JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS 1997-2015 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 ||
 
 

AUGUSTINE, BOETHIUS, DIONYSIUS,

BENEDICT, GREGORY, AND DANTE:

JULIAN'S MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHY 

 
You can also open the sound files of this essay, toggling back from Quicktime to this page by reducing but not closing the audio file in order to experience the images, written text, and sounds together: the Ambrosian hymn, Deus Creator Omnium, aug.mp3 (performed, Stirps Jesse, directed, Giacomo Baroffio, included here with his permission),


Deus creator omnium
polique rector vestiens
diem decoro lumine,
noctem soporis gratias.

Artus solutos ut quies
reddat laboris usui
mentesque fessas allevet
luctusque solvat anxios.

Grates peracto iam die
et noctes exortu preces,
voti reos, ut adiuves,
hymnum canentes solvimus.

Te cordis ima concinat,
te vox sonora concrepet,
te diligat castus amor
te mens adoret sobria.

Ut, cum profunda clauserit
diem caligo noctium,
fides tenebras nesciat
et nox fide reluceat.

Dormire mentem ne sinas,
dormire culpa noverit:
castos fides refrigerans
somni vaporem temperet.

Exutu sensu lubrico
te cordis alta somnient,
nec hostis invidi dolo
pavor quietos suscitet.

Christum rogemus et Patrem
Christi Patrisque Spiritum;
unum potens per omnia
fove precantes, Trinitas.

Amen

with this text read aloud, augmyst.mp3. Even all three at once can be called up and experienced on your computer in a sensual medieval polyphony. Their manuscripts were read so, with gold-leafed and splendidly coloured illuminations and the memory for the reader of the music that went with the words.

Augustine, The Confessions || Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy || Dionysius the Areopagite, The Mystic Theology || Gregory on Benedict, Dialogues || Dante Alighieri, Vita Nuova, Commedia || Wisdom in the Bible
 
 

Hans Memling, 'St John Writing Revelations', The Hospital of St John, Bruges, Belgium
Reproduced with permission from the Memlingmuseum, Stedelijke Musea Brugge, Belgium
 

Augustine, The Confessions

UGUSTINE, Aurelius Augustinus, was born in Africa in A.D. 354 at a time when the Roman Empire was crumbling. He grappled with the conflicting beliefs of that uncertain era, coming to reject Neoplatonism and Manicheanism for Christianity, being converted in a garden outside Milan through reading Paul's Epistle. He had been a Professor of Rhetoric, of Literature, he now professed Christ, the Word. Edith Stein has written a beautiful dialogue between Ambrose and Augustine in her Three Dialogues. Augustine was baptised by Ambrose in 387. Returning to Africa he became Bishop of Hippo, dying as the Vandals were besieging his beloved cathedral city. In his Confessions he writes his spiritual biography, much as Julian does in her Showing of Love. In it he explains that sin is the tending to non-being, to diverging from God's Creation.  In its Book XI Augustine presents a heady discourse upon Time and Eternity, based upon Ambrose's evening hymn. The entire Book XI is given in an oral reading at augustine.mp3.

Augustine wrote those lines in his homeland, in Africa; but earlier in Milan in Italy he had met Ambrose, then was converted and baptised by him. He had next set forth to journey home with his mother Monica but in Ostia the two of them had a vision together, a vision beyond time and even music, that informs Confessions XI. The two were discussing one night the Kingdom of Heaven. In that moment they together touched and were touched by the eternal Wisdom. Shortly thereafter Monica, saying she desired no longer to live in this word, died. Julian, who herself echoed those words, when she came to her Anchorhold, lived across the street from an Augustinian Priory where this saint's works were read and studied. She would have heard the Austin Friars' chanting of Psalms and of Ambrose's 'Deus Creator Omnium'.
 
Confessions, Book XI, is given in an oral reading at augustine.mp3
 

Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

OETHIUS, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, was born about A.D. 480. A Christian, he also knew all the classical and pagan works of philosophy written by Plato and Aristotle, Parmenides and Pythagoras, Cicero and Seneca, and he reconciled these to Christian theology in his own writings. He was a Roman Senator, defending the ancient principles of their Republic, but was thrown into prison by the barbarian Emperor Theodoric where he awaited a most brutal form of execution, ropes to be bound around his head till his eyes burst out and then to be finished off by the bludgeon and the axe, A.D. 524. During that time he wrote The Consolation of Philosophy, which is modeled upon the biblical books of Job and Wisdom and upon the Platonic dialogues about Socrates while he was awaiting execution in Athens. Boethius in this work presents Philosophia as a beautiful woman who consoles Boethius (she is really his wiser self) for his foolish and mawkish self-pitying. She gets him to recover from his depression by telling him of Time and Eternity, Creation and Creator, Man and God, the Circle and the Centre. She is his and our psychiatrist.

