“All shall be well
and all shall be well
and all manner of things shall be well.”
In 1373, when she was 30 years old, an Englishwoman had a visionary experience during a serious illness. Fifteen years later she wrote a relatively brief account of the visions and what they meant to her. But in 1393, she was still meditating on her experience and perhaps had begun to write a longer, more theologically-centered analysis. By 1394 she had become an anchorite, living in a cell attached to the parish church of St. Julian in Norwich (which may be the reason for the name we know her by).
This is all we know of Julian’s life. Some scholars believe that she was at one time a member of a religious community; others think not. Some think that she wrote out her book (which modern editors call Showings or Revelations of Divine Love); others believe that the work was dictated. Julian’s emphasis on God’s love and desire for human salvation becomes more significant when one thinks of the period in which she wrote. The Black Death came not only in 1349; it came again and again for over a century.
“The passing life of the senses doesn’t lead to knowledge of what our Self is. When we clearly see what our Self is, then we shall truly know our Lord God in great joy.”
The fourteenth century was a period when the Inquisition was at full force, and the emphases of many theologians and religious Orders was the refutation of heresy. (Heretics were thought to be in league with the devil.) Julian is entirely positive – focusing on divine grace and not on the errors of his creatures.
Julian saw the suffering of the world not as a punishment (the common approach during the time of the Plague) but as a channel through which God could draw us closer to Himself. Julian glories in redemption, but shows unusual insight in admitting we cannot know precisely how this was accomplished.
Julian interestingly does not emphasise “using intercessors”, but instead advocates approaching God directly as what best pleases Him. The “direct approach” was hardly typical of the predominantly feudal society, with its “necessity” of mediators (i.e. priests), and in fact got a lot of people into serious trouble for suggesting it.
Her references during her revelations about “Christ our mother”, also show a rare and unusual depth, particularly in an otherwise heavily patriarchal religious atmosphere promulgated by the Church (both then and now).
“For in man is God, and God is in all. And I hope by the grace of God he that beholdeth it thus shall be truly taught and mightily comforted… And after this I saw God in a Point, that is to say, in mine understanding, — by which sight I saw that He is in all things.”
“For I saw soothly in our Lord’s teaching, the more we busy us to know His secret counsels in this or any other thing, the farther shall we be from the knowing thereof.”
“Though the three Persons in the Trinity be all even in Itself, the soul took most understanding in Love; yea, and He willeth that in all things we have our beholding and our enjoying in Love. And of this knowing are we most blind. For some of us believe that God is Almighty and may do all, and that He is All-Wisdom and can do all; but that He is All-Love and will do all, there we stop short. And this not-knowing it is, that hindereth most God’s lovers, as to my sight. And notwithstanding all this, we may never come to full knowing of God till we know first clearly our own Soul.”
“It is a lofty understanding inwardly to see and to know that God, who is our maker, dwells in our soul, and it is a still loftier and greater understanding inwardly to see and to know that our soul, which is created, dwells in God’s substance. From this substance we are what we are, by God.
I saw no difference between God and our substance, but saw it as if it were all God. And yet my understanding accepted the fact that our substance is in God; that is to say that God is God and our substance is a creature in God. For the Almighty Truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and preserves us in himself; the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our mother, in whom we are enclosed; the lofty goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us.
We are enclosed in the Father, we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. The Father is enclosed in us — All-power, All-wisdom, and All-goodness: one God, one Lord.”
“And thus in our creation God Almighty is our natural father, and God all-wisdom is our natural mother, with the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit. These are all one God, one Lord. In the knitting and joining he is our real, true spouse and we are his loved wife and his fair maiden.
In our Father Almighty we have our preservation and our bliss, as far as our natural substance, which we have from our creation without beginning, is concerned. In the Second Person we have our preservation, in wit and wisdom, as far as our sensuality, our restoring and our saving are concerned. For he is our mother, brother and saviour. And in our good Lord the Holy Spirit we have our rewarding and our harvest for our living and our bitter labour, endlessly surpassing all that we desire in his marvellous courtesy from his lofty, plenteous grace.
All our life is in three modes. In the first is our being. In the second we have our increasing. And in the third we have our fulfilling. The first is nature. The second is mercy. The third is grace. The Second, most precious, Person, who is our substantial mother has now become our sensual mother, for we are double by God’s making, that is to say, substantial and sensual. Our substance is the higher part that we have in our father, God Almighty.
The Second Person of the Trinity is our mother in nature, in our substantial making. In him we are grounded and rooted, and he is our mother by mercy in our sensuality, by taking flesh.
