UMILTA WEBSITE © 1997-2018 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  ||  JULIAN OF NORWICH  || ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE:WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE AGES  || MIRROR OF SAINTS  || BIBLE AND WOMEN  || BENEDICTINES || THE CLOISTER  || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || LATIN WITH LAUGHTER: TERENCE THROUGH TIME  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT|| HEAVEN WINDOW || OLIVELEAF || CATALOGUE (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY || E-BOOKS || LANGUAGES:  LATIN || ITALIANO || PORTUGUES || SPAGNOLA || FRANÇAIS || RUSSIAN || SITEMAP || WEBLOG || UMILTA PORTAL From American Benedictine Review 55:1 (March 2004), 55-73, by kind permission of Hugh Feiss OSB and the ABR. Entered on Umilta at the Sacro Eremo di Camaldoli, 9/2009.


DILATION: GOD AND THE WORLD IN THE VISIONS

OF BENEDICT AND JULIAN OF NORWICH


HUGH FEISS, O.S.B.






INTRODUCTION

Many of us are struck by both the beauty and goodness, and the smallness and fragility of the world when we look at a picture taken of the earth from the space shuttle.1 To Gregory the Great's Benedict, to Julian of Norwich and to others who have looked at the word (or the universe) from the perspective of God, it also has seemed that the work is small and fragile, even though it is God's handiwork.2 The world appeared small to them because the capacity of their minds was stretched or dilated when they caught a sight of God.

Gregory the Great recounted a vision in which St Benedict saw the world from God's perspective.3 His desccription of
Benedict's vision influenced Julian of Norwich's description of her first vision,4 as it did Adomnán's description of Coliumba of Iona's prophetic gift. Gregory's understanding of contemplative experience, which he brought into play in describing Benedict's vision also influenced the theories of Richard of St Victor about the modes of contemplation. I would like to begin with Richard's theories in order to situate the idea of 'enlargment of the mind' (dilatatio). Gregory says at the end of his life of Benedict, that Benedict wrote a Rule for monks which is remarkable for its discernment or discretion, and elegant in its language. A study of Julian's vision of the world will show how remarkable were Julian's discretion and language.


RICHARD OF ST VICTOR (†1173). THE THREE MODES OF CONTEMPLATION  (DE CONTEMPLATIONE DE ARCA MYSTICA OR BENJAMIN MAJOR BK 5)

In his treatise On Contemplation, Richard of St
Victor's theory of contemplation is elaborated in the context of several interlocking biblical allegories, but his study is also a brilliant work of analysis and systematization. It is one of the first and most influential studies of Christian contemplation. An Augustinian canon and teacher at the Abbey of St Victor in Paris, Richard was steeped in the monastic tradition and alert to new trends in the theology which led to the scholasticsm of the thirteenth century. He did not separate love from knowledge, prayerful study from studious prayer, a quest for deeper understanding from the quest for union with God, or human questioning from revealed understanding and wordless ecstasy. His treatise is especially useful because, like a dam which collects sediment, it organizes the contemplative experiences and theories of contemplation of centuries of earlier Chriistian writers. Most important for this study is his treatment of the dilation or expansion of the mind in contemplation.

The first four books of Richard's On Contemplation discuss six kinds of contemplation, distinguishing them by their objects and by the mental activites which are involved in contemplating them. In the fifth and final book of the treatise, Richard of St Victor speaks of three modes of contemplation whereby the mind is greatly expanded and intensely sharpened (dilatatio), raised  up (sublevatio) or taken out of itself in ecstasy (alienatio).5 In the first mode, expansion or stretching, the reach of the mind or soul does not exceed what human effort can achieve with the help of ordinary grace. Such expansion of the mind is achieved by learning, exercise and  intense concentration. In the second mode, raising up, the mind is raised by grace to see beyond what one knows, what one could know, or even what anyone could know. However, in this second mode the mind does not fall into ecstasy as it does in the third mode where it forgets itself and all else. Ecstasy, the third mode, in which one is led out of oneself into self-forgetful awareness of God, is brought on by great devotion, love and desire, or by wonder, or by joy and exultation (5.1-5, Aris 123-29). Grace is at work in all forms of contemplation, sometimes with human cooperation, sometimes without it. In the first form of contemplation, 'the mind is drawn toward higher things through contempt [disdain] for lesser ones and desire for heavenly ones'. When the mind eagerly longs for the things above, God's revelation (showing) will sometimes bestow understanding (5.6-8, Aris 130-33). In the second form of contemplation, wonder at a totally unexpected event or sight rivets attention and leads to understanding (5.9-13, Aris 141-8).
In ecstasy, the third form of contemplation, the mind, like an animal at play, leaps above itself out of sheer joy (5.14-18, Aris 141-48). In Richard's theory of contemplation, devotion, wonder and joy are not limited to ecstasy, but can accomodate any mode of contemplation; it is when they are extremely intense that they lead to ecstasy. To summarize with a diagram, there are three modes of contemplation:
    expansion (dilatatio): within the bounds of human possibility aided by grace
    raising up (sublevatio): possible only with special divine help
    ecstasy (alienatio): brought on by great
           devotion (love, desire)
           wonder
           joy

What is important here is not the exact way that Richard organizes his theory about the modes of contemplation and the causes of ecstasy, but the notion of the expanded or dilated mind, the particular concern of this paper, set in a cluster of other experiences which he associates with contemplation: joy, 'looking down' on the world, wonder, and showing (revelation). Richard's understanding of contemplation does not distinguish contemplative study from studious contemplation. In this, he is in agreement with both Gregory the Great and Julian of Norwich.6


