The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Thursday, May 8, 2008

All Shall Be Well...

Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich, author of the Revelations of Divine Love. Dame Julian, an anchoress whose visions she compiled into a narrative combining robust common sense, profound mystical insight, and a calm, refreshing faith, lived from approximately 1342 to about 1420.

For me, Dame Julian's image of the world as a small thing, the size of a hazlenut,but still deeply cherished by its creator, began some serious reflections on getting life's problems into perspective. And her constant focus on the love and compassion of Christ, and her certitude that even sin will be redeemed--that sin is "behovable, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well" is one of the great mystical reassurances. See Revelations of Divine Love,
ch. 27.

Dame Julian is especially beloved for her clarity of vision, and her charity; for her, the soul has a kernel within that does not consent to sin, and so will be saved, and her vision of Christ's "courtesy" (a strange world by modern standrds, but accurately capturing the spirit of her time--and even today, a word to prompt reflection) is moving and potent.

The ripples from her book are still spreading today; within the Episcopal Church, The Order of Julian of Norwich, a monastic order open to both women and men, carry on her tradition of contemplative life, daily work, and thoughtful prayer, meditation, and preaching. (This sermon, entitled "The Mystical Christ," by order founder Father John-Julian, OJN, compellingly sketches in a few short paragraphs, the folly of religion "shrunken and withered into law, measurement, emotion, and/or overt certainty about those things we cannot even vaguely comprehend," and the resultant appeal of New Age thought which at least recognizes the need for mysticism--and then goes on to point out that it is in mystical experience of Christ, and the salvific work of the Holy Spirit, that Christ is ubiquitous to religion--even when not called by name. Fr. John-Julian prescribes, in words reminiscent of Inge, an embrace of greater openness to mysticism, and appreciation of all our differing gifts). (By the way, Fr. John Julian has published an extremely faithful, but accessible translation of the Revelations).

Speaking of Inge, in contrast to Julian's contemporary Margery Kempe, whom he found problematic in the extreme (he adopts, in quite a different spirit than Margery uses it, her epithet for herself, "a poor creature"), Inge celebrates Dame Julian in his Mysticism in Religion (1948).

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