One Love


(Spectrumbot) #1

“By his grace and help therefore let us in spirit stand and gaze, eternally marveling at the supreme, surpassing, singleminded, incalculable love that God, who is goodness, has for us.” —Julian of Norwich

On the eighth of May, in the year of our Lord 1373 — the third Sunday after Easter — a thirty-year-old woman, known to us as Julian of Norwich, received sixteen “shewings” or revelations, which she later acknowledged were visions from God. Near the beginning of that month she had fallen to an illness, the nature of which was not known. After a week in which her condition worsened and she was thought to be dying, a parish priest was called to administer the last rites. At the conclusion, as he was leaving, he placed a crucifix before her and bid her look upon the face of her Savior for comfort. In the next hours, as she prepared herself for death, the showings were revealed to her in rapid succession.

The first fifteen came to her the morning after the visit of the priest, starting at four a.m. and finishing at nine. The last one, the sixteenth, occurred later that night, concluding and affirming the previous ones. Much to her surprise, and that of her family and friends, she recovered. The meaning of the visions occupied her for the remainder of her long life.

There resulted two written versions of the revelations, the first and shorter version inscribed soon after she recovered, and the longer version some twenty years later, the result of much meditation in the intervening years. Although the later, longer version may naturally contain some embellishment on the original visions, both are considered authentic by the Church. She called herself “an unlettered person,” a deprecatory statement that testifies to her humility, but is refuted by “the sheer integrity of Julian’s reasoning, the precision of her theology, the depth of her insight, and the simplicity with which she expounds profound truths.”[1]

So little is known of her life that what we learn of her character and background must be gleaned from the writings themselves. Based on allusions and hints in the text, biographers have tried to put together a plausible story that takes into account the context of her times.

In 1332, ten years before her birth, the bubonic plague — the Black Death — originated in India, making its way westward by 1347 to devastate Europe. Geoffrey Chaucer was born in 1340, two years before Julian, the same year that Queen’s College was founded at Oxford. In 1349 the Black Death arrived to kill off a third of the population of England. By 1350 Salisbury Cathedral was completed, and in 1352 Corpus Christi College, Oxford, was founded.

In 1361 the Black Death reappeared in England for the second time, devastating Julian’s home city of Norwich, this time striking down infants and small children. Julian would have been nineteen at the time. Her memories of the first plague during her childhood may have been diffuse but unforgettable. In the second wave she was nineteen, married and probably the mother of at least one child, a child who quite possibly was also one of the victims.

Although she does not mention specific personal losses in her writings, she does reflect on the travail and sadness she experienced. There was a time, she writes, “when I had a great longing and desire of God’s gift to be delivered of this world and of this life. For oft times I beheld the woe that is here and the wellness and blessed being that is there…This made me to mourn and earnestly to long — and also my own wretchedness and sloth and weariness — that I did not want to live and to travail as it fell to me to do.”[2]

Plagues and wars were regarded as God’s punishment in Julian’s time, although human sin was the weakness that brought on the devastation. A single sinner could bring down the wrath of heaven on a community. It is the state of our sufferings here that weighs upon her in her solitude. Like anyone else, the presence of evil and suffering seems to her disproportionate to our culpability.

Her biographers and translators (she wrote an early form of English that can be difficult to read) are quick to affirm that in matters theological she followed the Church’s teachings without question — with two important exceptions. She did not accept that God could be wrathful and she did not believe that humans were wholly evil. Augustine’s doctrine of original sin neither convinced her nor intimidated her. As for the wrath of God, she saw only love in all that God did.

Just as the whole of life is rooted and grounded in love, and just as we cannot even exist were it not for God’s love poured out on us, so Julian infers that it is impossible that God should be angry. “I could see no sort of anger in God, however long I looked,” she recounts. “Indeed, if God were to be angry but for a moment we could not live, endure, or be!” (Julian 138). The dread we feel when we sin is not from fear of God, but from our deep need for God’s forgiveness and grace to overcome our sense of separation. It is the fear of the runaway child who suddenly sees herself alone and longs for home and for her parents.