GREGORY THE GREAT (C.540-†
604). DIALOGUES, BOOK 2, CHAPTER 357

According to the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, the deacon Servandus used to visit Benedict regularly to talk so that they could at least taste together the delicious bread of their heavenly homeland that they could not yet perfectly enjoy.8 On this occasion Benedict was praying in a tower while Servandus and the monks were asleep. Benedict saw a light poured out from above. He saw 'brought before his eyes the whole world, as though gathered in one ray of the sun'. While he concentrated his gaze on this light, he saw the soul of Bishop Germanus of Capua being taken to heaven by angels in a fiery sphere. In response to a question from his interlocutor, Peter, Gregory explains that

to the soul beholding the creator, the whole of creation will seem small. Whatever small part of the light of the creator she beholds, all that is created will become small to her, because by that light the mind's interior vision is stretched, and so expanded in God, that she stands above herself in the world and indeed above herself. When she is rapt above herself in the light of God, she is inwardly expanded. When she looks down below herself, from her exalted position she grasps how limited is that which she could not comprehend when she was in a more humble state . . .

What wonder if he saw the world gathered before him, when he was raised up beyond the world in the light of his mind. Just because the world is said to have been gathered before his eyes, that does not mean that the earth was contracted. Rather, the expanded soul of the seer, rapt into God, could see without difficulty whatever was beneath God.9

There are noteworthy features in this account. Gregory uses the word grace twice in the first paragraph of this chapter where he also speaks of tasting what cannot be perfectly enjoyed yet. Benedict was praying in his tower, in speculatione (which has connotations both of gazing contemplatively and occupying a guard tower) when he saw the vision. The world was gathered in one ray of the sun, in one glance. Gregory's description of how this occurred is very complex. Benedict saw the Creator or glimpsed the light of the Creator, and so all creation seemed very limited. His soul/mind was stretched (laxatur sinus; dilatatus), expanded (expanditur), and amplified (ampliatur); it was raised up (rapitur, raptus, sublevatus) not just above the world, but above itself. He saw how small (breve) and limited (angusta) was everything collected together below. Thus, B
enedict's mind was expanded by grace so that he understood something of the greatness of God, and it was lifted up and so able to look upon all created things simultaneously from the perspective of God10 and see them in comparison to God. To his expanded mind they looked small and limited.

Similar ideas occur both in Benedict's own Rule, which was written over fifty years before Gregory wrote the Dialogues, and in other writings of Gregory the Great. In the Prologue 49 of the Rule, Benedict says that 'as one progresses in this way of life and in faith, one runs along the way of God's commandments with a heart expanded (dilatato) with the ineffable sweetness of love . . .' Benedict here seems to be echoing Ps 119.32: 'I have run the way of your commands, since you have enlarged my heart [Viam mandatorum cucurri, cum dilatasti cor meum]'. The word heart in both the psalm and in Benedict's prologue connotes mind as well as affectivity. Benedict's phrase, 'with the ineffable sweetness of love' (i.e., with love which is pure delight'), indicates that one can have a foretaste of heaven on earth. In this Benedict was following Cassian rather than the Rule of the Master.11

In a passage in his Homilies on
Ezekiel Gregory writes:

In the splayed windows the part through which the light enters is a narrow opening, but the interior part which receives the light is spacious; for the minds off those who are contemplating, though they only have a feeble sight of the true light, are in themselves greatly enlarged . . . . What they see of eternity when  they contemplate is very limited, but that limited amount expands the capacity of their minds in an increase of warmth and love, and so they are expanded in themselves because they let into themselves the light of truth as though through a narrow opening.

In the Dialogues, Gregory's vision is followed immediately by the story of his death (ch. 37). By contrast, Julian's discussion of the smallness of the world is situated in her first revelation, at the beginning of her Showings.


THE EMBRACING VISION OF ST COLUMBA OF IONA (†597)
 
In the Irish epic, Táin Bó Cúailnge, Queen Maeve meets a woman seer named Fedelm. In the course of their conversation, Maeve asks the seer, '
Do you have the embracing vision that illuminates [imbas for-osna]? The passage is strikingly similar to a passage in Adomnán's Life of St Columba, where Columba answers a monk who asked of him, 'Tell me, I beg you, about your prophetic revelations . . . How are they revealed to you?' St Columba replied:

You are asking me now about a very delicate subject. There are some people - few indeed - to whom the grace of God has given the power to see brightly and most clearly, with a mental grasp miraculously enlarged, at one and the same time as if lit by a single sunbeam, even the entire orbit of the whole earth and the sea and sky around it.

Adomnán is borrowing from Gregory's account of Benedict's vision, which enables him to give a thoroughly Christian account of Columba's 'embracing vision'.13 By basing his account on Gregory the Great's Life of Benedict, he places St Columba in an honored contemplative tradition.14 Julian of Norwich stands in that same tradition.


JULIAN OF NORWICH (C. 1342-†AFTER 1416). REVELATIONS, LONG TEXT, CHAPTERS 1-9

                                                                                                                                     


Not much is known about Julian. She was a recluse at St Julian's church in Norwich that had connections with the Benedictine monastery of Carrow.16 When she was thirty years old, she had a mystical vision which she pondered afterwards and wrote about in a book known as her Showings or Revelations. One clear connection with St Benedict is her citation of the line in bold print in the passage cited above from his life in the Dialogues.

Julian tells her readers that she had hoped, if it was God's will to share in the compassion which Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene had for Christ when they saw him suffering, and to suffer a serious bodily illness when she was 30 years old (2). These wishes were granted. In the midst of the illness she had a series of visions,17 in the first of which she saw Christ crowned with thorns. Like Mary, who knowing the greatness of God recognized her own littleness, Julian recognized that 'all things that is made in regard to almighty God it is nothing' (5, chapter heading18).

