This summary of her visions from Christ (“showings,” as she called them) used to be at our original site, withchristianeyes.com (and it may be up at an unrelated Christian forums board where I had been a moderator). In any case, I decided to have a separate page for Julian since the summaries make up a very long post, and God willing, I’d like to write a contextual biographical history essay about Julian and her times to include here. The spiritual + physical environment she lived in is highly interesting, and very foreign to our lives today. Any other relevant information about Julian and her visions that I run across would be posted on this page as well. Thank you for visiting.
The primary source of the summary is from Revelation of Love, translated by John Skinner (Image Books 1996); the quotes are from this source. Penguin Classics has a translation as well, Revelations of Divine Love (1998). (Skinner’s translation is more accessible and probably better.)
Revelation of Love: Summaries of Julian of Norwich’s 16 Visions
“Our soul is loved so preciously by him, our highest good, that it is beyond all human understanding. In truth, no human alive can fathom how much, how sweetly and tenderly, our maker loves us” (Skinner p 13).
1. The first showing (vision) is a base for the rest.
Julian says: “all the showings that follow are grounded and oned” in this first showing (p 1).
(1) Copious blood came from Jesus’ head. Jesus’ love for us is close, familiar; He hangs on us like clothes, and he will never take His tender love from us.
(2) Trinity shown and gave her full joy, as it will be in heaven. “This was shown to me in the first and in all other showings: that where Jesus appears, the Blessed Trinity is understood” (p 8). This knowledge is enough for any believer to withstand the temptations of the devil.
(3) Mary, Jesus’ mother, shown in a physical way. She had marveled that her maker would want to be born of her.
(4) Jesus shows her something small, in her hand, the size of a hazelnut. He told her that it was “all that is made.” Even though it looked like it could fade away, He said that it will last forever, just as we will last forever. Yet we must realize that created things are nothing – that we need to come to God without any created thing between us. “He is our endless home: he only made us for himself; he remakes us by his blessed passion and always keeps us in his blessed love. All this is down to his goodness” (p 11).
(5) God wants us to pray simply–not thinking that we need special skill–but relying on the assurance of His goodness. We may ask for anything we wish. Our Lover desires to have us, and our desire to have Him will not cease. “For now it is his will that we be busy knowing and loving him until that time comes to fulfillment in heaven; which was the meaning and purpose of this teaching of love that was shown . . .” (p 14).
(6) Christ is holy and to be feared, yet he is most “homely” (close and familiar) and courteous. This should fill us with utmost comfort and joy. He wants us to believe this until we are united with him. “But on this earth no one can know this marvelous homeliness, unless our Lord shows it specially, or with some excess of grace it is given inwardly of the Holy Spirit” (p 16). This showing is for all Christians.
(7) (This is sort of an addendum, since Julian basically outlined six points [roughly as I have them above].) The showings are for all believers. We are to love our fellow Christians. “God is all that is good, as to my sight. God has made all things that are made; and God loves all that he has made. So that he who loves all his fellow Christians in general, seeing how God has made them, loves everything it is possible to love. For in humankind that is to be saved is gathered in everything made . . .” (p 19).
2. About Jesus’ passion and seeing God.
(1) Julian saw Jesus on the cross, with much blood and scorn, and with much change of color. The discoloration and wretchedness of the skin was to show that Christ was clothed in our own sinful flesh. The Trinity made us in its image, so when we fell, only our maker could redeem us. Julian refers to this as “again making,” where we are made anew, not just bought back.
(2) We are to seek God, yet we are blind to knowing it until He shows us. “And thus I saw him and I sought him; I had him, yet I wanted him. And this is and should be our common working in this life, as I see it” (p 22). We would be so blessed if we only trusted in God:
There was one time when my understanding was led down into the seabed, and there I saw hills and dales, all green as if the seaweed and gravel were overgrown with moss. Then I understood that if any man or woman were under the deep sea and have sight of God, knowing God as he truly is, with us continually, then they would be safe in body and soul: indeed, they would have more solace and comfort than the whole world could tell. For he wants us to believe that we see him continually, even though it seems to us that we see him very little, since in this way he will make us daily grow in grace. For he will be seen and he will be sought; he will be waited for and he will be trusted (22).
When we seek God, we please Him. If we see Him clearly, it’s because of His own will and timing. It is just as good for the soul to seek Him as it is to see Him.
