Julian of Norwich: The ‘Sharpness’ of Sin

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.”

Heroes who wait

Zulu-Bourne-Defends-with-Bayonet[1]

[Neo] I can’t speak for you but, I always find it a comfort when the cousins come with us on our military operations. Over the weekend Parliament overwhelmingly voted to join us in the air strikes in Iraq. That gives me some confidence that we may be doing the right thing. They aren’t joining us in Syria, at least yet, and I also understand that, it’s a much more confused situation.

It is indeed ‘A Thin Red  (actually RAF blue, but whatever) Line of Heroes’. If I read correctly they’re committing 6 Tornadoes. And that is a measure of how overstretched HM Forces have become, and how much their budgets have been cut. But you know, as I do, that they will acquit themselves superbly, as always.

That’s all well and good but the reason I’m rerunning this piece of Jessica’s is because we all sometimes forget just how hard it is on those who wait for their loved ones to come back from the war. We shouldn’t, I suspect that in some ways they are more heroic than those who so willingly go in harm’s way for us.

Here’s Jess:

Thin Red Line of Heroes

I don’t know how it is in the USA with civilian/military relations in everyday life, but, as ever, Kipling in his Tommy still sums up the British attitude:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

As a sometime Army wife, I know this all too well.  For a long time, thanks to IRA activity, British soldiers were advised to wear civvies when off duty, and it is indicative of something bad that the first reaction of some of the Top Brass to the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was to suggest that soldiers might want to revert to that; it is indicative of something right that our soldiers give the old two-fingered saute to such nonsense.

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do.There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Yes, here in the UK on 11 November, Armistice Day, we all remember our armed forces and the glorious dead, and we have pubic ceremonies where we celebrate and congratulate out Armed Forces; but what about the other 364 days? Well, unless there is a particularly horrible series of death, we forget – the ‘we’ being the vast majority of the population who know nothing and care less about our soldiers sailors and airmen.

I don’t know whether it is different in the US, but here, the armed forces are very much the Cinderella services – except when they are needed. Kipling, as ever, said it best:

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

But how thin does that red line have to be before it breaks?

VIDEO: Dr. Alveda King On Building Community, ISIS And Bringing The Nation Back To God

NEO:

What used to be considered “Common Sense”.

I also note that Gandhi commented more than once, that his nonviolent tactics would only work in the British Empire, which by easy extension included the United States, but certainly would not include the Middle East (with the exception, as always, of Israel).

Originally posted on Rat Nation:

So much for the United States no longer being a Christian nation

“You cannot build a beloved community by putting young men in front of a camera and cutting their heads off.” – Dr. Alveda King, September 2, 2014

You know it’s bad when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece says it’s time to forget all the pussy-footing and go after the bloodthirsty wackadoodles in the Middle East.

Dr. Alveda King in many ways exemplifies her uncle’s message of peaceful non-violence, but even she knows when enough is enough.  Her threshold for whether or not to attack an enemy is rather high, and is a standard that all Christians should, and generally do, follow.  Her voice joins that of spiritual and religious leaders of a variety of stripes – some of whom live by the mantra of peace – who all say that the menace and threat of ISIS MUST…

View original 71 more words

Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends?

On 26 September 1580, a ship docked in Portsmouth, England. That wasn’t unusual, then as now it was one of England’s great ports. But this particular docking would echo through history. For this was the Golden Hind, returning from the first circumnavigation of the world by a non-Spaniard. Soon the captain, Francis Drake, would be knighted on the ship’s deck, by Queen Elizabeth I, and in a few years he would play a key role in the Battle with the Armada.

Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII, did some things that are important to this story, he established the Royal Navy, for the first time it became a force that was always ready. And he took England out of the Roman Church, which allowed her to go her own way, mostly looking outward, and not being involved with European politics as much as before.

But the reason this echoes so loudly in history wasn’t evident that day or even after the Armada had been stood off. It started to become apparent when England went to war with its King in the Civil War and even more so when the second chapter of that war saw the end of the first Empire, and the establishment of the United States.

