Blessed Julian of Norwich
1342 - 1416
Benedictine English mystic, sometimes called Julian. She was a recluse of Norwich, living outside the walls of St. Julian's Church. In 1373, she experienced sixteen revelations. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love - a work on the love of God, the Incarnation, redemption, and divine consolation - made her one of the most important writers of England. She wrote on sin, penance, and other aspects of the spiritual life, attracting people from all across Europe. She is called Blessed, although she was never formally beatified.
- a copy of her book, The Revelations of Divine Love
- a hazlenut, since she had a revelation involving a hazlenut (see below)
- a cat
There is proof in the anchorite’s handbook, ANCRENE WISSE, that a cat was the only pet allowed to an anchorite AND there were a lot of rats around in medieval England, so a cat would be considered a necessity. Therefore, she probably had a cat.
In our Domestic Church...
- We read the prayers (see above)
- For dinner, we try to have a stew and good bread, with hazlenut brownies for dessert
- We talk about St. Julian's hazlenut vision with the kids
- At bedtime, we read the story about St. Julian from The Loyola Treasury of Saints by David Self.
- If we are celebrating with friends, given the feast's proximity to May day and sometimes Pentecost, we may put up a Maypole and have a garden party with honeyed mead & hazlenut tarts, praying the prayers of the feast together
Also in this revelation He showed a little thing, the size of a hazel nut in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: "What can this be?"
And it was generally answered thus: "It is all that is made."
In this little thing, I saw three characteristics, the first is that God made it; the second is that God loves it, and the third is that God helps it.
~ Chapter 5 of her Revelations
According to Julian, as she gazes upon a hazelnut God placed in her hand, she hears God describe it thusly: It is all that is created….It lasts, and lasts forever, because God loves it. Everything that is, has its being through the love of God. God creates, loves, and sustains hazelnuts and all creation, one microsecond at a time.
Julian’s vision of the hazelnut points to one of the most important, yet challenging, aspects of God’s creativity, God’s omnipresence. Put, simply divine omnipresence means that God is everywhere and that really means everywhere. Nothing is without the presence – and activity – of God.
[Julian] lived through three attacks of the bubonic plague--she saw nearly half of Norwich die from the plague. Before she was 20, a king was assassinated. The Archbishop of Canterbury was assassinated. There were three popes fighting each other for the papal throne during her lifetime. England had its first heresy. Her bishop was a vicious persecutor of the Lollard heresy who tortured people to death.
This was all going on in her lifetime. She doesn't mention a word of it in her writing. But if you know this, you can see the influence of it between the lines.
Julian was not a Pollyanna. She was very conscious of suffering, because she had experienced it in her life. She had to have had family members who died in the plague. And yet all she could see was the love of God in those 16 visions that she had. Jesus said to Julian: "Julian, all shall be well. Everything will be well. You will see for yourself that all manner of things will be well." Julian insists that she was not the person Jesus was taking to. She says, "He was talking to you," meaning what she calls her "even Christians," or her fellow Christians.
Julian came to such a sense of the awfulness of sin that she reckoned the pains of hell are to be chosen in preference to it. “And to me was shown no harder hell than sin. For a kind soul has no hell but sin.”Julian believed that sin was necessary because it brings people to self-knowledge, which leads to acceptance of the role of God in their life. Julian describes how God suffers with his creation as it experiences great and multifaceted evil.Julian lived in a time of turmoil, but her theology was optimistic and spoke of God's Omnibenevolence and love in terms of joy and compassion. Revelations of Divine Love "contains a message of optimism based on the certainty of being loved by God and of being protected by his Providence."The
Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Julian of Norwich when it explains the Catholic viewpoint that in the mysterious designs of Providence, God can draw a greater good even from evil: "Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith... and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time—that 'all manner [of] thing shall be well.'"
Poet T. S. Eliot incorporated the saying that "…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well", as well as Julian's "the ground of our beseeching" from the 14th Revelation, into Little Gidding, the fourth of his Four Quartets:
Each year, beginning in 2013, there has been a week-long celebration of Julian of Norwich in her home city of Norwich, England. With concerts, lectures, workshops, and tours, the week aims to educate all interested people about Julian of Norwich, presenting her as a cultural, historical, literary, spiritual, and religious figure of international significance.
The Revelations of Divine Love
The Short Text survives in only one manuscript, the mid-15th century Amherst Manuscript, which was copied from an original written in 1413 in Julian’s lifetime. The Short Text does not appear to have been widely read and was not edited until 1911.
