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 || Latin and Swedish Texts of the Brigittine Lessons are published in Den heliga Birgitta och den helige Petrus av Skänninge, Officium parvum beate Marie Virginis, ed. Tryggve Lundén (Lund, 1976) Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis: Studia Historico-Ecclesiastica Upsaliensia 27-28; Latin Text, Sancta Birgitta, Opera Minora II: Sermo Angelicus (Revelationes XI ), ed. Sten Eklund (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1972); Middle English Text in The Myroure of oure Ladye, ed. John Henry Blunt ( Early English Text Society , Extra Series, 29), Modern English Text in The Word of the Angel, trans. John Halborg (Peregrina Publishing Co). This modern English version below is read daily at Syon Abbey in Devon.
 
 

SYON ABBEY

ST BIRGITTA'S LESSONS

LESSONS FOR THE THIRD WEEK
 
 
 

SUNDAY

First Reading

{From the moment of God's promise,
through the long years of waiting,
Abraham loved the son who was to be his,
the child who would be called Isaac.
How much more did God love you, Virgin Mary,
whom he had foreseen from eternity,
and knew before your creating,
for he knew also the joy your birth would be to him.
Abraham did not know how his love for God would be tested and proved
through his promised son.

But God knew with his divine knowledge
how through you, Mary, his great love for man would be made known.
Abraham knew that Isaac would be born of his union with Sarah,
a child conceived unexpectedly in their old age.
God knew that his Son would be conceived in you, Virgin Mary,
without the intervention of man,
and be born of you,
true Mother yet ever a Virgin.
Abraham knew that his son once conceived
would grow without his help to become a person, independent of his father.
God knew that the sacred body of his Son,
formed in your womb,
would in a special way,
be for ever most intimately united with the Godhead.
This must be so, since the Son is ever in the Father,
the Father in the Son, equal yet one.


Second Reading

{Abraham knew that he and his son must return to dust in the corruption of death.
God would not allow your pure body, Mary, to see corruption,
for it was the flesh and blood of your body
which had been given to form the body of his Son.
Abraham built a house for the son who was to be born to him.
But God himself,
the Blessed Trinity,
is the dwelling in which you, Mary, will abide for ever.

In a wonderful way, then,
your dwelling, Mary, was in God,
who surrounded you with his protecting love.
Yet God dwelt ever in you,
leading you to the highest holiness by his presence.
For his promised son,
Abraham prepared wheat, wine and oil,
three kinds of essential nourishment.


Third Reading

{For you, Virgin Mary,
God himself was to be your eternal meal,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Three yet One.
And through you he was to give himself to men
as the food of life.
So we may attribute this food of life in a way, to you, Mary,
since it is by you that it has come to us.
The three things which Abraham prepared
can be thought of as a sign of the action of the Three Persons.
Oil cannot burn without a wick.
This can suggest to us
That the love of God the Father could not be made known on earth
without the humanity of the Son,
that humanity which he took from you, his Virgin Mother.
Wheat was to be made into flour, and then bread, for our daily use.
The Son of God,
though he is truly the food of Angels,
could not be our food
without that flesh and blood which he took from your loving womb.
Wine cannot refresh us unless it is in something we can drink from.
The Holy Spirit could not be poured out upon us
without the humanity of your Son.
For the salvation which Christ's Passion and Death accomplished
is the fount of all the delights and graces
bestowed by God on Angels and on men.


MONDAY


First Reading

{God is the Creator of all beings,
and he is Being itself.
Nothing can be or come to be without God.
Thejrefore, this world and all things in it
owe their existence to him alone.
He is the Creator of all.
And Creator, last of all, of Man.

To mankind he gave, as he had given to the Angels,
the gift of free will.
He wished that be free choice
man would cling to what was good,
and so avoid a just punishment and earn a just reward.
Among men, little regard is paid to work done unwillingly,
under threat of punishment.
We honour work done willingly out of love,
and it is such work that deserves reward.
It pleased God rather to leave them free,
making known what a reward obedience would win,
and what punishment pride and disobedience would incur.

God created man, forming him from the dust of the earth.
He looked for man's love and obedient service,
that so the the places of those Angels who had disobeyed in their pride,
and fallen from joy into misery, might be filled once more.
They should have received a crown of joy for their love and obedience.
Instead, they lost their reward,
hating not only the joy they had forfeited
but also those virtues which would have assured it to them.