3. God made everything, but He also works in everything that is done.
“I saw God in a point,” Julian write, because God is in all things (p 25). God does all things and nothing happens by chance. But what of sin and evil?, pondered Julian. She was not shown our sins, only that Jesus works in us fully and that all things are done well. “While to us some deeds may seem well done, others evil, this is not so in God’s sight. For since all things have their ground in God’s making, so all that is done belongs to God’s doing” (p 26). All has been ordained from the beginning. We must just cease our own judgment about what is going on, trust God, and just enjoy Him.
4. Jesus’ body is scourged with much loss of blood.
This vision is short, showing Jesus losing so much blood Julian could hardly see the wounds. But the blood kept stopping, in that it did not drip down and down (apparently disappearing). It did, however, descend to “hell” (that is, the waiting place of old) to deliver the Old Testament saints. His blood is most plenteous to save all those who will be saved, and it is the most precious fluid, and it is our birthright.
5. Satan is overcome by Jesus’ passion.
Satan is sorrowed because he sees all the souls that are saved, and he sees that what he does actually helps us. “ . . . and he can never do so much evil as he wishes, for God has taken his power up into his own hands. For as I see it, there can be no wrath with God, for he is our endless Lord, having regard to his own honor as well as the profit of all who will be saved” (p 30). Our Lord scorns Satan’s malice, and he wants us to do the same; at this Julian greatly laughed, and wants us to laugh along with her.
6. The Lord thanks his servants in heaven.
He showers them with love and gladness in his own house; to see the Godhead merry, face to face, fills heaven with joy. There are three degrees of bliss for souls who served God in any way. One, thankfulness from God to each one that is so full that it doesn’t compare to the total pain and suffering here. Two, this thanks will be show to everyone in heaven, so it is even more honorable. Three, the thanks will always continue, and each person shall be rewarded – even if they willingly served the Lord only one day. “And so the more a loving soul sees this courtesy of God, the more gladly will they serve him all the days of their life” (p 33).
7. We feel good and we feel bad spiritually, but we are kept by the goodness of God no matter how we feel.
It is hard to summarize this showing since the whole thing is so comforting, and it is not very long. I would like to quote Julian at length:
I was filled full of an everlasting sureness that took hold of me in power without any pain or dread. The feeling was so glad and so spiritual that I was in all peace and rest, so that nothing on earth might grieve me. Yet this lasted but a while; then I was changed, left to myself with all the heaviness and weariness of life—I was burdened with myself, so that I barely had patience to live (pp 33-34).
This vision was shown to my understanding, that it is necessary for some souls to feel this way, sometime in comfort and sometime failing, left all alone to themselves. For God wants us to know that it is he who keeps us surely whether we be in woe or weal (p 34).
When it pleases him, our Lord gives freely of himself, and then sometimes he suffers us to feel in woe. Yet both are one and the same love; for it is God’s will that we hold ourselves in his comfort with all our might (p 34).
8. Jesus’ pains as he died.
Julian sees Christ die slowly, his color changing and his flesh becoming dried. She speaks of a cold wind that dries him and pains him. The description is detailed. One of her prayer requests had been to share in his pain, so this is a fulfillment of that. She realizes that if she had known what the pain was like, she wouldn’t have prayed for it. However, what is the worse pain she can have, and by extension, any of us? To see our Love suffer. “Here I felt truly that I loved Christ so much above myself that there was no worse pain I might suffer than to see him in pain” (p 39). He suffered the pains of all humanity that will be saved, so he suffered more than the whole of humanity itself.
All creatures that could suffer did so at Christ’s dying. “And in general, everyone—even those who knew him not—suffered as they felt the loss of the comfort from God’s inner keeping” (p 40). God withdrew at this time and Jesus, as well as us, were made nothing.
Julian for the first time brings up the distinction between our outer “sensual” nature, and our inner “substance.” It was her sensual aspect that repented of wanting to share in Christ’s sufferings, but in her inner spiritual substance, she did not. She purposed to stay with Christ. The inner part is kept in peace and love, and the inner is master over the outer; the inner wills steadfastly to be with Christ. The inner draws the outer by grace, and they will be oned by Christ.
As he seemed about to die, everything changed. Julian saw his face and she was “as happy as could be.” What he showed her was that it is the Lord’s plan that we be on the cross with him, dying in our pain and passion. When we die, we will immediately be with Him blissfully. Our own suffering is to make us heirs with him. And the greater our pains, the greater will be our reward in heaven.