Various theories and conjectures have been put forward to explain her divergence on these matters. Insubordination does not factor here: she voluntarily submitted to the Church’s authority and teachings. Lack of knowledge? Hardly, since the doctrine of hellfire, purgatory, and eternal torment would have been part of every child’s upbringing in her time. One commentator suggests that despite the trauma of surviving two waves of the Black Death before she was twenty, she was the product of a loving, stable, and happy home. While Norwich was a consequential city, the fourth largest city in England at the time, she had been shielded from its ranker aspects and probably never traveled beyond its immediate countryside. Simply put, she had little continued exposure to the cruelties and vileness of human depravity. In her innocence she saw the beauty and worth of every person.

“There is a godly will in our higher part, which by its basic goodness never wills what is evil, but only what is good. This is the reason why he loves us, and why we can always do what pleases him,” she wrote (Julian 118).

In her work as an anchoress, a person who voluntarily withdraws from the larger world to pray for the world and to counsel others, she no doubt heard their woes, their pains, their grievances against others, and their spitefulness. But she steadfastly held the belief that there was a seed in every person — without exception — that was pure and undefiled and was the germination point for the Holy Spirit in that person’s life.

Yet, the very presence of evil and suffering troubled her. She returned to the subject time and again throughout the revelations. “Good Lord,” she writes, “how can everything be all right when such great hurt has come to your creatures through sin?” In an aside to her readers she confides, “I desired, as far as I dared, to have more information for my own peace of mind” (Julian 106).

The answer came to her in two parts. Of the first, concerning our salvation, there is no mystery. Everything we need to know, everything we are hungering to hear from God about forgiveness, grace, and love, is there for the taking. “In this our Lord intends us to be occupied: delighting in himself, as he delights in us” (Julian 106).

The other part may not satisfy us today, accustomed as we are to perceive mysteries as information we have not yet analyzed, collated, and distributed. “The other part is completely hidden from us,” she writes. “It is our Lord’s own private matter, and it is the royal prerogative of God to be undisturbed in that which is his own business” (Julian 107). If we really wanted to please God, she says, we would want only what is God’s will, and in this case it is God’s will that we should not know this just yet. In later passages she hints that the last great secret that God will reveal to his children will be how he has determined the final judgment.

Sin, Julian says, “has no substance or real existence. It can only be known by the pain it causes” (Julian 104). The pain passes quickly and works on us to purge us and make us self-aware; in that pain we turn to God for mercy. “Because of his tender love for all those who are to be saved our good Lord comforts us at once and sweetly, as if to say, ‘It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain; but it is all going to be all right; it is all going to be all right; everything is going to be all right’” (Julian 104).

The refrain that sings throughout the Revelations, from beginning to end, is that all will be well. We might think this to be a passing surge of emotion, but it remains at the core of her being after a lifetime of reflection on her extraordinary personal vision. She lived, as near as can be determined, well into her seventies, loved and admired by those drawn through need and circumstance into her circle, as acquainted with the sorrows and agonies of life as with the abiding assurance of God’s love.

***

Every once in a while, perhaps when it is most needed, some person is lifted and held in the arms of God long enough that they return with God’s heartbeat pulsing through their veins. This has happened in diverse eras to reassure us that God has not left us orphaned. What catches our breath and quickens our spirits is that some of them return with gifts from that far country (as miraculously close as the light behind their eyes) — gifts of words and images that draw us up to God.

“With regard to the physical sight,” Julian states, “I have related what I have seen as truthfully as I can. For the words I have repeated them exactly as our Lord showed them me. About the spiritual sight I have already said a fair amount, but I can never describe it fully” (Julian 191–2).

What we can say runs behind what we can imagine. What we can imagine we can’t always say. Does our imagination outrun our language? Does our language constrict the limits of our imagination? Julian’s vision of God and of Jesus — she called him ‘Mother Jesus’ — and of the Holy Spirit, transcended both her time and her Church.

