Julian of Norwich
Julian (or Juliana) was a fourteenth-century English woman who is known for one book, The Revelations of Divine Love. This work records sixteen visions which were granted to her on May eighth and ninth in 1373, with the fruit of twenty years’ reflection on their meaning. Written in the English dialect of fourteenth-century Norfolk, her book is one of the undisputed masterpieces of mystical theology.
Little is known about Julian herself. From hints in her work, itis possible that she was once married, and she may also have been a mother. There is nothing to suggest that she was a pro-fessed nun or ever lived in a convent. In ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’ she tells us that she experienced her visions when she was thirty years old and they came to her during an illness which brought her to the brink of death. Sometime after that, she took up the life of a recluse, living alone in a hovel attached to the parish church of St. Julian and St. Edward, Coniston. It was from the title of this church that she took the name Julian; and other contemporary documents attest that she was still living there in the second decade of the fifteenth century.
The heart of Julian’s visions was the knowledge of God in the crucified Christ. Because the Saviour bore and nurtured a new humanity on the cross, she took up an image often employed by other spiritual teachers in the Middle Ages and likened him to a mother. This image of Christ, and all else in her book, found fulfillment in the divine love. For in everything that God showed her, Julian wrote, “Love was our Lord’s meaning. And I saw for certain, both here and elsewhere, that before ever he made us, God loved us, and that his love has never slackened, nor ever shall.”
 Text by Stephen Reynolds, For All the Saints.
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4.8
who by your grace surrounds us
with so great a cloud of witnesses,
may we, encouraged by the example of your servant Julian,
persevere and run the race you set before us,
until at last, through your mercy,
we with her attain to your eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
21 I learned both what is secret and what is manifest,
22 for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.
The Nature of Wisdom
There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, 23 beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.
24 For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
25 For she is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
26 For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
27 Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
28 for God loves nothing so much as the person
who lives with wisdom.
29 She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
30 for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
Psalm 103.1–4, 13–18
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, *
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, *
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity, *
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit, *
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
13 As a father has compassion for his children, *
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made; *
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for mortals, their days are like grass; *
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, *
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, *
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant *
and remember to do his commandments.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
Source and Partner of the eternal Word,
who brought to birth in the Lady Julian
many visions of your nurturing and sustaining love,
move our hearts, we pray,
to seek your will above all things,
that we may know the joy of your gifts
and embrace the gift that is simply yourself;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
our Saviour, Brother, and Mother,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Links for Further Reading
Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Julian-of-Norwich
Christian History Institute: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/julian/
Unless otherwise noted, all extracted material come from the following publications:
Anglican Church of Canada. For all the Saints: prayers and readings for Saints’ days: a supplement to the Book of alternative services, revised, compiled by Stephen Reynolds, Anglican Book Centre, Toronto, 2007.
Anglican Church of Canada. The book of alternative services of the Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Book Centre, Toronto, 1985.
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. The New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Edition, 1989, 1995. Accessed at http://bible.oremus.org/
* Readings & Prayers prepared by Kim Labelle