9. The Trinity is glad for Christ’s passion and we are to be encouraged by this.
Julian gives us a conversation between her and Christ, so it would be good to reproduce it here:
Then our good Lord asked me, “Are you pleased I suffered for you?” I said, “Yes, dear Lord, in your mercy: yes, good Lord, bless you always.” Then our good Lord Jesus replied, “If you are pleased, then I too am pleased. This is my joy, my bliss, my endless liking that I was ever able to suffer for you. For truly, if I could have suffered more, I would have suffered more” (p 46).
She sees three “heavens,” all equal, and each one “belonging to the blessed manhood of Christ,” and more specifically to his passion. The first has the Father in it, spiritually, which is to say that the Father is in Christ. There is joy here, which is the Father’s good pleasure. Here is the prize that the Father game him, Jesus’ crown, and that prize is all who are saved. Jesus lets her know that he would die innumerable times out of love for us. Because he was a man, he only had to do it—die—once, but his attitude is that out of sheer love, he’d do it over and over again. So, what He also means by this is, what else would he not do for us?
The second “heaven” is hardly described at all, but it has happiness in it, which is the honor of the son. There was much pain in his passion, yet his love exceeds the pain as much as heaven is above the earth. And this love was “without beginning” (p 47). His passion was perfect.
The third “heaven” represents the Holy Spirit and endless liking, which refers to the endless rest of the Holy Spirit. Julian was shown Jesus’ passion five different ways: the bleeding of his head; the discoloring of his face; the profuse bleeding from the scourging; the “deep dying”; and, the joy and bliss.
For God wants us to share in his pleasure at our salvation, taking comfort and strength that we have been saved. He wants our soul to be busy at this task, merrily cheered by his grace. . . . Jesus wants us to take heed of all the bliss that is in the blessed Trinity for our salvation; and that we desire to have as much liking in the spirit, with his grace, as is already said: that is to say, the liking we take in our salvation should be similar to Christ’s own joy, so far as it is possible on this earth (p 48-49).
10. The Lord’s heart was broken for love.
This is a short, but intensely loving vision. Jesus shows Julian his wound, and it is large enough to save all who will be saved. She realizes his heart was broken in two. Jesus said to her, “Lo, how I loved you” (p 50). He has endless bliss in our salvation, and wants to be glad in it. Whatever we pray for that is toward our holiness, he will grant.
11. A showing of Mary, Jesus’ mother.
Out of all “his creatures,” Jesus’ mother gives him the most delight and honor. He made her high and noble out of love for us. “I am not taught that I should long to see her bodily presence while I am here, but simply the good virtues of her holy soul—her truth, her wisdom, and her love. Whereby I may learn to know myself and reverently dread my God” (p 52). Julian had prayed to see Mary, but she was not shown her bodily here; she was shown spiritually. We are to love her because Jesus loves her.
12. Jesus is the most worthy being.
Julian sees Jesus in a more glorified state than she had seen before, and she understood that our souls will never have rest until we come to him. Then we will know true life, joy, and happiness. She was shown a great many words, actually too many to write or understand. Yet, she says, the reader could come to understand them through God’s grace. Julian did write these words of Jesus down:
I it am, I it am;
I it am that is highest;
I it am that you love;
I it am that you like;
I it am that you serve;
I it am that you long for;
I it am that you desire;
I it am that you mean;
I it am that is all;
I it am that holy Church preaches and teaches you;
I it am that showed myself to you here.
13. There is much to this showing. It involves how noble and excellent is Jesus’ works and how our blame will be turned to honor. All things will be made well.
Jesus takes Julian back to her feeling of longing for him, and is shown that each one of us has sin which holds us back, and the sin makes us unclean and not to his liking. So she wonders why sin was not prevented in the first place. Jesus answers her:
“Sin is necessary, but all shall be well. All shall be well; and all manner of thing shall be well” (p 55). Sin is all that is not good; it is not substance, but is known by the pain it causes.
Yet this pain is indeed something, as I see it, for it purges and makes us know ourself as we ask for mercy . . . . And our good Lord, with all the tender love he has for all those that shall be saved, comforts readily and sweetly . . . . Therefore it would be a great unkindness to wonder or complain of sin to God, since he puts no blame on me (p 55).