Julian's discussion of the littleness of the world is inseparable from the 'homely loving' of Christ manifest in his coming to earth19 and in his suffering for humanity. In her meditation on the suffering Christ, the revealer of God's love, Julian understands both the goodness and littleness of all that God has created. This connection between her vision of Christ and her understanding of the goondess and littleness of the world is evident in her summary (8) of this first revelation in which the quotation from Gregory the Great occurs. Julian says she understood six things.

The first is the signs of Christ's blessed Passion and the plentiful shedding of his precious blood; the second is the Maiden who is his beloved mother; the third is the blessed Godhead that ever was, is and ever shall be, almighty, all wisdom, all love. The fourth is all that he has made, for I know well that heaven and earth and all that is made is vast and wide, fair and good, but it looked so small to me because I saw it in the presence of him that is Maker of all things; to a soul that sees the Maker of all, all that is made seems very small. The fifth thing that I understood is that he made everything for love; the same love sustains everything, and shall do so for ever; the sixth is that God is everything that is good, it seems to me, and the goodness that is in everything is God.20

The fourth of these points summarizes chapter 5 of the Revelations, 'a Ghostly sight of his homely loveing'. God clothes us in tender joy; he 'is to us althing that is gode'.

In this vision he also showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind's eye and thought, 'What can this be?' and the answer came to me, 'It is all that is made'. I wondered how it could last, for it was so small I thought it might suddenly have disappeared. And the answer in my mind was, 'It lasts and will last for ever because God loves it, and everything exists in the same way by the love of God'. In this little thing I saw three properties: the first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third that God cares for it. . . . We need to know the littleness of all created beings and to set at nothing everything that is made in order to love and possess God who is unmade . . . for all that is below him does nothing to satisfy us.21

Julian thus is able to affirm both the utter goodness of the world, made and loved by God, and its insufficiency to satisfy the human heart. The world placed in her hand like a hazelnut suggests both the divine gift of a good world that is also a nought, and human responsibility for that world which God loves. The paradox is that compared to God, all is nought, yet God, as she says in chapter 6, 'ffor he hath no dispite of that he hath made ne he hath no disdyne to serve us at the simplest office that do our body longyth in kinde [belongs in nature] .. . ' Similarly, though Julian knows she, too, does not despise or disdain them, even while regarding them as nought in relation to God and to her love for God.22

In addition to an understanding of human restlessness apart from full oneness with God, Julian develops several other corollaries of her conviction about the goodness of God and of God's creation: wonder, humility and love of others. In chapter 6 she explains:

there is no being made that can know how much and how sweetly and how tenderly our Maker loves us. And terefore with his grace and his help we may stand and gaze at him in the spirit, with unending amazement at this high, surpassing, inestimable love. . . . For of all else, beholding and loving  our Maker makes the soul see itself as most puny, and most fills it with reverent awe and true meekness, with abundance of love for its fellow Christians.23

Mary experienced this reverent dread and recognized her own littleness (7).

Before the recapitulation in chapter 8 cited above, Julian returns to the sight of Christ's bleeding head, the sign that the Lord 'so reverent & dredeful is so homley and Curtes . . .' [so holy and awe-inspiring, is also so familiar and courteous. . . (7)]'24 The world and life and Christ are all grace. Hence, God's love toward the world is courteous, treating respectfully something which is insignificant as a ball. God's love is also intimate and familiar, for Christ entered that world.25 As an example of Jesus who was publicly and privately friendly toward his peer servant. 'This bodely example was shewid so hey that manys herete might be ravishid and almost forgettyng him selfe for joy of this grete homlyhede [This human example was so powerfully shown that a man's heart could be ravished and he could be beside himself with joy at this great friendliness](7).26

Julian declares that what she has been shown is no more nor less than what faith believes. She concludes that when the bodily sight ended, 'the gostly sight dwellid in myne understondyng & I abode with reverent drede joyand27 in that I saw'. She was 'mekil sterid in charite to mine even Cristen, that thei might seen and knowyn the same that I sawe . . . for al this sight was shewid general [the spiritual vision remained in my understanding. And I waited with reverent fear, rejoicing in what I saw . . . much moved with love for my fellow Christian, wishing that they might see and know what I was seeing . . . for the vision was shown for everyone]' (6).28

Julian's experiences, her reflection on them, and the insights she gained in writing all served to help her understand the largeness of her own soul. She says one comes to know one's soul only by knowing God, the Maker, to whom the soul is oned and by whom it is enclosed; but one comes to know God only by knowing one's soul.29

And then our Lord opened my spiritual eyes and showed me my soul in the middle of my heart. I saw the soul as it were an endless world30 and as if it were a blessed kingdom, and from the properties I saw it in, I understood that it is a glorious city. In the centre of that city sits our Lord Jesus, God and man.31

Gregory's vocabulary, images and theories regarding contemplation were one of the main tributaries in the great stream of tradition which medieval people used to guide, understand and describe their mystical experience. His notions of the expansion of the mind or soul in contemplation, and his description of Benedict's vision influenced Adomnán's report of Columba's explanation of his prophetic power. Gregory's account of Benedict's vision influenced Julian of Norwich's account of her first showing. It is very likely that Richard of St Victor's thought reached her in some form also.32 However, what strikes one immediately about Julian's first vision is how original it is.