The Long Text appears to have been slightly better known, but still does not seem to have been widely circulated in late medieval England. The one surviving manuscript from this period is the mid- to late-15th century Westminster Manuscript, which contains a portion of the Long Text (not naming Julian as its author), refashioned as a didactic treatise on contemplation. The surviving manuscripts of the whole Long Text fall into two groups, with slightly different readings. On the one hand, there exists the late 16th century Brigittine Long Textmanuscript, produced in exile in the Antwerp region and now known as the Paris Manuscript. The other set of readings may be found in two manuscripts, now in the British Library's Sloane Collection. It is believed these nuns had an original, perhaps a holograph, manuscript of the Long Text written in Julian's Norwich dialect. which were written out and preserved in the Cambrai and Paris houses of the English Benedictine nuns in exile in the mid-17th century.
The first printed version of the Revelations was edited by a Benedictine, Serenus Cressy, in 1670. It was reprinted in 1843, 1864 and again in 1902. Modern interest in the text increased with the 1877 publication of a new edition of the Long Text by Henry Collins. An important moment was the publication of Grace Warrack's 1901 version of the book, with its "sympathetic informed introduction" and modernised language, which introduced most early 20th century readers to Julian's writings. Following the publication of the Warrack edition, Julian's name spread rapidly and she became a topic in many lectures and writings. Many editions of the works have been published in the last forty years (see below for further details), with translations into French (five times), German (four times), Italian, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Catalan, Greek and Russian.
Revelations is a celebrated work in Catholicism and Anglicanism because of the clarity and depth of Julian's visions of God. Julian of Norwich is now recognised as one of England's most importantmystics.
Julian’s manuscript was sort of lost. It wasn't completely lost--there were some who knew of it, and, as a matter of fact, one of the great things for which she's known in England is that she's the first woman who was published by the printing press, in the early 1500s, after she had died. The manuscript was rediscovered in the British Museum about 100 years ago. It was written in Middle English, around the same time and in the same language as The Cloud of Unknowing.
She ends her book Revelations of Divine Love with the fact that Christ dwells within. But she says that we are the city in which God dwells. Where Christ is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit. At the same time, Christ is the word. So Christ brings me into the heart of the Trinity. The Trinity dwells in me, and I dwell in the Trinity. Everything is Trinitarian, all of life is.
A prayer of Julian of Norwich
In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are our mother, brother, and Saviour. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well. Amen
Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
- Collect, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints
Lord, thou knowest what I wish - if it be Thy will that I have it, grant it to me, and if it be not Thy will, Good Lord, be not displeased, for I want nothing except what thou wilt.
from Chapter 2 of her Revelations
He created everything for love and by the same love everything is protected and shall be without end; God is everything that is good, as I see it, and the goodness that everything has, it is He. If something is good, that thing is God.
from Chapter 8 of her Revelations
A celebratory meal might include something typical of Medieval northern England, or perhaps Julienned vegetables as a side. It would also be nice to serve hazlenuts, maybe in brownies or nutella spread for dessert.
Eating in Medieval England...
Bread was the staple of everyone's diet, though the grain it was made from varied locally, and also according to wealth. The finest white bread was made from wheat flour siftet two or three times; this was found mainly at the tables of the aristocracy. The bread of common people was made with what ever grain was available locally; this could be a combination of wheat and rye flour, which produces a popular bread called maslin, or barley and oats in the colder and wetter north. Weed seeds frequently found their way into the flour, and in years when the harvest had been poor, peas, beans or acorns might be added to the cheapest bread to conserve precious flour. Large households baked their own bread; in villages this was usually done in a communal oven or left to a professional baker.
Another dietary cornerstone was formed by pottages. A typical pottage consisted of a broth or stock to which vegetables (most commonly cabbage, leeks onions and garlic), cereals or meat might be added; eggs might also go into the pot to thicken the brew and make a richer base. Practically every household had a kitchen garden, which produced not only herbs for spicing, but also peas, beans, leeks, onions, and various roots such as carrots and turnips. However, in spite of the ready availability of fresh fruit and vegetables, with the exception of grapes, cherries and wild berries, garden products were rarely eaten uncooked, as they were believed unhealthy in an unprocessed state. Interestingly, on the rare occasions that salad was made, flowers such as lilacs and primroses were often added to it.