Julian beheld that there was a great secret that God will make known in heaven, and that is why sin was allowed. And God’s servants will have sorrow, anguish, and tribulation in this world. This is to prevent them from being pompous and vain. On the other hand, she sees that when we show compassion and charity, that is Christ; it’s a pouring out of self, just as Christ emptied himself in his passion. When we realize how Christ’s own emptying and his pain far exceeds anything we might experience, we are saved from grumbling about our own pain. We realize, too, that because of our sin we deserve it. Yet “. . . with his great courtesy he does away with all our blame, beholding us with compassion and pity like children who are innocent whom he can never reject” (p 57). Julian is still dismayed at all of sin and suffering, however. So Jesus tells her that Adam’s sin was the greatest harm that has been done, or ever will be, but that Jesus’ good work far exceeds Adam’s harm.
There are two parts to this truth, about Jesus’ good work. The first part is open and known, concerning our salvation, and this is our “business.” “The more plentifully we accept this joy, with reverence and meekness, the more thanks we deserve of him and the more progress we ourselves make. Thus may we come to see that it is our lot to enjoy our Lord” (p 59). The second part is hidden from us, and out of obedience we should not try to find it out. “The saints in heaven wish to know nothing save what our Lord would show them, since their love and desire is ruled only by the will or our Lord. . . . And here I was taught that we should trust and find joy only in our blessed Saviour Jesus for all things” (p 59).
Jesus has a spiritual thirst, a “love-longing,” that will not be quenched until “Doomsday.” This has to do with us being united with him. None will be fully whole in him until the last of all those saved is united with him. Then we will all be whole. “And because of the virtue of this longing of Christ, we in turn long for him, for without it no soul would come to heaven” (p 61). Jesus’ longing includes both pity and compassion. “And this is why he has pity and compassion on us, for he longs to have us, but his wisdom and his love do not allow the end to come until the best time” (p 62).
Whoever said “don’t sweat the small stuff” didn’t know Christ, apparently. When Jesus tells us all will be made well, he means “all.” Large and noble as well as low and simple; he wants us to know that. When we see great evil, we mourn over it, thinking no good can come of it. But it is only because we are blind. The Lord wants us to know that since all will be made well, have faith and trust.
“There is the great deed that God has ordained from without beginning, treasured and hidden in his blissful breast, known only to himself, the deed by which he will make all things well. For just as the blessed Trinity made all things from nothing, even so the same blessed Trinity shall make well all that is not well” (p 63).
Julian admits this showing is difficult, and she wonders about people going to hell, but Jesus tells her that all things are possible for him and that all will be well. So we should be like the saints in heaven, who only want the will of God. If we seek instead to try and find God’s secrets, we will only find ourselves farther from their knowledge.
Julian had asked to see if a person that she loved would remain in the Lord, but it was not shown her. In fact, she seems to have been rebuked lightly. She was shown that we should seek to see God’s will more generally and to see him in everything, and then to know that “all will be well.” She again states that we are made rightful by God out of his goodness, and that we are marvelously kept. Interestingly, Julian says “For it is only by his sufferance we fall” (p 69); another version says only that he allows us to fall (Spearing, p 90). But then she continues that we are kept by him mightily and in mercy and grace are we given many joys.
She sees another great deed that the Lord will perform that we do not know of right now. This is a general revelation for our benefit, to help us love the Lord, yet she says that the Lord may reveal more of this to individuals. It is difficult to understand this deed, which will be done sooner than the one already mentioned. She says it is for all of humanity yet it will be done “when each of us comes to heaven” (p 71). So she calls is “a” great deed for all, but it is individually done.
The Lord tells Julian that he will continue to perform miracles.
Next “God brought to mind that I would sin; yet since my liking was on beholding him, I was not ready to attend to this showing” (p 72). Julian’s admissions make for a very readable account by a mystic. “And our Lord most mercifully remained and gave me grace to listen to him” (p 72). She at first thought this was a personal revelation, but it was not, it was for all Christians. And while she feared over her future sins, the Lord told her that he would surely keep her. This was an extreme comfort to her, and it is to be for all lovers of Jesus. Our higher part does not will to sin and never shall; it is only our lower part that does. Jesus loves us now just the same as when we will be with him face to face. “It is only the failing of love on our side that is the cause of all our travail” (p 73).
Julian is shown how sin and suffering here will be to our benefit in heaven, and it made her very merry. What she writes here is pretty amazing, and perhaps controversial, so I will present much of it.
