Revelations of Divine Love | Julian of Norwich

The scribe who put the words of Mother Julian to paper offered a warning:

I pray God almighty that this book shall fall only into the hands of those who intend to be his lovers, and who are willing to submit to the Faith of the Holy Church, and to obey such sound and instructive teaching as is given by men of virtue, maturity, and profound learning. For this revelation contains deep theology and great wisdom, and is not meant for those who are enslaved by sin and the Devil. (213)

His warning is apt. Like my experience with The Imitation, this is the sort of writing that you have to deeply commit to before you benefit from it. If you try to skim it quickly—as if it were some modern day best-seller—it feels shallow and repetitive. On the other hand, I dare any believer to pray, open the book, and not be changed.

The form of The Revelation is simple. In 86 short chapters, Julian recounts and interprets 16 separate visions she received while praying. These visions focus on the pain Jesus was willing to bear for us, the depth of Jesus’ love for us, and the incomprehensible role of evil in God’s good creation.

Along the way (writing as a fourteenth century Anchorite) she shares some things that will make modern day Western-style evangelicals squirm. Specifically, her comments on St. Mary and her lengthy reflections on the motherhood of Jesus. Please don’t let this dissuade you from this work. The expression “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” comes to mind.

Mother Julian was a devoted believer who was overwhelmed with the love of her God. We could all use a reminder of that.

So it was that I learned that love was our Lord’s meaning. And I saw for certain, both here and everywhere, that before ever he made us, God loved us; and that his love has never slackened, nor ever shall. In this love all his works have been done, and in this love he has made everything serve us; and in this love our life is everlasting. Our beginning was when we were made, but the love in which he made us never had beginning. In it we have our beginning. (212)

One last thought. There are more editions of this work than you can shake a stick at. I read the Penguin Classics edition, with an introduction by the translator, Clifton Wolters. His 33 page introduction was a valuable aid for me to understand the broad theme of the book as well as Mother Julian’s life and setting.

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