Thus our mother, Christ, in whom our parts are kept unseparated, works in us in various ways. For in our mother, Christ, we profit and increase, and in mercy he reforms and restores us, and by virtue of his passion, death, and resurrection joins us to our substance. This is how our mother, Christ, works in mercy in all his beloved children who are submissive and obedient to him.”
“[Christ] Our natural mother, our gracious mother, because he willed to become our mother in everything, took the ground for his work most humbly and most mildly in the maiden’s womb…. Our high God, the sovereign wisdom of all, arrayed himself in this low place and made himself entirely ready in our poor flesh in order to do the service and the office of motherhood himself in all things.
A mother can give her child milk to suck, but our precious mother, Jesus, can feed us with himself. To motherhood as properties belong natural love, wisdom and knowledge – and this is God. For though it is true that our bodily bringing forth is very little, low, and simple compared to our spiritual bringing forth, yet it is he who does the mothering in the creatures by whom it is done.
The natural loving mother, who recognises and knows the need of her child, takes care of it most tenderly, as the nature and condition of motherhood will do. And continually, as the child grows in age and size, she changes what she does, but not her love. When the child has grown older, she allows it to be punished, breaking down vices to enable the child to receive virtues and grace.
This work, with all that is fair and good, our Lord does in those by whom it is done. Thus he is our mother in nature, by the working of grace in the lower part of love for the higher. And he wills that we know it, for he wills to have all our love fastened to him.
In this I saw that all the debts we owe, by God’s command, to fatherhood and motherhood by reason of God’s fatherhood and motherhood, are repaid in the true loving of God. This blessed love Christ works in us. And this was showed in everything, especially in the noble, plenteous words, where he says, ‘I am what you love.’ ”
“And then our Lord opened my spiritual eye and shewed me my soul in midst of my heart. I saw the Soul so large as it were an endless world, and as it were a blissful kingdom… Also in this He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with 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 methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little[ness]. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall [last] for that God loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God… For well I wot that heaven and earth and all that is made is great and large, fair and good; but the cause why it shewed so little to my sight was for that I saw it in the presence of Him that is the Maker of all things: for to a soul that seeth the Maker of all, all that is made seemeth full little. It needeth us to have knowing of the littleness of creatures and to hold as nought all-thing that is made, for to love and have God that is unmade.
For this is the cause why we be not all in ease of heart and soul: that we seek here rest in those things that are so little, wherein is no rest, and know not our God that is All-mighty, All-wise, All-good. For He is the Very Rest. God willeth to be known, and it pleaseth Him that we rest in Him; for all that is beneath Him sufficeth not us. And this is the cause why that no soul is rested till it is made nought as to all things that are made. When it is willingly made nought, for love, to have Him that is all, then is it able to receive spiritual rest…”
“For a man beholdeth some deeds well done and some deeds evil, but our Lord beholdeth them not so: for as all that hath being in nature is of Godly making, so is all that is done, in property of God’s doing. For it is easy to understand that the best deed is well done: and so well as the best deed is done… is the least deed done; and all thing in its property and in the order that our Lord hath ordained it to from without beginning. For there is no doer but He… ”
“I desired to learn assuredly as to a certain creature that I loved, if it should continue in good living, which I hoped by the grace of God was begun. And in this desire for a singular Shewing, it seemed that I hindered myself: for I was not taught in this time. And then was I answered in my reason, as it were by a friendly intervenor: Take it GENERALLY, and behold the graciousness of the Lord God as He sheweth to thee: for it is more worship to God to behold Him in all than in any special thing. And therewith I learned that it is more worship to God to know all-thing in general, than to take pleasure in any special thing. And if I should do wisely according to this teaching, I should not only be glad for nothing in special, but I should not be greatly distressed for no manner of thing : for ALL shall be well. For the fulness of joy is to behold God in all…”
“Because of the great, infinite love which God has for all humankind, he makes no distinction in love between the blessed soul of Christ and the lowliest of the souls that are to be saved . . . . We should highly rejoice that God dwells in our soul and still more highly should we rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is made to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling place of our soul is God who was never made.”
“And I understood none higher stature in this life than Childhood, in feebleness and failing of might and of wit, unto the time that our Gracious Mother hath brought us up to our Father’s Bliss. For there the soul is highest, noblest, and worthiest, where it is lowest, meekest, and mildest.
And thus I saw Him, and sought Him; and I had Him, I wanted Him. And this is, and should be, our common working in this [life], as to my sight.”
“I am that, I am that: I am that which is highest, I am that which you love, I am that which you enjoy, I am that which you serve, I am that which you long for, I am that which you desire, I am that which you mean, I am that which is all. I am that which the Holy Church preaches and teaches to you, I am that which reveals myself to you here. I am that. I am that which is highest. I am that which is lowest. I am that which is All.”