God also showed that sin shall cause us no shame, but will even be accounted to our honor. For just as every sin is answered in reality by a particular pain, so for every sin that same soul is given joy by love. And as different sins are punished by various pains in accordance with their gravity, so will they be rewarded in heaven by joys that differ according to the pain and sorrow they caused that soul on earth. For the soul coming to heaven is precious to God, while the place itself is destined to reward us so fully that God in his goodness never permits sinful souls to come there without rewarding them for the pain they suffered by their sins. And this is made known without end while they are joyfully restored with overpassing honor (p 73).
We are led by the Holy Spirit to confess our sins, and thus we will see the truth of them and have great sorrow, as they denigrate God’s image. And even though we may get to the point where we feel almost forsaken, we need to know that the Lord keeps us as his “most precious prize always” (p 76). Our remorse over our sin causes us to be meek and have a true longing for God. Again, Julian presents us with such encouragement that it is good to read much:
By contrition we are made clean, by compassion we are made ready, and by true longing for God we are made worthy of him. These three are means by which, as I understand, all souls come to heaven; that is to say, those who have sinned on earth and shall yet be saved, for by these medicines it is fitting that every soul be healed. And though a soul be healed, its wounds are seen before God, no longer as wounds but as trophies. So, on the other hand, as we have been punished here by sorrow and by penance, we will be rewarded in heaven by the courteous love of our Lord god almighty who desires that no one coming to him loses in any degree by all such labors. For he holds sin as a sorrow and pain to his lovers, in whom he assigns no blame for his love (p 76).
Julian goes on to say that, though we can’t see it, the Lord keeps us tenderly while we are in sin. He nudges us easily and sweetly to recognize our sin so that we may confess and have assurance of forgiveness, and close fellowship with him again. “For he longs ceaselessly to bring us to fullest joy . . .” (p 78), although we cannot experience this wholly until we are in heaven.
It is false thinking, and a temptation, to think that it is alright to sin in order to receive more merit. We should loathe sin, as sin is a pain itself that is worse than any other. “And I was shown no harder hell than sin, for of its very nature, the soul knows no other hell but sin” (p 78). We need to fix ourselves on Christ and his love, and we will be made clean through his mercy and grace. We are to try and perfect our Christ-like love toward our fellow Christians, and thus hate sin as God does, and love souls as God loves.
14. About seeking Christ in trust and prayer; He is the ground for this.
The writing on this showing is very long; the longest, in fact, covering 63 pages out of all the showings’ 183, and it is very lovely and very encouraging. First, the Lord showed her “two conditions for prayer: one is rightfulness, and the other sure trust” (p 79). We often feel empty and not sure, so our trust is not complete. But when we pray, it is of the Lord’s doing, so we need to trust in it. “. . . it is utterly impossible that we should seek mercy and grace and not have it. Quite simply, all the things that our good Lord makes us seek and ask for, he has ordained as ours from without beginning (p 80). In this God is good, not us; Jesus is the ground of our seeking (in prayer), not us, and thus it is not our goodness. Thankfulness is also a part of prayer.
There are three things that are part of our praying. One, our prayer arises by Jesus and this is by his goodness only. Two, the “why” and “what for” of praying is to turn our will into our Lord’s. Three, the fruit of our praying is that we will be oned with Jesus, and be like him.
We dishonor Jesus when we do not greatly trust in our prayers, since he is the ground of them. We will be given mercy and grace when we ask. There are times when we’ve prayed a long time and our prayer does not seem to be answered. Julian tells us that “either we must wait for a better time, or an increase in grace, or perhaps an even greater gift” (p 83). He has done everything before we even pray about it.
For prayer is a right understanding of the fullness of joy that is to come, as well as longing and the sure trust that it will be ours. Failing to have the full joy that has been promised us makes us long for it all the more; but true understanding and love, mindful of our sweet Saviour’s purpose, brings with it the grace to trust in him. And in these two workings—of longing and of trust—our Lord beholds us continually; such is our dutiful task, and in his goodness he expects nothing less of us (p 84).
Our prayers bring us, our soul, closer the will of God, and so one with him; we are restored and enabled by grace. Julian describes in sensual terms our delight and longing for the Lord, helped through the Holy Spirit, and our ultimate union with him (p 86).
Truth sees God, and wisdom beholds God, and of these two comes the third: that is, a holy marvelous delight in God, which is love. . . . And the soul is a creature in God, that has the same properties though they be made. And so now and evermore it does what it was made for: it sees God, it beholds God and it loves God. And because of this, God takes enjoyment in his creature, and the creature in God, both endlessly marveling. . . . the brightness and the clearness of truth and wisdom makes us see and know that we are made for love: in which love God endlessly keeps us (pp 87-88).