The being of God is, in our present state, unknowable, but in the Word made flesh — in Jesus — we see all we need to know of God that we can bear. We sometimes turn away from this because we do not trust our experience. Julian herself at first could not believe her spiritual eyes: “On the very day that it happened, when the vision had passed, I — wretch that I am! — denied it, and said quite openly that I had raved” (Julian 187). But the Lord showed it all over again to her, in greater detail this time, and quietly said, “You know that was no raving that you saw today.” Take it, he said to her. Believe it, comfort yourself with it, live in it. “For his will is that we should continue to believe it to the end of our life, and remain in the fullness of this joy thereafter” (Julian 188).

All will be well.

Notes & References:

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, ethics, and communications for 37 years at universities in Maryland and Washington, DC. He is now retired and writing in Burtonsville, Maryland. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods. Email him at darmokjilad@gmail.com.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9654

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

An interesting well written story. I fail to grasp its significance except for a possible parallel to the life and writing of E.G. White. Neither one offers a valid testimony.


(David) #3

Interesting article Barry. What a terrible time to be living in Europe when the Black Death was raging. Julian makes a valid observation about the nature of man that echoes the sentiments of Paul in Romans 7:

Julian: "There is a godly will in our higher part, which by its basic goodness never wills what is evil, but only what is good. This is the reason why he loves us,

Paul: I find then … me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.

But Julian comes to the opposite conclusion that Paul does. She states that man is able to achieve that which he wills. I think history favours Paul’s view.

Julian: "and why we can always do what pleases him,” (Julian 118).

Paul: “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!”

I suspect that her erroneous view of original sin is the source of her error:

Julian: “Sin, has no substance or real existence”


(Sirje) #4

Probably every culture throughout time has believed that the gods need to be appeased - because they’re always angry. This has led to sacrifices of all kinds, the ultimate being human sacrifice. The character of the Hebrew God grew in the same area where many of these angry gods lived. Of course, the jungles and and isolated islands world-wide, also worshipped gods that needed to be appeased.

The question is, why have all these cultures seen God as angry? Could it be that it has always been a self-judgment - all of us recognizing our own faults - our own inhumanity towards others and ourselves. Are we all doing battle with our human nature, without ever having a resolution - looking for redemption for our lives - our lands - our families - ourselves - keeping consequences, real and imagined, at bay. We have covered the pathetic situation we find ourselves in, by inventing distractions in colleseums, sport’s fields; entertainment of all kinds. But it never really works. We can keep it all out of sight just so long. Paul recognized this warfare within himself - and he found the answer: “There is now no condemnation…” The grace that Paul found, became his message to his own people, as well as those outside the boundaries of “God’s most favoured,”.

Jesus came to give us peace from this sad situation. He came to tell us, God is not looking for sacrifices. He simply loves us - He even said so, in so many words, even before Jesus showed up. But we needed that ultimate sacrifice, never the less; and we can’t shake the need for sacrifices. We can’t quite grasp the good news that “all will be well”, which, in the end, is the only reason to worship and to trust our God - no other qualifications necessary.


(Steve Mga) #5

Original Sin – perhaps Julian did not accept the Church teachings
that there is such a thing as “Original Sin”.
A number of prominent Catholic book writer DO NOT believe in
Original Sin either.
I believe the SDA church promotes original sin.
[You can correct me if I am wrong.]
I like this reading by Joan Chittister in “God’s Tender Mercy -
Reflections on Forgiveness”, pg 31.
“Sin is a sign that something is missing on ourselves. All sins
are attempts to fill voids. Admonishment will only work, then, when
we know what we are looking for – and pursue it instead.”


(Steve Mga) #6

David –
WHICH Julian of Norwich book are you quoting from?
The one I have is “Revelation of Love”, translated by John Skinner.
She lived in the 1300’s. Time of Chaucer, John Wycliffe, the Lollards.


