is as a pure presence of eternity. ' History' says the poet, ' is a drama of moments without time'. 'Eternity, falling into time, breaks every moment' (Serpieri), but only the saint knows it and realizes it. As in a new 'Divine Comedy', T.S. Eliot, from a hell of human care, from a desolate land without light, with great fatigue, slowly moves towards a world of innocence and joy. From the branches of apple blossom the laughter of children is the image of purity and joy, ' It is spring in the midst of winter'.

In Julian's words is the promise that all shall be well. That promise joins you to a world where you are not yet. The dead live in that world, and they can be taught to pray ' that they turn and carry us with them'. Children live in that world and you know, yes and no, their words, their laughter. But what the children say, what the dead teach, is always the same message, 'And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well'.

Three times 'Little Gidding' returns to this message: unbidden, with an extraordinary force at first, it is then repeated at the end of the third part, then concludes the poem. And it is like the interruption of God into the world of sin and of death; and it is, at the end, the victory of Love over sin and over death, in the last Beatitude in which is brought in unity the entire creation after the purification by fire.

Julian's distilled words conclude Eliot's poem. The reconquest of time, the mystery of life, are revealed in the pure simplicity of a message which promises absolutely the blessed eternity of God.

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-curved
In the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
But Julian's language at the end of her book is even more limpid and exalted. There are the words which sum up her teaching and it is right that we repeat them at the end of this essay on the great English Mystic.
And from the time that it was showed I desired often to know what was our Lord's meaning. And fifteen years after and more I was answered in ghostly understanding, saying thus, 'What would you know your Lord's meaning? In this thing, know it well, Love was his meaning. Who showed it you. Love. Why showed he it you? For love. Hold yourself therein. You shall know more in the same. But you shall never know therein any other without end'. Thus was I learned that Love is our Lord's meaning. And I saw full surely in this, and in all that before our God made us he loved us. Which love was never slaked nor never shall be.
And in this love he has done all his works. And in this love he has made all things profitable to us. And in this love, our life is everlasting. In our making we had our 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. Deo gracias'.
Don Divo Barsotti, C.F.D.


 
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I had yearned to meet the young monks and nuns of the  Community of God's Family (Comunità dei figli di Dio), here in Settignano. One day, coming home on the autobus from Florence, I struck up a conversation with Suora Maria Chiara , C.F.D. Together we sat on the hub of the bus's wheel, all seats being taken, and we avidly discussed Julian of Norwich. She invited me to Vespers that evening, to Mass the next day, at which don Divo Barsotti, their Father Founder, presided and at which he preached.

Don Divo Barsotti's books on the Bible and on the Mystics fill many shelves in their convents' libraries. He writes completely out of the contemplative tradition, his writing having the style of a Jean Leclercq or a Michel de Montaigne or a St Bernard, oral, contemplative, rambling, structured like the human brain's convolutions, and not at all like the Scholastics' 'pigeon holes mostly'. His nuns told me of his and their great love for ' la Beata Giuliana ' , who is our Julian of Norwich. They sat me down in their library with this essay in Italian and I begged them and him if I could translate it into English. It doesn't translate well - like Chianti wine, which is perfect in the Chianti region and nowhere else. But it comes absolutely from the soul - and his thoughts and words completely understand that soul. I have edited it to make it easier for reading but should have loved to have kept its never-ending, without beginning, fugal repetitions and arabesques.

Don Divo Barsotti, C.F.D., was elderly and ill but filled with love and joy, with which he also fills his sermons and his young Community and it, therefore, was flourishing. When he could not give this Anglican hermit Communion, he would place instead in her hands, following Mass, an apple, or three biscuits, or a rounded bowl of warm milk - which would become to her like the Virgin's milk. In turn I placed a hazel nut in his hand, then another in the hand of the Archbishop of Florence, to whom he sent me. Don Divo preaches to the Community like a storyteller surrounded by spellbound children, garbed in a chasuble of the same silver green as are the olive trees about his monastery, and which is embroidered with golden wheat, and then he turns to the altar to bless the bread and wine, the fruit of the earth and work of human hands, as if all these actions are one, all flowing from the Lessons and Gospel into his Sermon and into the Mass, all participating in and centred upon God.


 

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