In Julian's vision the world placed in her hand seems like a hazelnut or a ball. Her vision thus conflates Benedict's vision of the soul of Germanus in a ball of fire and his vision of the world as small. In Julian's text there is no elaborate hierarchy of created being; there is only the Maker and all that is made. Both God and Julian are immanent in that sphere.33 Although compared to God all that God has made is nought, God made and loves that nought. God has no contempt for this little world nor disdain for human beings. In this vision of the world like a hazelnut, contemptus mundi gives way to another form of looking down on the world. It is seen as God's beloved creation, frail and limited, but fair and varied. As God's presence and love clothe the Christian, the Christian's gaze and hand enfold the world, and she looks on the world with the same love with which God loves it.

The setting, and perhaps the cause, for this change in perspective is her vision of the sufferings of Christ. It is in her first vision of those sufferings that Julian affirms the love of God for God's good creation. Since his Son died to save us, God must love us (and all created things). Hence, the importance of Mary. She was there as an eyewitness to Christ's sufferings. Julian's visions are an answer to her prayer to see as Mary did. When the world is bathed in the blood fo Christ, flowing like water from an eave onto the earth, it is revealed as God's good creation.

Richard's treatise on contemplation is both summa and allegory: he was both a traditional monastic biblical commentator and a pioneer scholastic theologian. Julian is neither. She describes a series of visions that detail the sufferings of Christ and also contain theological rflection34 on some of the most important truths of Christian beleif: the Trinity,35 Incarnation and Redemption,36 and above all the nature of sin and the possibility of danmnation in God's good creation in which Christ suffered so much out of love for human beings. Her language is for the most part nontechnical. To modern ears at lest, her prose sounds straightforward and expressive. Nevertheless, her description of her unusual religious experience draws on the same tradiitons as Richard of St Victor. We have heard her speak, as he did, of expressing the inexpressible, and she does so in terms of wonder and joy, Whatever her reading or lack of it, she reminds one of St Teresa of Avila, an original, sensible, strong person who absorbed the earlier Western Christian mystical tradition and restated it in her own way and in her own words with references to her own singular and mind-stretching visionary experience pondered in her dilated heart.37

JULIAN'S READERS

Julian wote her works in the vernacular; she was in fact the first woman we know of to write a book in English. In the long text, Julian says she writes for her 'even Cristens'. The colophon to the MS Sloane 2499 says that she wrote a work of 'hey Divinitye and hey wisdam' for 'faithfull lovers' of 'Almyty god' for whom and to whom 'Crist Jhesu . . . made these shewings and revelations . . . for thine and our save guide and Conduct to everlasting bliss the which Jhesus mot Grant us. Amen'. As far as we can tell, her works did not immediately reach very many of her 'even Christens'. The manuscripts which survive hace connections with English Brigittine and Benedictine nuns who, like Julian, were probably influenced by both Gregory's Dialogues and the writings of Richard of St Victor. For four centuries Julian's readers were mostly women deeply interested in contemplative prayer. We owe them thanks for the wonder and joy of Julian's work that their diligence has given us.38

Today, Julian's Revelations are far more widely known and read than they have ever been.39 In the last decades they have been read brilliantly in many different ways by people with many different purposes: by scholars of langauge and literature, by historians of religion, by feminists and by theologians. Perhaps, though, readers with the greatest chance of empathy for Julian's work are those like Denise Levertov who share both Julian's feel for language and her devout faith. Denise Levertov's poem, 'The Showings: Lady Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416', begins with a reference to a form of dilation of mind particular to modernity:

Julian, there are vast gaps we call black holes,
unable to picture what's both dense and vacant;
and there's the dizzying multiplication of all
language can name or fail to name, unutterable
swarming of molecules. All Pascal
imagined he could not stretch his mind to image
is known to exceed his dread.

This dreadful vastness is nevertheless a hazelnut resting on God's blood-soaked hand:

You ask us to turn our gaze
inside out, and see
a little thing, the size of a nazelnut, and believe
it is our world? Ask us to see it lying
in God's pierced palm.

God placed in Julian's hand and places in ours, the

brown hazelnut of All that Is -
made, and belov'd and preserved.
As still, waking each day within
our microcsm, we find it, and ourselves.40

In another poem, 'On a Theme from Julian's Chapter XX', Levertov shows how Julian knew that 'love was his meaning':

Within the mesh of the web, Himself
woven within, yet seeing it,
seeing it whole. Every sorrow and desolation
He saw, and sorrowed in kinship.41

CONCLUSION

There is much that we can learn from Julian's Revelations and her relation to the tradition of mind- and heart-expanding contemplation in which she stood. One lesson is certainly that we do not have to choose between seeking understanding and seeking God. Both are contemplation. However, just as Julian's vision was different from the visions of Benedict, Gregory, Columba and Richard of St Victor, so our form of vision can be different from all of theirs, hers included. What is important is that our minds be explanded by the deifying light, and that sight, word and spiritual insight interplay.

The light of God, when it illuminates and stretches our minds so that we see the earth from the standpoint of God, does not diminish the significance of the earth or the universe, but it does teach us that the world is as nought compared to the infinity of God. That nought, though, is beautiful and good, a thing of joy and wonder, which God loves, which Christ died for, and which Christ entrusts into our hands. All of which remains true, even if, like Denise Levertod, we see that world through the expanded vision of modern science, Julian was able to steer a sane path between contempt of the world and worship fo the world because she saw it as the object of the divine love poured out on the world in the blood of Christ. That perspective, uniting creation and Christology, is one of her finest legacies to us.