Second Reading

{A king is given a crown of gold,
calling all to honour him who wears it.
But there is a heavenly crown for each virtue,
calling even to men on earth to honour one who loves God,
calling to Angels in heaven to rejoice,
calling to God to reward.

What of the crown of God himself?
In him all virtues reside,
suprassing in every way
every other possible good.
In him all is virtue.

Yet three special virtues stand out in what we know of God,
three crowns of incomparable glory.

First, that he created the Angels.
(It was the envy of such glory that led some of them
into their pride and fall.)

Second, that he created Man.
(The loss of God's glory was man's most grievous loss,
when in his folly he let himself be led into sin.)

Third, that he created you, Virgin Mary.


Third Reading

{The fall of Angels and of man did not lessen the virtue of God,
or take from his crown of glory.
They were created for God's honour, and they refused it, it is true,
just as they were created for their own desire, and yet forfeited it by sin.
The wisdom of God turned their sin into an even greater glory for himself.
For your creation, Mary, gave such glory to God,
that what was refused him by Angels and men
was made good a thousand times over.

Virgin Mary, our Queen and our hope of salvation,
you may truly be called the crown of God's honour.
Through you he showed his divine virtue.
From you he won honour and glory greater than from all other creatures.
The Angels knew, even before your creating,
that by your holiness and humility
you would overcome the pride of the Devil and his hatred for man.

They had seen how man had fallen into misery,
but in their contemplation of God,
they still rejoiced,
knowing well what great things God would do, Mary, through your lowliness,
when his creating brought you to be.


TUESDAY


First Reading

{God is all love, and all loving;
infinite in love, and infinite in loving.
We may truly say - God is love.

He makes known his love to those who love.
and all things speak to them of the love of God.

See how great was his love for his People,
the People of Israel.
He delivered them from the Egyptians,
and led them out from captivity,
into a fruitful land,
that they might live there in peace and prosperity.

It was this prosperity that was envied by the Devil,
and in his hatred for all that was loved by God,
he tempted God's People,
and by his deceits, led them time and and again into sin.

They had the Law of Moses;
they were the People whom God had made his own,
through his covenant with Abraham;
yet they fell into idolatry and worshipped false gods.

God looked on them and found there among them
some who still served him with true faith and love,
following his law.
To strengthen these followers of his,
amid the dangers that surrounded them,
to confirm them in their faith and love,
he raised up among them the Prophets,
men who came not only for the help of God's own,
but also to resuce those who had made themselves enemies of God.


Second Reading

{In time, like the mountain streams which join,
and then join to other streams as they descend,
increasing ever in volume and power,
carrying all before them,
down at last to meet other waters
and in the lower lands form into the great rivers,
the Holy Spirit filled the hearts of his Prophets,
and first one, then another,
then more raised their voices,
to speak as he inspired them,
till their sound filled the ears of many,
to comfort and console,
to call back and restore.

The sweetest sound of their voices was that news of joy -
that God himself would be born of a Virgin,
to make amends for the evil which Satan, through Adam, had caused to man;
that he would redeem man,
and rescue him from his misery,
restoring to him eternal life.

Joy too, that God the Father so willed this redemption of man
that he would not spare even his only-begotten Son:
that the Son so willed to obey the Father,
that he would take to himself our human flesh:
that the Holy Spirit, though inseparable from the Father,
willed to be sent by the Son.

The Prophets knew that the Son of God would come into this world,
to be light in our darkness,
brighter than the sun at dawn,
to proclaim God's justice and love.
But they knew he would not come unheralded.
As the morning star heralds the sun,
they foresaw that a star would rise in Israel,
fairest of all the stars,
in brightness and beauty surpassed only by the sun itself.
This star with the Virgin Mary,
who would be Mother of Christ,
her love surpassed only by the love of God,
her heart ever responding to the will of God.


Third Reading

{This news was given by God to his Prophets,
to console them in their labour of teaching,
and encourage them in their trials.

For they grieved at the pride and sinfulness of the People,
who neglected the Law of Moses,
rejected God's love, and incurred his anger.
But they rejoiced, Mary, in you,
foreseeing that God, that giver of all law,
would receive back to his grace those who had sinned,
for the sake of your humility and holiness of life.
They grieved to see the Temple empty and desolate,
and the worship of God neglected.
They rejoiced, Mary, to foresee the creation of that holy temple,
your pure body,
where God himself would love to reside.
They grieved at the destruction of the gates and the walls of the holy city,
broken by armies, invaded by sin.
They rejoiced, Mary, to foresee how you would stand firm, against all attack,
a strong citadel where Christ would arm himself,
the gate through which he would come forth to his conflict
with the Devil and his own.
To the Prophets, as to the Patriarchs,
your coming, Mary, was a thing of wonder and joy.