His book was treasured up for centuries, only falling out of favour at the Age of Reason. King Alfred translated it into Old English, Jean de Meun translated it into French, Chaucer translated it into Middle English. Queen Elizabeth I translated it into Elizabethan English. Dante, Chaucer and Julian of Norwich all used its concepts and were all deeply influenced by it. Boethius' Consolation is a key to understanding medieval poetry and Christian theology. It is also a 'golden book' as Edward Gibbon called it, that can be of use to disordered souls in our own moment in time.

The work is written in sections, divided between Prose and Poetry. Medieval manuscripts of the text are richly illuminated, presenting Boethius in prison, mourning on his bed, and visited by the Lady Philosophia, and from her Dante derived his consoling figure of Beatrice.

  Boethius Diptych
 

Dionysius the Aeropagite, The Mystic Theology

HRISTIANITY, for centuries, believed that a late fifth-century theologian was, as he pretended to be, that Dionysius the Areopagite whom Paul converted, along with the woman Damaris, at Athens (Acts 17.22-34). The Neoplatonist Pseudo-Dionysius wrote magnificent treatises, Julian of Norwich quoting from him three times in her Showing of Love. His manuscripts had been given by the Emperor Michael the Stammerer in A.D. 827 to King Louis the Pious. John Scotus translated them in 862, Anastasius, the papal librarian, commenting on the text in 875. Abbot Suger of St Denis (Saint Dionysius) commenced Gothic architecture through using Dionysius' theology in stone, lead and glass.

Gothic Architecture, Norwich Cathedral

But Abelard, while a monk at St Denis, denounced Dionysius's identity as fraudulent. Meanwhile, the Victorines also discovered and used the Dionysian corpus of writings. Cardinal Adam Easton, the brilliant Benedictine of Julian's Norwich, owned the complete works of Pseudo-Dionysius, in a fine thirteenth-century manuscript giving some of the Greek text as well as all the Latin translation, the invocation to the Trinity being most beautifully illuminated with a gold-leafed, intertwined 'T' at folio 108v. That manuscript is today, Cambridge Ii.III.32.

Here is the Invocation to the Trinity:

       

Trinitas supernaturalis, et supraquam divina et supraquam bona theosophiae Christianorum praeses, dirige nos ad mysticorum oraculorum plus quam indemonstrabile, et plus quam lucens et summum fastigium, ubi simplicia, et absoluta, et immutabilia theologiae mysteria, aperiuntur in caligine plus quam lucente silentii arcana docentis, quae in obscuritate tenebricosissima plusquam clarissime superlucet, et in omnimodo intangibilitate atque invisibilitate, praepulchris splendoribus mentes oculis captas superadimplet.



Meanwhile, the Cloud of Unknowing Author (but whom I suspect to have been Adam Easton, the owner of this stunning manuscript),  translated the Mystic Theology into Middle English as Deonise Hid Diuinite for a woman contemplative. To do so he converted the Trinity into an invocation to divine and feminine Wisdom.

Dionysius also, similarly as had Boethius, spoke of God at the centre, 'All the radii of a circle are brought together in the unity of the centre', Adam Easton annotating those lines in his manuscript now at Cambridge.
 
 

Gregory on Benedict, The Dialogues

REGORY the Great (c. 540-604) wrote an account of the Life and Miracles of St Benedict (c.480-547), casting these in the form of Dialogues between himself and Peter, a fellow monk. In these Dialogues there is a most moving account of Benedict and of his twin sister Scholastica and how she is able to force her brother to break his Rule and stay over night at her convent at Subiaco so that they may converse all night upon God. She prays to God for a storm which he grants. Three days later she dies.

That account is followed by one of Benedict's vision of God as greater than all his Creation. He is standing in prayer at a window of a great tower, apart from his sleeping disciples, when suddenly there is a great light, greater than that of the sun. As he marvels he suddenly sees as it were the whole world collected into one ray of light before his eyes.