Julian's vision of the world like a hazelnut, in the hand of Christ our Mother, points in the direction of responsiiblity. The world is in God's hands but in our hands as well, and, paradoxically, we are in that world and God is here with us. The Wisdom of God, which played before the Creator at the world's inception, has chosen to be with us in the nought of the world, to save and to celebrate all that is.

Julian was one of the most brilliant theologians ever to write in English. The only sentence she cites from an earlier author is the statement from Gregory the Great: 'to the soul that sees the Maker of all, all that is made seems very small'. We do not even know that she could read. She lived as a solitary in an anchorhild which would be given to someone else when she died. She had few external resources, but her mind encompassed the world as she looked upon it from the standpoint of its Maker. She is a reminder to us who live in the same tradition in which she stood that the largeness of our minds is a gift of grace and a matter of desire, not simply the result of external factors over which we have no control.

The ball is now in our court:

A lopside blue and white ball,
Familiar and vast
A plaything in the hand
Of all-pervading Wisdom.

When she handed it to us
We saw the nail mark
In her scarred hand,
Wounded for love.

It is our turn to hold the ball
In our dirty, washed hands,
To play with Wisdom
In the ball with us.
 

 






Notes

Fr. Hugh Feiss is a monk and the oblate director at the Monastery of the Ascension, Jerome, Idaho, where he also edits the newsletter, the Desert Chronicle. He is coordinator of the Benedictine Consortium for Distance Learning.  
1. A version of this paper was delivered at the 37th International  Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 2 May 2002, in a session on monasticism  and Julian of Norwich sponsored by the American Benedictine Academy. Two related papers from that session appeared in Magistra 8/2 (2002); Anna Minore, 'Seeking God: Julian of Norwich and Saint Benedict'; Jennifer N. Brown, '
The Rule of St Benedict and Envisioning Jesus', 62-76. My thanks to Ellen Martin, Rita Tybor, Marilyn Hall and Vanessa Butterfield for their corrections and suggestions.
2. In their edition, Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love: Extant Texts and Translation (Florence: SISMEL, Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2001), p. 40, n. 3, Sister Anna Maria Reynolds and Julia Bolton Holloway give two related examples of visions of the world: Catherine of Siena, Orcherd of Syon, ed. Phyllis Hodgson and Gabriel M. Liegey, EETS 258 (London: Oxford UP 1966), 58.18-19: 'Sche thanne left up hir goostly i3e to obeye to the fadir in hevene, and sey in his fist al the world encloside'=Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, 18, trans. Suzanne Noffke (New York: Paulist P 1980), 56: 'So in obedience to the most high Father, she raised her eyes, and she saw within his closed fist the entire world'. The Life of Christina of Markyate: A Twelfth Century Recluse, ed. and trans. C.H. Talbot (Oxford: Clarendon P 1959) 110: 'Procidensque ad terram deorsum [intui]tu vidit uno immensum mundum'. In La Chanson de Sainte Foi d'Agen, ed. Antoine Thomas, Les Classiques Français du Moyen Age (Paris: Honoré Champion 1974) 13, the Provençal author declares that when some bailiffs were sent to take Sainte Foy into custody, 'she did not value the fools more than she would have a nut' (Non prezallz folz totz una noz). For another vision of the world as a small sphere, see Jorge Luis Borges, 'The Aleph', in A Personal Anthology, ed. Anthony Kerrigan (New York: Grove, 1967), 138-54. Borges cites Shakespeare's Hamlet II.2: 'O God, I could be myself bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space'. My thanks to Dan Terkla and Stacey Shimizu for this last reference. That the solar system is an atom or that a molecule is a universe are familiar themes in science fiction writing; compare the film Men in Black.
3. Gregory the Great's authorship of the Dialogues has been contested. See, for example, Francis Clark, The Pseudo-Gregorian Dialogues, 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 1981); Robert Gedding, 'Le Dialogues de Grégoire le Grand: A propos d'un livre récent', Analecta Bollandiana 106 (1988) 201-29; Marilyn Dunn, The Emergence of Monasticism (Oxford: Blackwell 2000) 130-37; Claude Peifer, 'The Origins of Benedictine Monasticism: State of the Question', American Benedictine Review 51 (2000) 311-15; Francis Clark, 'Saint Benedict's Biography and the Turning Tide of Controversy', American Benedictine Review 53 (2002) 305-25.
4. Sr Anna Maria Reynolds, Leeds University Suties in Language and Literature 8 (1952) 18-28 (note 26), available on the internet at http://www.umilta.net/courtesy.html; Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, eds. A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, 2 vols (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies 1978) 2.317-18.
5. Richard's discussion of the modes of contemplation is a complex theoretical undertaking. Here I am concerned with those aspects of it most relevant to the vision of the world as small in relation to God, and with his vocabulary more than his theory. The best edition of Richard's treatise is to be found in Marc-Aeilke Aris, Contemplatio: Philosophische Studien zum Traktat Benjamiin Maior des Richard von St Victor (Frankfurt: Josef Knecht 1886) [3]-[148]. The Latin text is found in J.P. Migne, Patrologia Latina (Paris, 1853); rprt. Turnhout: Brepols 1979) 196.63-202, and there is a translation in Richard of St Victor, The Twelve Patriarchs: The Mystical Ark; Book Three of the Trinity, trans. Grover Zinn (New York: Paulist 1979), 148-343. For an overview of Richard's life and works see Jean Châatillon, 'Richard de Saint-Victor', Dictionnaire de Spiritualité (Paris: Beauchesne 1988) 13.593-654.