WEDNESDAY


First Reading

{In Father, Son and Holy Ghost, there is only the one Divinity.
There is ever the one divine will.

A fire with three flames is but the one fire.
The three flames of love in God are the one love of his will,
burning to fulfil his one divine purpose.

The love of the Father was seen most brightly by the Angels
when they knew his will to give his Son
for the redemption of man.
The love of the Son proceeding from the Father was seen most brightly
when the son willed to deprive himself of his glory
and take the form of a slave.
The love of the Holy Spirit was seen most brightly
in that readiness to make known in many ways
the one will of the Three.

All heaven was ablaze with these flames of God's love,
to the delight of the Angels.
Yet all heaven must wait;
must wait for the coming of Mary.
The redemption of man,
willed and foreseen by God,
could not take place without her.

A flame of divine love was to be kindled in Mary
which would rise up to God
and return so filled with his love
that no corner of this world would be left cold and in darkness.


Second Reading

{When Mary was born, she was like a new lamp, all ready to be lit;
to be lit by God with a light burning like the three-fold flame of his own love.

The first flame of her lover was her choice, for God's glory, to be ever a virgin.
So pleasing was this to the Father
that he willed to entrust to her his beloved Son,
that Son who is inseparable from the Divinity of himself and the Holy Spirit.

The second flame of her love was her humility,
so pelasing to the Son that he willed to take from her a true human body,
and that humanity which was destined to be honoured in heaven above all things.

The third flame of her love was her obedience,
which brought to her from the Holy Spirit the fulness of grace.


Third Reading

{It is true that these flames of Mary's love were not lit at the moment of her birth.
She was still, as other children, only a little one,
unaware of God's will.
Yet God took more pleasure in her than in all other beings.

She was like a sweet-sounding harp,
not yet in tune;
but he whose treasure she was knew how lovely the music he would make with her.

It may be believed that Christ's knowledge was not lacking in anything due
when he was conceived in Mary's womb.
We may believe too
that Mary developed in understanding earlier than others.

Since the coming of Mary was such joy to God and the Angels,
men too must rejoice,
and give glory and honour to God,
who chose her from all his creation by eternal decree
and willed that she should be born among sinners,
to bring forth in sinlessness
the Saviour of the world.


THURSDAY


First Reading

{This union between God and man,
between Christ and the Virgin Mary,
only God can comprehend.
The Son of God,
truly God,
all present and present to all,
whose eternal dwelling in heaven is the Blessed Trinity itself,
made for himself on earth
a dwelling-place in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

The Holy Spirit,
who is ever in the Father and in the Son,
rested in Mary,
filling her, both body and soul, with his presence.

The Son, who is ever with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven,
acquired for himself as man
a new dwelling on earth.

The Father too, with the Holy Spirit,
dwelt in a new way on earth,
in the humanity of the Son,
for the Father with the Holy Spirit must be ever in the Son.
The Son alone took flesh.
He alone took our humanity.
True God, he came as man to men,
witholding from the eyes of men his Divinity
seen ever by the Angels in heaven.

All who hold the true faith must rejoice unceasingly
at this union achieved through Mary.
The Son of God took in her womb true flesh and blood,
and true humanity,
not losing his Divinity:
in divinity was humanity, in humanity Divinity.
Christ did not lose his Divinity,
nor Mary her virginity.


Second Reading

{It would be utterly wrong to think
that God could not have done such a thing,
for all things are possible to God.
It would be equally wrong to think
that he would not have done such a thing for his own,
for this would deny the goodness of God.

If we believe then that God could and would do such a thing,
why do not all men love God with all their love?

Picture some king, honoured by all, with great power and possessions,
and someone dear to him suffering great insult and injury;
if the king took on himself the burden of his friend,
if he gave all his wealth to save him from poverty,
still more, if he offered his life for his friend,
would not this be the greatest love he could show?

But no love of men on earth could equal the love of God in heaven.
No love could equal that love which led God to condescend to our need,
and entrust himself to the womb of the Virgin Mary
and take there our humanity.