(Elmer Cupino) #7

A more profound and penetrating question is how did “all” cultures develop the template of an angry God? Could it be an experience shared by all men, of all peoples and culture? The phenomenon can be traced back to the first siblings, Cain and Abel, as recorded in Genesis 4:5 “So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

I would suggest the mishandling and mismanagement of the normal developmental milestone sibling rivalry and fostered by religious beliefs such as splitting of our experience between the good and the bad is to blame.


(Barry Casey) #8

I marvel that you can read about this remarkable woman, who was focused on God’s love throughout her whole life, despite two waves of the Black Death, and despite social and religious prejudice that this was God’s punishment, and yet was a sincere and devoted follower of Christ all her life—and all you can muster is a half-hearted comparison to Ellen White. She has a message that we, so much better off, need to hear and act upon.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #9

You have a point. but as I read your store it seemed to me that you placed emphasis upon the paranormal,aspects, thus my analogy. I think God works in multiple ways to protect, enlighten, and guide us. Pardon me for getting your under tone wrong.


(David) #10

Steve,
I think “Original Sin” is just a name given to the principle Paul described in Romans 7 (he calls it the “law of sin”). Same thing either way IMO. I’m a little fuzzy on the official SDA position of original sin. I seem to recall there was some debate over the concept during the 1880s when Jones and Waggoner were promoting their views on the human nature of Christ (they said sin isn’t in the flesh). Paul clearly says that sin resides in the flesh. I believe Paul.

I quoted from Barry’s article. Never heard of Julian of Norwich until I read the article.
@niteguy2


(David) #11

That’s a good observation Sirje. Acting out might be considered an example of what you describe. You can seed it in children when a parent disapproves of them. They tend to act out their frustration upon a sibling.

I agree with your observation Elmer and your apropos example of Cain. It was after God’s disapproval that Cain lashed out at Abel. Maybe the appeasing of God’s disapproval by Christ’s sacrifice is just what we all need to keep us from lashing out at one another.
@elmer_cupino


(Elmer Cupino) #12

This is right as understood by the Bible writer. I doubt this is really what happened from a divine standpoint as there is a set of psychodynamic formulations to this dilemma frequently seen in mental health clinics which is easily responsive to behavioral modification at times with the help of psychotropic medications. I’m sure Dr Tichy @GeorgeTichy has seen and managed cases such as this in his private practice. And the same goes for Kim @cincerity and Patti @pattigrant


(David) #13

It was after God’s disapproval that Cain lashed out at Abel

True enough. I think part of the reason the incident was recorded was to teach a spiritual truth. I’ll take the liberty of quoting from @GeorgeTichy’s favorite book, Hebrews.

"To Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Heb. 12:24)

Abel can be viewed as a type of Christ in this story. His blood was powerless but Christ’s blood is powerful! We can be viewed as Christ’s brothers (Cain) who slew Christ at the cross. His deeds were righteous and ours were evil.

A similar offense was experienced by Joseph when his eleven brothers left him to die because they were jealous, he being the favored son. God seems to get a kick out of using the principle of sin in the performance of His own will. Joseph’s divine interpretation was that his brothers meant him harm but God willed it for the greater good - the creation of a great nation. Same goes for Christ’s sacrifice. We meant it for harm against Christ but God willed it to effect the greater good, the salvation of the human race. (Father forgive them for they know not what they do).

The ten kings of Revelation are just another example. They fight against the Lamb but God ends up using them in the performance of His own will.

“These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings;” (Rev. 17:13-14)

The takeaway lesson for me is this: you can’t fight against God and win. It’s an excercise in futility.

"let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)

Sorry for rambling a bit from the original issue.
Your proposition is interesting. In light of it, what do you see as the answer to man’s injustice against his brothers? Is the answer that we all need to go through behavior modification?
@elmer_cupino


(Steve Mga) #14

Elmer –
You failed to give the effect of the post-Flood on the 3 sons and 3 daughter-in-laws
of Noah and his wife.
After all they lived VERY LONG lives. Noah lived 350 years AFTER the flood.
Shem lived 500 years AFTER the Flood.
So if Shem lived that long surely the brothers and all their wives would have
lived long lives as well.
Even Terah, Abraham’s father lived 205 years.
Nimrod, early in the family after the Flood built the Tower, which probably was
a religious structure. Before the changing of the languages and disbursement
of peoples.
At the mass exodus, they would have taken their belief systems with them to
various parts of the world.
Even Abraham had a simple religious belief system when called by God.