Because what Sir Francis Drake accomplished that day in Portsmouth, was nothing less than the founding of the modern world, with all its freedom. If you look around at the world we live in. A world without legal slavery, where we are governed by our consent through objective law, and all the rest, you will find something surprising. It is all an English invention. It took England about 800 hundred years to put it together, and the rest of us in western civilization mostly copied it. Too often we forget that as Lady Astor somewhat unfairly said, our revolution was simply, “English freemen fighting against a German King for English rights”.

But now, in 2014, we are watching in horror as an evil group of thugs, misappropriate a religion, Islam, for the purpose of enforcing their will on the world. Nobody can claim they don’t aim high, at any rate.

anglosphere1But once again, the main obstacle between these thugs and their victory are the English Speaking Peoples. We are the ones that could have stopped Hitler easily in say 1934, but we were tired and worried about making a living. We paid for that mistake later, but Hitler and his henchman caused a holocaust of unparalleled scope in Europe. We learned from that and managed to face down Stalin and his successors without ending the world. But as the Soviet Union self-destructed, we declared it the end of history. We should have known better, evil never sleeps, it always looks for room to expand.

And so, we were attacked, in New York, and in London as the new century started, and we responded, as we always have. But this time we tried a kinder, gentler form of war, and attempted to make it easy on the local population, and to help them become like us. It seems as if it may have been a mistake.

The Hollow Men 5And so, here we are, with the weakest leadership our country has had since we entered the world stage in about 1900. They seem to have no clue what to do next.

That’s not surprising, the president has spent his entire life voting present while denigrating the military. Nor has he ever either led or managed anything. And yet, we elected him, twice. I guess we were/are tired of war.

But is war tired of us?

In business, as in war, one must have a strategy (an overriding plan). It seems to me, with an enemy as close to pure evil as ISIS, the only reasonable objective is to destroy it, root and branch, as we did the Nazis.

One level down from that is how are you going to accomplish your goal. Well, kids that’s why we have a military, and all its planners. We knew (and so did the British) on 7 December 1941 the broad outline of how we were going to fight World War Two. It was called RAINBOW. And we went on to execute it, and win, unconditionally. This is a specialized area of planning, and politicians are well advised to leave it to the military, just as I don’t tell a journeyman how to do his job. Give him the tools, and tell him what needs to be done.

And the same is true for tactics, if the guys in the field want an A-10 don’t send a B-2, at least if you can help it. In many ways our forces are best used as a force multiplier, they can do things no one else in the world can do. But a rifleman is basically a rifleman, whether he’s from London, Omaha, or Baghdad.

But the key thing here is, as it always is, the will of the people, and especially the leadership, and that is what worries me. When Obama said these guys are the JV, he spoke the truth, but the JV is much better than the girls 5th grade team, especially if they know that to lose is to die. And the JV will win if the varsity doesn’t show up.

But neither is that preordained, we have not only agency over ourselves but over what we do for and to others, for we are free people, and we are sovereign over our governments. For nearly five hundred years we, the English Speaking Peoples, have built the modern world in our image. We have endowed it with most of the comforts, including a full belly, that we innovated, and with the possibility of making oneself free to act in one own best interest. And so the question becomes, “Have we become too soft, too self-centered, to act once again for the good against evil, or will we once again rise to the challenge to make the world a better place, for ourselves, certainly, but also for others, whom we will never meet or know?”

And some of our nationalities have won their fame with all of us

For a long time now, they have been known as “The Ladies from Hell”, and they have earned it, from friend and foe alike, by their uncompromising stand, for freedom from oppression, no matter the odds.

But this isn’t “proud Edward’s power, with slavery and chains”. This is a bunch of ragtag so-called terrorists, who are really no more than well armed bullies. Are we, the guarantors of freedom for five hundred years really going to sit back while they murder and enslave ancient civilizations? All Europe will do is finance them by paying ransom but, our people learned about that long ago, when we found out how hard it is to get rid of the Dane when you pay the Danegeld.

