October 30, 2014 26 Comments
Have you ever heard of Julian of Norwich? She was a mystic who is venerated in the Anglican and Lutheran churches although not officially in the Roman Catholic Church. She also wrote the first book by a woman in the English language.
Her Revelations of Divine Love was published in 1395. Wikipedia tells us this about her life
Her writings indicate that she was probably born around 1342 and died around 1416. She may have been from a privileged family that lived in Norwich, or nearby.[...] Julian may have become an anchoress whilst still unmarried or, having lost her family in the Plague, as a widow. Becoming an anchoress may have served as a way to quarantine her from the rest of the population. There is scholarly debate as to whether Julian was a nun in a nearby convent or even a laywoman. [...]
When she was 30 and living at home, Julian suffered from a severe illness. Whilst apparently on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ, which ended by the time she recovered from her illness on 13 May 1373.
In other words nobody knows a lot about her life
Her theology is interesting, she comes fairly close to being an Universalist, although some of it appears to be based somewhat on St. Augustine, and her thinking is such that I have heard her called a Proto-Lutheran, because it does somewhat parallel Luther’s beliefs.
I would guess that I will write on this again, since I have just obtained a copy it (it is available online here). But I wanted to introduce you to some of her theology and Journey Towards Easter wrote about her yesterday.
In the thirty-ninth chapter of the Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich writes about the effect that sin has upon the conscientious soul. It is a great pain to one who desires to escape vice and to grow in virtue, and in a certain sense is its own punishment. However, the sense of unworthiness that comes with an experience of the ‘scourge’ of sin does have its positive benefits – it humbles us, [...]
When we have sinned then, we recognise not only that we have done wrong, have offended against the good will of our Creator, but that there is also a profound sense in which we know ourselves to have done violence to the fabric of reality itself. Deep down we know that the will of God is reality, and so when we sin we find ourselves in a kind of spiritual disjunct. This sense of disjuncture, perhaps even more than the feeling of moral outrage, is what so often causes a sense ofembarrassment after sinning – ‘how could I have done this again?’ ‘Am I mad…what was I thinking?’ It is at this point that it is important not to fall into another kind of pride, lambasting ourselves only because we should have known better, because we have fallen short of our expectations, instead of turning to God in a spirit of true contrition.
This is an extract of the book that is quoted in the article that I wanted to share with you, although somewhat out of his context.
‘Sin is the sharpest scourge that any elect soul can be flogged with. It is the scourge which so reduces a man or woman and makes him loathsome in his own sight that it is not long before he thinks himself fit only to sink down to hell…until the touch of the Holy Spirit forces him to contrition, and turns his bitterness to the hope of God’s mercy. Then he begins to heal his wounds, and to rouse his soul as it turns to the life of Holy Church. The Holy Spirit leads him on to confession, so that he deliberately reveals his sins in all their nakedness and reality, and admits with great sorrow and shame that he has befouled the fair image of God. Then for all his sins he performs penance imposed by his confession according to the doctrine of Holy Church, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the humble things that greatly pleases God…
…Dearly indeed does our Lord hold on to us when it seems to us that we are nearly forsaken and cast away because of our sin – and deservedly so. Because of the humility we acquire this way we are exalted in the sight of God by his grace, and know a very deep contrition and compassion and a genuine longing for God…
Do read the article, in its entirety it makes more sense, Julian of Norwich: The ‘Sharpness’ of Sin and the Goodness of Contrition | Journey Towards Easter.
Remember that this was written by a woman in 14th century England who referred to herself as a “simple creature unlettered (Rev. chap. 2), it is possible that she was educated and that “unlettered” carries a more nuanced meaning.”