Julian tells us that God judges us according to our human nature, but people judge us by our changing moods and conditions; God does not blame us. She says that this goes against church teaching. She refers to them as higher and lower judgments. She never fully understands this, but refers the reader to another showing, that of the lord and servant. In addition, she says that the whole meaning of the revelation was to show how we are kept in salvation, yet she also always saw what the church teaches, and she was to take both to heart. Still, our Lord is never “wroth” with us. “Our soul is oned to him, who is unchangeable goodness, and between God and our soul there is neither wrath nor need of forgiveness in his sight” (p 91). Amazingly, Julian says that she always thought of God’s mercy as something related to him forgiving our sins – that he overcomes his wrath with mercy. But, this is not so; he is not wrathful toward us. This is because we are frail and this life is hard, and we can’t see God; if we could see God, we wouldn’t do the sinful things we do.
Regarding mercy, she saw that the ground of it is love and that we are kept in love through mercy, and so mercy seemed the same as love. When we fail, even, mercy keeps us because all is by design anyway. Mercy is like tender love, with pity; grace is uplifting and rewarding. We have wrath within ourselves, and God’s mercy and grace work toward lessening this.
This was a high wonder to the soul . . . that our Lord God, of his very nature, may not forgive since he may never be angry—for that would be impossible. This is what was shown: our whole life is grounded and rooted in love, for without love we may not live. And therefore once the soul, by God’s special grace, sees to such a degree the high wonder of the goodness of God that we are oned to him in love without end, it is utterly impossible that God should be wroth. For wrath and friendship are two opposites. He who wastes and destroys our wrath, making us meek and mild, must accordingly be ever in the same love, meek and mild, which is contrary to wrath. . . . if God could be wroth even for a touch, then we should have no more life . . . (p 96)
God’s goodness continually strives to remove the wrath within ourselves. His mercy and grace work to make us fully meek and mild, at which time we will be oned with him, who is our peace. Jesus takes all our woes and sends them to heaven, where they will be turned into rewards, and once we are in heaven we will be unchanging, just as he is.
Julian says that in human terms, many are judged to be spiritually dead, “Yet in the sight of God, the soul that shall be saved was never dead nor will it be” (p 98). But since we feel so guilty over our sin, how can it be that the Lord puts no blame on us? she wonders. She was very frustrated, wanting to see sin as God sees it, or see what he does with it. She is then shown a “parable” of a lord and his servant.
There is a lord and his servant, and the Lord gently sends his servant on an errand. The servant very eagerly responds, but ends up falling into a type bog and gets stuck. He’s very uncomfortable, and cannot turn around to see his lord, who would be able to comfort him. So the servant is in agony, yet he was meek, too. The lord looked on him in love, and did not blame him for anything. The lord was also greatly pleased with the great rest he had planned for his servant, since it was his servant’s loving will to carry out his lord’s wishes. In fact, the servant’s reward will be greater because of his fall.
She knew the parable had to do with Adam, but she felt that there was more to it that she couldn’t understand. Almost 20 years later she was given understanding. The lord was God and the servant was Adam, yet God views all humans through Adam. The lord knew and approved of the servant’s will, even though the servant himself did not fully understand or know his own will. Nor could the servant see or understand the lord’s love for him. God’s continual pity keep Adam (us) from eternal death, but in this life we cannot see God or his compassion and pity. She also saw that God made the human soul to be his dwelling place, his city. But since Adam’s fall, it is unsuitable. However, God decided to wait for our cleansing (through Jesus) rather than make a new dwelling place. God was joyful of the planned restoration of Adam.
She came to understand a second meaning, where the servant was Christ, or Christ’s manhood. Julian also brings in the Holy Spirit, which she says is the love in them both. When Adam fell, Jesus fell with him; Jesus fell to this earth to become a man here, and he even fell into hell.
. . . for in all this, our good Lord showed his own Son and Adam as but one man. The virtue and the goodness that we have is of Jesus Christ, the feebleness and blindness is of Adam; both of which were shown in the servant. And so has our good Lord Jesus taken upon himself all our blame; and therefore our Father may assign, neither will he, no more blame to us, than to his own Son, dearworthy Christ. And so it was that he was the servant even before his coming into the earth [he came into the maiden’s womb] . . . (pp 108-109).