A bit more than seventy years ago, a guy by the name of Hitler, said he would wring England’s neck like a chicken. Churchill said “Some Chicken, some neck”. A friend of mine, an Englishmen reminded me yesterday that we are the same people who Churchill was speaking of. Maybe we should begin acting like it again.

When have we ever not heeded this call

Truly, it is time to once again

Sound the trumpet that shall never call retreat

As Christ died to make men holy,

let us live to make men free.

Here comes the Cavalry?

christians-eradicated-in-iraq It seems like the only thing worse that the US being the world’s policeman is it not being. The word ‘genocide’ should not be used lightly, but when used properly, as in the instance of the ISIS slaughter of the Yazidis of northern Iraq, it has a power to move more than hearts. The news that President Obama has approved limited air-strikes to help the Christian and Yazidi refugees is most welcome; more welcome to them would be the news that it was happening now. With so much attention on Gaza, the world seemed, until yesterday, rather blind to what was happening in Iraq. The Christians were driven out of Mosul last month, but much of the MSM ignored it – Jews and Arabs was a much more familiar story. But was there something else?

Any responsibility American has for what is happening in Israel is remote; it was not US policy which created the problem, and she is, as usual, doing her best pull the chestnuts of others out of the fire. To those, rightly, concentrating on the deaths of children, all one can say is that if Hamas was not, as it has this morning, launching rockets at Israel, the Israelis would not be retaliating. Iraq is another matter. America and Britain broke it, and they have not fixed it. The intricate and complex ethnic and religious mix of that artificial state (created by the British at the end of the Great War) always made it problematic to govern, and only the brutal regime of Saddam seemed to be keeping a lid on it; but, as with Assad in Syria later, and the Shah in Iran before, Western public opinion does not like brutal dictators; naively, it does not inquire why they are brutal; naively it assumes that their removal and he presence of ‘democracy’ will wave a kind of magic wand. It wants these things to be so, and its Governments seem to act on the belief, not uncommon with politicians, that saying it will be so will make it so; but this ain’t Star Trek; indeed, to quote ‘Bones’ – it’s life Jim, but not as we know it.

Removing Saddam was only the first part of what ought to have been a delicate and carefully managed process; we were not careful or delicate, and we had no process. Some of our soldiers have paid the price; we, as tax-payers have paid a huge cost, but the heaviest penalties have been exacted on those in the country. The Malaki government has been so sectarian that the other minorities in the country have become utterly disaffected, and easy meat, in some cases, for the radicals across the artificial border with Syria. Some of the ISIS guys killing Christians and Yazidis are those fighting Assad; we almost gave them and their friends arms last year; indeed we probably did, but no one is telling us officially. ISIS aims to create an Islamic caliphate. It is busy destroying Syriac and other manuscripts which reveal that its idea of Islam is nothing like the mainstream historic version. Yes, surely, there have been times in history when Muslim conquerors have behaved with barbarism; our own record, historically, isn’t so great we can stand on a high hill and pontificate. If we lump all Muslims with these savages, we have done their work for them; they thrive on division and hatred and sectarianism. Where, as in the picture at the head of this post, Christians and Muslims pray together, ISIS is already on the way to defeat. Let us make no mistake: the refugees desperately need the humanitarian assistance being delivered (finally); they also need someone to hit ISIS hard, to demonstrate to them, and to the whole region, that we won’t let these savages win; but the road to a lasting peace is through tackling the sectarianism which unleashes these forces. Can we do that? No, we can’t, the Iraqis have to do it for themselves, but if we are sending in the cavalry again, let’s get it right this time.

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A Day Late, and a (Canadian) Dollar Short

IMG_5851_2lowresHappy Canada Day

Geography has made us neighbors.

History has made us friends.

Economics has made us partners.

And necessity has made us allies.

Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.

What unites us is far greater than what divides us.

President John F. Kennedy to the Canadian Parliament

Happy Birthday, Canada

 

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