Gregory and Peter discuss that vision, Gregory explaining that to the soul who sees the Creator all Creation becomes small, 'animae uidenti creatorem angusta est omnis creatorem'. He goes on to explain that it is not that the world contracts, but that the soul, seeing God, expands above the world, becoming greater than itself. 'Quod autem collectus mundus ante eius oculos dicitur, non caelum et terra contracta est, sed uidentis animus dilatatus, qui, in deo raptus, uidere sine difficultate potuit omne quod infra deum est'. And he further discourses upon the interior light and that of the eyes in this vision. The male abbot has experienced Mary's Magnificat in his prayers. 'My soul doth magnify the Lord'. Smallness become largeness; darkness, light; humility, power.

Gregory's Dialogues was, of course, a staple in Benedictine circles. The lovely dialogue, within the Dialogues, of brother and sister was sung antiphonally on the feast day of Benedict and Scholastica by Benedictines, celebrating the breaking of their sacred Rule. And that served to make Benedict's following vision concerning prayer the more memorable.

Christina of Markyate refers to it, where she sees in a flash of light the whole world.

And Julian of Norwich refers to it - and especially in connection with the Virgin at the Annunciation and Nativity,

and with the hazelnut passage,

and then again and again fugally throughout her text.

For Julian, whose anchorhold at St Julian's Church is under the Benedictines of Carrow Priory, who are in turn under the Benedictines of Norwich Cathedral Priory, is seeped in Benedictinism. It is possible that her Benedictinism is taught her by the brilliant Norwich Benedictine Adam Easton. It is even possible that Adam Easton might be her brother, might even be her twin. There is a medieval manuscript referring to a devout person desirous to know God's wounds, whose name is given as ' Mary Oestrewick'. Adam Easton so spells his own name in one manuscript 'Adam Oeston ', the 'wick' of the Scandinavians perhaps being changed by him to the 'town' or 'ton', more common in other parts of England.
 
 

Dante Alighieri, La Vita Nuova, the Commedia

ANTE Alighieri, like Julian, lived in the fourteenth-century, and was as deeply influenced as was she by these three mystic theologians. He embedded the principle of Love, spoken of by all three, as the controlling force of his Commedia as it is of the Cosmos, ' l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle'. And in Vita Nuova XII, he had described God as Love saying to him, 'Ego tamquam centrum circuli, cui simili modo se habent circumferentie partes; tu autem non sic.' [I am as at the centre of the circle, equidistant from all parts, but you are not'.]

Dante and Julian both share in the sense of the Trinity as Divine Power, Wisdom and Love (Inferno III), both share, by way of Marguerite Porete, in the theology of Mary as paradoxically Mother and Daughter of her Creator, 'figlia del tuo figlio' (Paradiso XXXIII).

It is not likely that Julian was influenced by Dante except, perhaps, through Cardinal Adam Easton, who quotes from him in his own writings. What is important is that they share the same principles derived from these preceding mystic theologians, participating in a past 'Internet' of God's Wisdom. Common also to many of these mystics, these Friends of God, is the sense of drawing apart, as to Mount Tabor with Christ, only to descend the Mountain again to be with all people in God's image, to be both chosen and universal, to treasure these things in their heart as had Mary, their task to seek Wisdom, amongst women and amongst men, and with her to be part of God's sweet ordering of the cosmos.

All these writers, Augustine, Boethius, Dionysius, Dante and Julian, are influenced by the Hebraic and feminine figure of God's Wisdom, God's Daughter.

Bibliography


Augustine. Confessions. Trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961.

Baker, Denise Nowakowski. Julian of Norwich's Showings: From Vision to Book. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy . Trans. Richard Green. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962.

CETEDOC, CLCLT.

Cloud Author. Deonise Hid Diuinite and Other Treatises on Contemplative Prayer Related to The Cloud of Unknowing. Ed. Phyllis Hodgson. London: Oxford University Press, 1958. Early English Text Society, 231.

Dante Alighieri. Tutte le opere . Florence: Sansoni, 1981.

Jantzen, Grace. Julian of Norwich: Mystic and Theologian. London: SPCK, 1987

Long, Asphodel P. In a Chariot Drawn by Lions: The Search for the Female in Deity. London: The Women's Press, 1992.

Nolan, Edward Peter. Cry Out and Write: A Feminine Poetics of Revelation. New York: Continuum, 1994.

Nuth, Joan. Wisdom's Daughter: The Theology of Julian of Norwich. New York: Crossroad, 1991.

Pseudo-Dionysius. The Complete Works. Trans. Colm Luibheid. New York: Paulist Press, 1987. Classics of Western Spirituality.
 
 

JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS 1997-2015 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 ||