Mary is like that bush which Moses saw,
burning yet never consumed by the fire.
God himself was there, till Moses knew and obeyed his word.
And to him he made known his name -
I am who am,
the name of the eternal.

The Son of God dwelt in Mary,
till the span of time between conception and birth was completed.
At conception, he had taken, by his Divnity,
full possession of Mary's pure body.

At birth he came forth,
with his Divinity united for ever to true humanity.
But as the sweet perfume of the rose leaves the rose still as lovely,
his coming forth was no lessening,
but truly a glorification of the virginity of Mary.


Third Reading

{To God,
to the Angels,
to Adam,
to the Patriarchs and the Prophets,
and to countless servants of God,
this Burning Bush, which was Mary,
brought joy beyond words -
Mary, in the fire of her love,
conceiving the Son of God -
the Son of God in obedience to the Father,
resting in her,
to be born, true man, true God,
of a Mother and Virgin, a Virgin-Mother.
To ourselves also, and to all our race,
this must bring great rejoicing and consolation.
The Son of God,
he who with the Father and the Spirit is the eternal God,
has taken our humanity, through the love of the Virgin Mary.
Her love embraces all things that belong to God.
We then may claim, and be sure of her intercession.
We can say truly
than man who deserved eternal death through sin
can acquire eternal life only through her.

From Mary, the Son of God came in perfect humanity,
to fight as man with Satan who had subjugated man.
To Mary, men must resort
for strength against Satan's temptings.

Mary is the gateway by which Christ entered into this world,
to open to man the gate of heaven.

Pray then,
pray then to Mary,
that at death she may come to us,
to secure for us
entry into the eternal kingdom
of Christ, her Son.


FRIDAY


First Reading

'{You shall seek me and shall not find me'.
These words of Christ were the sharp point of the sword of sorrow,
entering Mary's heart.
That sword pierced deeper at the betrayal of Judas,
and at the arrest of Christ, when he willed to be taken
by the enemies of justice and truth.
Deeper still at each insult offered to Christ,
with each suffering inflicted on him.
The sorrow of her heart overflowed into all the members of her body.
She saw how cruelly Christ was struck,
and more cruelly beaten and scourged.
She heard the sentence of death passed by the Jews.
She heard the cries of the people -
Crucify him, away with him.
She saw him led out, bound as a criminal, to a traitor's death.
She saw him struggling to carry his Cross,
dragged forward and whipped as he stumbled,
led like some wild beast
rather than a lamb to the slaughter.
As Isaias had foretold, he went meekly to his death;
like the lamb that is led to the slaughter house,
like the sheep that is dumb before its shearers.
Christ was patient in his sufferings.
Mary endured patiently the sorrow of his sufferings.
She followed him, even to the place of death.
She saw the wounds of his scourging,
the crown of thorns,
his cheeks disfigured with blows,
his face covered with blood,
and she wept in sorrow.


Second Reading,

{She saw him stretched on the Cross,
and heard the blows of the hammer as the nails pierced his hands and feet.
So great was her suffering and sorrow that her strength almost failed her
as she stoof by and watched.
She saw the vinegar and gall offered for his lips to taste.
and her own lips could not move in prayer.
She heard his cry -
My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?,
and saw his head fall forward and his body become rigid as he breathed forth his spirit.
She stood and saw how he died.
Then truly was her heart quite pierced by the sword of sorrow.

It was the strength God gave that alone saved her from dying in such sorrow.
To see her Son,
stripped and bleeding,
dying,
pierced by a lance,
mocked by those who stood by,
jeered at by soldiers,
deserted by all but a few of his chosen ones,
abandoned by so many whom he had won to justice and truth,
to see this most bitter death -
could there be sorrow so deep as her?


Third Reading

{We read that once, when the Ark of God fell into the hands of enemies,
the wife of one of God's priests died for sorrow.
How much greater was the sorrow of Mary,
for she saw the body of her Son,
which the Ark prefigured,
nailed to the wood of the Cross.
Her love for her Son was love for the Son of God,
greater than the loves of all men.
If the loss of the Ark could cause sorrow and death,
the death of Christ would have brought Mary to death
but for God's gift to support so grievous a sorrow.

By his death, Christ opened the gateway to heaven,
and won for his own their entry into joy.
Mary looked up from the depths of her sorrow,
as one coming back from the gates of death.
Her faith never faltered
that Christ would rise again,
and in this faith she could comfort many whose faith had failed.

