In this vision he also showed a little thing, the size of a hazelnut in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind’s eye and thought, “What can this be?” And the answer came to me, “It is all that is made.” I wondered how it could last, for it was so small I thought that it might suddenly have disappeared. And the answer in my mind was, “It lasts and will last for ever because God loves it and everything exists in the same way by the love of God.” (Chapter 5)
Our Lord reminded me of the longing that I had had for him and I saw that nothing kept me from him but sin….But Jesus….answered with this assurance: “Sin is befitting but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” (Chapter 27)
These words were shown and spoken: “I am the foundation of your prayers” (Chapter 41)….. And so God teaches us to pray and to trust firmly that we shall obtain what we pray for; because he regards us with love and wishes to make us sharers in his good deed, and therefore he moves us to pray for what it pleases him to do (Chapter 43).
He loves us endlessly and we sin customarily and he reveals it to us most gently. And then we sorrow and moan discreetly, turning to contemplate his mercy, cleaving to his love and to his goodness, seeing that he is our medicine, knowing that we do nothing but sin…..And…. I saw in our blessed Lord that we shall live in this way, that is to say, in longing and rejoicing…(Chapter 82)
This text is written by Julian of Norwich, a woman mystic and hermit in late-fourteenth-century England during a time of plague, rebellion and war. This is the first known literary work in English written by a woman. In 1373 Julian had a series of 16 visionary experiences while seriously ill. She later recorded and reflected upon these in the Revelations of Divine Love. This work has a short and a more theological long version written twenty years later. Quotations are from this Long Text. Julian’s teaching about the spiritual life is not addressed to a contemplative elite but is aimed at all her fellow (“my even”, or equal) Christians. The foundation, or entry point for everyone is, first, a deep realisation of God’s irrevocable love and, second, a positive evaluation of our material existence as the essential medium for our relationship with God (see quote from Chapter 5 above). From this standpoint of certainty about God’s love, we can then safely confront our sinfulness and need for repentance and realize that, despite the pain sin causes us, it does not entirely alienate us from God’s love. Nor does sin reflect the essential core of our nature which remains united to God at a deep level (Chapter 27). In Chapters 41-43 of her text Julian lays out how she understands prayer – the practice that unites us to God in the very midst of our imperfect, sinful life. God is the foundation of our praying and so it is God’s desire for us that provokes our own longing for God and therefore our entry into the spiritual life. Entering the spiritual life is founded on God’s desire that in turn fuels our own spiritual longing. Throughout the process of our lives it is this that moves us towards our final destiny in God.