6. These same experiences are associated with contemplation by many authors. For example, St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, trans. and ed. E. Allison Peers (Garden City, NY: Doubleday 1961): 'When the soul, as far as it can understand, is right outside itself, great things are revealed to it; and when it returns to itself, it finds that it has reaped very great advantages and it has such contempt for earthly things that, in comparison with those it has seen, they seem like dirt to it' (Book 6, p. 161). ' . . . when the Lord begins to reveal the secret of this [seventh] Mansion and brings souls into it, they lose the great weakness which was such a trial to them and of which previously they could not rid themselves. Perhaps the reason is that the Lord has so greatly strengthened and dilated and equipped the soul . . . ' (p. 224). See also Dante, Purgatorio III.12-13, ed. and trans, Charles Singleton, The Divine Comedy: Purgatory (Princeton UP 1982) 22: 'La mente mia, che prima era ristretta/ le'ntente rallargò, si come vaga . . . ' (my mind, which had been constricted/ widened in scope as in eager search).
7. Gregory the Great, Dialogues, ed. Adalbert de Voguë, trans. Paul Antin (Paris: Cerf 1979) 236-43. For an English translation and commentary see Gregory the Great, The Life of St Benedict, trans. Hilary Costello and Eoin de Bhaldraithe, commentary by Adalbert de Voguë (Petersham, MA: St Bede's 1003). Translations from Latin are my own.
8.
Voguë, Life, 165-66, notes that the story of Benedict's final vision has much in common with the account in chapter 33 of his final meeting with his sister Scholastica: 'the visit of a spiritual friend . . . a long discussion in the daytime on the future life, a miracle in the evening or nighttime, a vision from the distance of the soul of a dead person going up to heaven, the conformation of the death by messengers'. He adds (168-72) that Gregory's account of Benedict's vision was influenced by three sources: Gregory's story of a miraculous ray of light which shone on the monk Victorinus Aemilianus: the dream of Scipio; and the revelation to St Antony about the soul of Amun.
9. Dialogues 2.35.6-7, ed.
Voguë, 240: ' . . . animae videnti creatorem angusta est omnis omnis creatura. Quamlibet etenim parum de luce creatoris aspexerit, breve ei fit omne quod creatum est, quia ipsa luce visionis intimae mentis laxatur sinus, tantumque expanditur in Deo, ut superior existat mundo. Fit vero ipsa videntis anima etiam super semetipsum. Cumque in Dei lumine rapitur super se, in interioribus ampliatur, et dum sub se conspicit, exaltata conprehendit quam breve sit, quod conprehendere humiliata non poterat. Vir ergo qui [intueri] globum igneum, angelos quoque ad caelum redeuntes videbat, haec procul dubio cernere nonnisi in Dei lumine poterat. Quid itaque mirum, si mundum ante se collectum vidit, qui sublevatus in mentis lumine extra mundum fuit? Quod autem collectus mundus ante eius oculos dicitur, non caelum et terra contracta est, sed videntis animus dilatatus, qui, in Deo raptus, videre sine difficultate potuit omne quod infra Deum est. In illa ergo luce, quae exterioribus oculis fulsit, lux interior in mente fuit, quae videntis animum quia ad superiora rapuit, ei quam angusta essent omnia inferiora monstraverit'. Here and elsewhere I put in bold the line which Julian cites from Gregory's Dialogues.
10. Gregory says that Benedict 'dwelt alone within himself under the eyes of the Watcher on high' (ut solus in superni spectatoris oculis habitavi secum') Dialogues 2.3.5, ed.
Voguë, 142.
11. Terrence Kardong, Benedict's Rule: A Translation and Commentary (Collegeville: Liturgical Press 1996) 3: 'Processu vero conversationis et fidei, dilatato corde inenarrabili dilectionis dulcedine curritur via mandatorum Dei . . . ' Many translators separate 'dilatato corde' from what follows: 'with dilated hert one runs the way of the commandments with the ineffable sweetness of love . . . ' My phrasing agrees with that in Kardong, Benedict's Rule (p. 23) and RB 1980: The Rule of St Benedict in Latin and English, ed. Timothy Fry (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press 1981) 165. Cassian cites Ps 119.32 in Conferences 16.27.2, trans. Boniface Ramsey (New York: Paulist, 1997) 574-575.16.27.2-5, when he speaks of anger near the end of his conference on friendship: 'Your hearts should not be confined within the narrow limits [angustiis coarctata] of impatience and faintheartedness so that they will be unable to endure a violent and tempestuous disturbance when that occurs. Rather, you should be enlarged in your heats [dilatamini in cordibus vestris], receiving the adverse waves of wrath in the broad harbour of love . . . Our heart, therefore, should be enlarged and expanded [dilatanda ergo atque amplianda], lest . . . it not be able to say with the prophet: 'I have run the way of your commands, since you enlarged my heart"'. For the Latin text, see Jean Cassien, Conférences, ed. E. Pichery, Sources Chrétiennes 45 54, 64 (Paris: Cerf 1955-59) 2.245-47.
12. Homélies sur Ezéchiel, 2.5.17, ed. and tr. Charles Morel, 2 vols, Sources Chrétiennes 327, 360 (Paris: Cerf 1986), 1990) 2.260-62: 'In fenestris obliquis pars illa per quam lumen intrat angusta porta est, sed pars interior que lumen suscipit lata, quia mentes contemplantium quamvis aliquid tenuiter de vero lumine videant, in semetipsis tamen magna amplitudine dilatantur . . . Exiguum valde est quod de aeternitate contemplantes vident, et inde apud se amplae fiunt, unde ad se veritatis lumen quasi per angustias admittunt'. Bernard McGinn, The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. 2: The Growth of Mysticism (New York: Crossroad 1994) 34-79, especially 67; Cuthbert Butler, Western Mysticism (New York: Dutton 1924), 89-133. Butler cites Homilies on Ezekiel 2.2.12-14, one relevant passage of which is 'contemplativae enim vitae amabilis valde dulcedo est, quae super semetipsam animam rapit, caelestia aperit, terrena autem debere esse contemptui ostendi . . . ' (ed. Pichery 2.116). Butler notes Gregory's habit of describing contemplation as catching a glimpse of the unbounded light through a chilk or crack. Even this glimpse brings great joy.