For all those who will be saved, they are part of the manhood of Christ, he being the head. Julian says that even though much was revealed to her about this parable, there is still much that is secret. She then gives more details of what the clothes and colors mean, which are not provided here.
“All that shall be saved have during their time of life a strange medley of both weal and woe” (p 113). We have Christ in us, yet we also have Adam. Though we might hate our times of woe and fall into sin, God works in us to trust in his mercy. Jesus takes joy in his fall, since it brings us such bliss, even more than if we had never fallen. It is a part of us to feel guilty and upset over our sin, to recognize all the harm it does, but it is part of God to excuse us. We are not to be in despair over our part, and we are not to be over reckless because of God’s part.
We are to know that God looks on us in our fallen state just as he looked at Adam, with pity, compassion, and love.
For I saw that God never began to love humankind . . . humankind has been, in the foresight of God, known and loved from without beginning, according to his rightful plan. And by the endless assent and full accord of all the Trinity, the Second Person would be the ground and Head of this fair nature. From him we all come, in him we are all enclosed, into him we are all going . . . by the foreseeing purpose of the blessed Trinity from without beginning (p 118).
For before he made us, he loved us; and when we were made, we loved him; and his love comes of the kindly substantial goodness of the Holy Spirit, mighty by reason of the power of the Father, wise in the mind of the wisdom of the Son. And thus the human soul is made of god and in the same point is knit to God (p 118).
Therefore he wants us to know that the noblest thing that ever he made is humankind; and the fullest substance and the highest power is the blessed soul of Christ. And furthermore he wills us to know that all the souls that shall be saved in heaven without end are knit in this knot and oned in this oneing, and made holy in the holiness (p 119).
Amazingly, God makes no distinction between his love for Christ’s soul and any of our own. And God dwells in us, and we in him, and we ought to take great joy in this. Just think of what a high understanding this is! Somehow our soul, which is made, dwells in God’s substance (our faith is a power that comes from the Holy Spirit). God wants us to know that we are more in heaven than on earth, that our souls are the city of God, and that once he enters he never leaves. Julian also adds that she was given a glimpse of that part of our soul (the higher part) that resides in God.
Julian learned that we come to know of God before we come to know of our own soul. We must know God before we can know our own soul, and we must desire to know our soul, and with the leading of the Holy Spirit we shall know them both. We are a city that Jesus resides in, and our soul in turn resides in Jesus. We are to be repentant while longing for God, and when we are deep in him we shall know our own soul. Julian goes on to explain that many things are needed for this, and that none alone will suffice. She lumps these into three, and they all work together: reason, insight and love, and mercy and grace.
The remaining sections (57-63) of showing 14 are some of the more difficult passages of all. She writes that our soul (substance) was knit to Jesus at the time he came into his mother’s womb. He enclosed us within himself and became perfect man. She explains that it was the Trinity’s plan to make the fair nature of humankind for Jesus, and that we were all made at once. Since she says that we were oned and knitted to him when we were made, one can infer that she means that we were made when he entered the virgin’s womb. Julian does not explain this further here, except to say that Jesus is the mother (referring to our birth) of both our substance (soul) and sensuality (flesh) (but remember, she also says that God knew us and loved us before time). And Jesus reforms and restores us, oneing our substance and sensuality and thus making us perfect. He says:
I it am: the might and the goodness of the Fatherhood.
I it am: the wisdom of the Motherhood.
I it am: the light and the grace that is all blessed Love.
I it am: the Trinity.
I it am: the Unity.
I am the sovereign goodness of all manner of things.
I am that makes you to love.
I am that makes you to long.
I it am: the endless fulfilling of all true desires.
God willed that the second person of the trinity, Jesus, be our Mother, Brother, and Saviour (and he is our husband, too). God is our Father, to whom we give thanks and praise for our making. Because of his qualities resembling motherhood, we are to pray to Jesus for mercy and pity. And to the Lord the Holy Spirit, who is goodness, we pray for help and grace.
Julian then goes on to expound on the “motherhood” of Christ. He gave birth to us and he works in us to change our sensuality, and this by grace. (Her words may seem simple, but her theology is not; she is trying to explain how the trinity works within itself, and how it works within humankind.) While our natural mothers bore us to a life of pain and eventual dying, our Lordly mother bore us to joy and endless living. He would gladly suffer more for us, and he sustains us with himself, just as a natural mother gives her own milk for her children. A mother will lay her child tenderly on her breast, but Jesus leads us to his own breast through the opening in his side. “The property of true motherhood is kind love, wisdom, and knowing, and it is good” (p 135), and our Lord is himself these things. The mother knows her child and changes her response to it as it gets older, though her love does not change. In order for the child to break away from vices, and to receive virtues, he must be chastised.