They took him down from the Cross,
and wrapped him in fine linen with spices,
and laid him in the tomb.
Then all left.
Few still had faith that he would rise.

Little by little,
the sorrows of Mary's heart lightened,
and she felt the first sweetness of consolation.
The sufferings of her Son were at an end.
She knew that on the third day he would rise,
would rise with his humanity united again to his Divinity,
would rise to everlasting honour and glory,
to suffer,
to die no more.


SATURDAY


First Reading

{The Son of God, the Son of Mary,
Christ who is Truth itself, has said to us -
return not evil for evil,
but return good for evil.
Will not he himself therefore,
for he is God,
return good for good,
and five great reward even for little?
He promises in the Gospel that for every good work
he will repay a hundredfold.

What then will be Mary's reward?
Her life was a life of countless good works,
a life entirely pleasing to God,
a life ever free from defect
and unmarred by sin.
In all things her will chose,
and every member of her body responded gladly to that command.
The justice of God has willed that we must rise,
body and soul, at the last day,
to be repaid for our works.
Body and soul we shall stand before God,
for in all things, body and soul act as one.

Christ's sinless body rose from the dead,
and is now and for ever united in glory with his Divinity.
The sinless body of Mary, together with her soul,
was taken up by God after her death into heaven,
and she is honoured there, body and soul, for ever.
No mind of ours can comprehend
the perfection and glory which is Christ's as reward for his sufferings.
No mind of ours can comprehend
the glory which is Mary's, in body and soul, for her perfect obedience to God.

The holiness of Mary,
those virtues adorning her soul,
glorfied God her Creator,
and she is crowned now in heaven with his reward for those virtues.


Second Reading

{The good works of Mary,
accomplished by her perfect subjection of body to soul,
proclaim for ever her praise.
She has done all things as God willed,
and omitted nothing that God desired,
to win an eternal heavenly glory of both body and soul.
No soul, except Christ's, was so filled with holiness and merit
as the pure soul of Mary.
No body, except the sacred body of her Son,
was so worthy to be glorified for its purity and perfection
as the pure body of Mary.

The justice of God flashed forth
when he drove Adam from the garden of Paradise
for tasting the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.
The mercy of God entered sweetly into this world
when the Virgin Mary was born,
whom we may fittingly name the tree of life.
The justice of God drove out Adam and Eve into instant exile and misery,
for their disobeying.
The mercy of God gently invites and attracts to the glory of heaven,
all who seek life in obeying.
Mary, the tree of life, grew up in this world,
to the joy of the Angels in heaven.
They longed for the fruit of this tree, which was Christ,
and they rejoiced, as they rejoiced in their own eternal happiness,
that the great love of God would be made known among men,
and their own heavenly ranks increased in number.
The Angel Gabriel rejoiced to be sent with God's message to Mary,
and his greeting was spoken with great love for her.
When Mary, in the perfection of her holiness and humility, assented,
he rejoiced still more that the desire of all the Angels was soon
to be fulfilled.

We believe and we know,
that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven.
We and all our race should ever think of her,
and pray to her.
In the trials and sorrows of our days,
in the sinfulness of our hearts,
in the bitterness of life, overshadowed by the certain approach of death.
we should look to her,
and draw near to her with true sorrow for sin.


Third Reading

{We have called her the tree of life.
To taste the fruit of the tree,
we must first part its branches,
and stretch out our hands through the leaves.
The tree of life is Mary,
the sweet fruit of this tree, Christ her Son.
We reach through the branches to pluck the fruit
when we greet Mary, as Gabriel did, with great love.
She offers us her sweet fruit to taste
when she sees our hearts no longer in sin,
but willing in all things the will of God.
Her intercession and prayer help us to receive
the most holy Body of Christ,
consecrated for us by the hands of men.
This is the Food of true Life,
the bread of Angels,
and the nourishment of sinful men.
We, though we are sinful and sinning -
we are the desire of Christ.
His own blood has redeemed us,
and he has destined us for heaven,
to increase there the numbers of his loved ones.

With wise thought, therefore, and with care,
with all reverence and love,
take him and eat.
Let Christ fulfil in you this desire of his heart.

May the wondrous intercession of the Virgin whose name is Mary
win for you this joy
from her Son, Jesus Christ,
who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
lives and reigns,
God for ever. Amen.


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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 ||