13. T.M. Charles. Edwards, Early Christian Ireland (New York: Cambridge U P 2000) 192.93. This passage from Admonan's Life occurs at 1.43. See Admon
án of Iona, Life of St Columba, trans. Richard Sharpe (New York: Penguin 1991) 146. Adomnan (d. 704) was a successor of Columba as abbot of Iona.
14. Adomnán, Life 57.
15. Here I will use the long text in London, British Library, MS Sloane 1499, edited by Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., and Julia Bolton Holloway, Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love: Extant Texts and Translation (Florence: SISMEL, Edizioni del Galluzzo 2001) 513-27. The same manuscript has been edited a number of times (see Reynolds and Holloway 505-507). I have consulted other editions in Shewings of Julian of Norwich, ed. Georgia Ronan Crampton (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University/TEAMS 1994) 37-50, and Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love, ed. Marion Glasscoe (Exeter: U of Exeter 1993). References to chapter divisions follow Crampton. I will use the modern translation of Elizabeth Spearing, Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, introduction and notes by A.C. Spearing (New York: Penguin 1998) which is based on Sloane 2499.
   The translation of Colledge and Walsh, Julian of Norwich, Showings (New York: Paulist 1978) is from their critical edition, which is based on a manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, MS Fonds anglais 40: A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, 2 vols., Texts and Studies 35 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Sudies 1978). Julian's Showings exist in three principal forms: the long text containined in two related Sloane manuscripts in the British Library and in the Paris manuscript; the short text, which exists in a single manuscript (British Library, MS Additional 37790); and a brief version in Westminster Cathedral Treasury MS 4, which is usually thought to be a colleciton of excerpts. Most scholars believe that the short text is the earliest, the long text is a later expansion written by Julian after much reflection, and the Westminster manuscript a still later abridgement. Holloway (Reynolds and Holloway, Showing 9-10) however, argues that the Westminster text is actually Julian's first account of her experiences, and that the long text preceded the short text. The short text is edited by Colledge and Walsh, Book, 1201-78; the Westminster text is edited in Hugh Kempster, 'Julian of Norwich: The Westminster Text of a Revelation of Love', Mystics Quarterly 23 (1997) 177-244, and edited and translated by Reynolds and Holloway, Showing, 3-117. For further discussion of manuscripts and forms and their interrelationships see Colledge and Walsh, Book 1:1-32; Marion Glasscoe, English Medieval Mystics (New York: Longman 1993) 217-20; and Glasscoe's edition, A Revelation of Love, ed. viii.xi.
   In the passages which are the concern of this paper, there do not seem to be any significant differences in content between Sloane 2499 and the text of Colledge and Walsh, which is based on the Paris manuscript.
16. Most books about Julian discuss her life and setting. See, for example, Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich 1:33-59; Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, Introducing Julian, Woman of Norwich (New York: New York City 1996) 1-32; Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, Julian of Norwich and the Mystical Body Politic of Christ (Notre Dame, IN: U Notre Dame P 1999) 203-12; Grace Jantzen, Julian of Norwich (New York: Paulist 1987) 3-50; Brant Pelphrey, Christ our Mother: Julian of Norwich (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier 1989) 17-62.
17. Julian speaks of her visionary experience as including sight, word and 'ghostly sight' (Long text chs 9 and 73). 'Bodily sigt' and a 'word formyd in my understonding' led to and intertwined with Julian's spiritual understanding. For the way in which the visionary experience, theology and spiritual insight interact in Julian's Showings, see Denise Nowakowski Baker, Julian of Norwich's Showings: From Vision to Book (Princeton, NJ: Princeton U P 1994) 15-61; Bauerschmidt 3-63; Kerrie Hide, Gifted Origins to Graced Fulfillment: The Soteriology of Julian of Norwich (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical P 2001) 22-35; Jantzen 74-85.
18. The chapter headings are not Julian's but are ancient. See Reynolds and Holloway 496-97. References to chapter numbers are given here in parenthesis in te text.
19. See chapter 6, ed. Reynolds and Holloway, 521: 'For God of his godenes hath ordeyned meanys to to helpe us wole faire and fele [many], of which the cheife & principal mene is the blissid kinde that he toke of the mayd . . . '
20. Spearing 52. Reynolds and Holloway 525: (i) 'the toknys of the blissid passion & the plentious sheddyng of his pretious blode'; (ii) 'the Maiden that is derworthy Moder'; (iii) 'the blessful Godhede that ever was, is & ever shal bene, almighty, al wisdam al love'; (iv) 'althing that he hath made . . . is mekil & large faire & gode by the cause why it is shewid so litil to my sight was for I saw it in the presence of him that is the maker of all thing, for a soule that seith the maker of all, all that is made semith full litil'; (v) 'He that made all things for love be the same love it is kept & shall be withoute end'; (vi) 'God is althing that is gode as to my sight, & the godeness that althing hath it is he . . . '