Do a time line based on Genesis as to who was living when Shem died. Or
events that happened prior to his death.


(Elmer Cupino) #15

Everyone undergoes “behavior modification” as we progress from one developmental stage to another. The majority do it by learning life experiences as our DNA traits unfold. Some remain stagnant and remain in one stage even as they chronologically age. Some love being a child they remain a child cognitively even through their 50’s & 60’s. Some even attain to be officers of corporations and religious denominations and when under duress revert back to their childhood repertoire. The point is to be cognitively aware of regressive behaviors and be able to arrest any regression. If unsuccessful, there are those like our beloved “George” @GeorgeTichy, Kim @cincerity and Patti @pattigrant who are available for professional consultations.


(David) #16

If George’s couch had a view I might think about it.

Too bad we can’t just spike the drinking water with some psychotropics. Then we could finally say, "everything is going to be all right" (Julian 104).

@elmer_cupino


(George Tichy) #17

We can always work on that and create those marvelous view while, with your eyes closed, you keep laying on that magic couch.

For Spectrumites only, special rates:

  • Average, common, black & white views : 50% off.
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    :slight_smile:

(David) #18

LMAO!!!..

@GeorgeTichy


(Kim Green) #19

How about 5% off for those who are truly delusional?? :rofl:


(David) #20

I enjoyed the article Barry and yes I do see the lesson of love. Whenever anyone happens to mention the Black Death I always sit up and take notice. It was the topic of a report I wrote for my high school Humanities class and it was that report that sparked a life long interest in the subject.

What a horrific experience to have to live through! It undoubtedly changed the landscape and affected the collective conscience and world view of all Europeans. How could it not?

It is my personal belief that the Black Death (bubonic plague) was indeed a judgement from God. More specifically, that it was the fulfillment of the 6th trumpet. I believe the “official” SDA position (ALA James & Ellen White) is that the 6th trumpet had its fulfillment in the Ottoman Empire. I disagree.

There was one important event that was shaping up at the time the Black Death struck Europe in 1347-1349. David Duncan, in his bestseller “Calendar” (1998) makes an interesting observation.

“Jean and Firmin were more optimistic about reforming the 19 year lunar calendar…By 1345, Jean wrote, this error had accumulated to a slip of four days. They suggested that the pope restore the lunar calendar to its proper alignment by removing these days from the nineteen year cycle, and order that a day be dropped thereafter every 310 years. The best year to start the reform, they said, would be 1349–the year after a leap year and first year in the next 19-year Metonic cycle. Jean and Firmin drew up a calendar incorporating their proposed changes. Clement IV did not formally respond to the proposal, but it seems likely that he agreed with the reforms…But it was not to be. For as 1345 passed into 1346 and 1347, the future of calendar reform–and of Europe itself–was being decided not in glittering Avignon but in a remote Genoan outpost on the Crimea…In October 1347, two years before Clement VI’s calendar reforms were to begin, the Genoan trading ships from Crimea arrived in the Sicilian harbor of Messina. Anyone watching the vessels approach would have known something was wrong…–that the men on board all were dead or dying. They looked like ghouls, with black boils and blotches and strange black swellings the size of apples in their armpits, necks, and groins, oozing pus and blood.”

Barry: In 1349 the Black Death arrived to kill off a third of the population of England.

John: So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.

This is my theory (and I’m sticking to it). Feel free to disagree. But even if you do, be sure to read Duncan’s book; it’s fascinating!!

https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&cm_sp=SearchF--home--Results&an=David+duncan&tn=Calendar&kn=&isbn=