21. Spearing 47; Reynolds and Holloway 519: 'Also in this he shewed a littil thing the quantitye of an haesil Nutt in the palme of my hand & it was as round as a Balle. I lokid thereupon with eye of my understondyng and thowte what may this be; And it was generally Answered thus: It is all that is made, I mervellid how it might lesten for me thowte it might suddenly have fallen to nowte for littil: And I was answred in my Vnderstonding. It lesteth and ever shall for God loveth it. And so all thing hath the being be the love of God: In this littil thing I saw iij properties: the first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the iijd that God kepith it. . . . It needyth us to have knoweing of the littlehed of creatures & to nowtyn all thing that is made for to love and have God that is unmade . . . for all that is beneth him sufficeth not us'.
22. Love is a pervasive theme in Julian's work; see, for example, Patricia Mary Vinje, An Understanding of Love according to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistic, 1983), 105-228; Hide 35-52. Julian's chapter 5 and the image of the hazelnut are discussed in Ritamary Bradley, Julian's Way (London: HarperCollins 1992) 60-66; Jantzen 127-64.
23. Spearing 49-50; Reynolds and Holloway 522: 'there is no creature that is made that may wetyn [know] how mekyl & how swetely, & how tenderly our maker loveth us, & therefore we may with his grace & his helpe stond in ghostly beholding with everylestyng merveyling in this hey overpassing onestimable love . . . ffor of all thing the beholding & the lovyng of the maker makith the soule to seeme lest in his owne sight, & most fillith it with reverend drede and trew mekenes, with plenty of charite to his even christen' [underlining in MS].
24 Reynolds and Holloway 523; Spearing 51.
25. Bauerschmidt 96-99.
26. Reynolds and Holloway 524; Spearing 51.
27. Joy is an important theme in Julian's showing; it is interwoven with an acute awareness of human sufferings and Chrsit's sharing in them. See Domenico Pezzini, 'The Vocabulary of Joy in Julian of Norwich', Studies in Spirituality 4 (1994) 84-115. At the end of MS Sloane 2499 is the statement: 'Thus endith the Revelation of love of the blissid trinite shewid by our savior Christ Iesu for our Endless Comfort and solace & also to enjoyen in him in this passand jorney of this life' (Reynolds and Holloway 626).
28.
Reynolds and Holloway 525; Spearing 53.
29. See, for example, the long text of the Showings, ch. 56; Christopher Abbot, Julian of Norwich; Autbiography and Theology (Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer 1999) 144-48.
30. Colledge and Walsh adopte the reading 'warde' (='citadel'). In Book 534 n.126 and 639 n.3 they discuss the biblical background of the idea that the soul is a citadel and provide some medieval evidence for te comparison. Both Sloane manuscripts read 'world'.
31. Spearing 152; Reynolds and Holloway 607-08: 'And than our Lord opened my Gostly eye, & shewid me my soule in the midds of my herte, I saw the soule so large as it were an endless world & as it was a blisful kyngdom; & be the conditions I saw therein I understode that it is a worshipful syte. In the midds of that syte sitts our Lord Jesus God and man'.
32. George Dufner, Die Dialoge Gregory des Grossen im Wandel der Zeiten und Sprachen (Padova: Antenore 1966) 42-43 lists Angier's Anglo-Norman translation of the Dialogues, but not a Middle English one. Colledge and Walsh cite Hans Hecht, ed., Bishop Werferths von Worcester Ubersetzung de Dialog Gregors des Grossen (Leipzig 1900; reprinted Darmstadt 1965). Some of Richard's work was available in Middle English adaptations associated with The Cloud of Unknowing, notbly the abbreviated version of Richard's treatise, which was usually called Benjamin minor. The Middle English abbreviation is called 'A Tretyse of the Stodye of Wysdome that Men Clepen Beniamyn', ed Phylllis Hodgson, The Cloud of Unknowing and Related Treatises
(Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistic, 1982). It is translated into modern English by James Walsh, The Pursuit of Wisdom and Other Works by the Author of the Cloud  of Unknowing (New York: Paulist 1988) 11-47. See Anna Maria Reynolds 'Some Literary Influences', at n.27.
33. See Joan M. Nuth, Wisdom's Daughter: The Theology of Julian of Norwich (New York: Crossroad 1991) 101-04. Chapter 9 declares: 'God hat made al that is made & God lovith all that he hath made; and he that generally loveith al his evyn Cristen for God, he lovith al that is' (Reynolds and Holloway 526).
34. Julian says that by three things God is worshipped and we 'be spedid kept and savid'; (i) 'use of Manys reason naturall'; (2) 'Common teching of holy Church'; (3) 'Inward gracious werking of the holy Gost'. All three are of God; all three work in us together (ch. 80; Reynolds and Holloway 621).
35. Brant Pelphrey, Love was His Meaning: The Theology and Mysticism of Julian of Norwich
(Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistic, 1982) 102-25; Jantzen 108-26; Hide 45ff; Nuth 73-96.
36. Abbot 47-140; Hide 91ff.
37. On the genre and emergence of Julian's book, see Abbot 1-46.
38. The short text twice says that it was intended for those who desired to live contemplatively, but which Julian probably meant vowed religious. The long text, however, seems to envisage as readers Julian's 'even Cristens'. Compare short text, ch. 4 (Colledge and Walsh, Book, 1.215.42-47) with long text, ch. 5 (Reynolds and Hlloway 5:25-27) and short text, chapter 13 (Colledge and Walsh, Book, 1.243.26-28) with long text, chapter 26 (Reynolds and Holloway 548.13-15), In each case where the short text refers to contemporaries, the long text refers generally to 'we'. See Baker 33-34.
39. Sheila Upjohn, Why Julian Now? A Voyage of Discovery (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).
40. Denise Levertov, The Stream & the Sapphire (New York: New Directions 1997) 50-58.
41. Levertov Stream 76




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