As soon as we fall, he promptly raises us, lovingly calling our name and touching us by grace. And when we have been strengthened thus by his sweet working, then we gladly choose him, by his sweet grace, to be his servants and his lovers lastingly without end. And after this he suffers some of us to fall more hard and grievously than ever before, or so it seems to us. And then in our ignorance we think that all we had begun is undone. But it is not so; for it is necessary that we fall and this we need to see. For if we did not fall, we would never know how feeble and how wretched we are by ourselves. Nor would we know in such great measure the marvelous love of our Maker (p 136). . . . For rocklike and marvelous is that love which may not, nor will not, be broken in transgression (p 137).
When we fall the Lord does not want us to flee, but to run to him just as a child runs to its mother for special help and comfort. And at times if we do not feel comforted at first, we can trust that He wills for us to mourn for awhile. We need to trust him just as a child may trust its mother. “His task is to save us, a duty he delights to fulfill. And he would have us know it; for he wants us to love him sweetly and trust in him meekly and mightily” (p 138).
15. We will be in His presence suddenly, and be assured of this because of His goodness.
The fifteenth showing is short in words compared to many of the others, but not short in meaning or intent. This showing relates to our passing, which Julian had longed for. “And even if there were no other pain in this life apart from the absence of our Lord, sometimes this alone seemed to me more than I could bear” (p 142). The Lord wanted her to know, and all of us, that we shall be taken suddenly, and He said: “. . . you shall have no more pain of any sort, no more discomfort, nothing will you want, but all shall be joy and bliss without end. Why should it seem hard for you to suffer awhile, since that is my will and to my honor?” (p 143). Julian saw that it was God’s will that we feel as though we are always on the point of being taken.
She has a vision of a big, gross, swollen body – which is our flesh—and a clean child coming out of it. This is us, clean and pure, being taken out of our pain. She makes a point of this. That is, that we are taken from pain, and not that pain is taken from us. Why this distinction is important is not really explained, but she does emphasize it. The Lord wants us to take comfort in our passing and has promised us: “. . . you shall come up above; and you shall have me as your reward; and you will be filled of joy and bliss” (p 144). He wants us to focus on this, to contemplate it, as much as we can. It is to his honor that we do this, but when we ever lose focus, we need to remember that God has not forgotten us. He wants us to take our sufferings as lightly as we can in this life, to take less account of them because of our love for Him. The more we do this, the greater our reward will be.
So for whoever deliberately chooses the Lord for this life, they can be sure of God’s never ending love for them and the endless bliss they will have later.
It is God’s will that I see myself as much bound to him by love as if he had done all his deeds just for me. And every soul should think inwardly in this way about their lover: that is to say, the love of God makes such a unity among us that, when it is truly seen, no one can part themselves from another. And so our soul should come to think that God has done for it all that he has done; this was shown to make us love him and fear no one except him (pp 145-146).
Isn’t that amazing, that God wants us to think that he has done for us, personally, all that he has ever done?
16. A conclusion and confirmation of the previous fifteen; the Trinity indwells us through Jesus, and it keeps us and so we won’t be overcome by Satan.
Unlike the other showings, which were given one after the other, all at once, this one came the following night. After her sickness and pains had returned, she was visited by a priest, then she fell asleep. During her sleep, she was visited by Satan, who was trying to strangle her (or made out that he was). She woke up, and others were with her. Julian saw and smelled smoke, or vapors, but no one else did. When she called on the Lord and remembered all the visions she had earlier, the foul vision left, and the Lord showed her something very wonderful.
And then our Lord, opening my spiritual eye, showed me my soul in the middle of my heart. I saw the soul as large as if it were an endless world and as if it were a blissful kingdom. And by the details I saw therein, I understood it to be a glorious city (p 149).
In the middle of that city sits our Lord Jesus . . . . The place that Jesus takes in our soul, he shall never remove from it without end—as I see it; for in us is his homeliest home and his endless dwelling.
. . . the blessed Trinity rejoices without end in the making of our soul; for he saw from without beginning what would please him without end (p 150).
We may perceive the nobility in all things created by the Lord, since they reveal Him. Yet our soul knows that it is not among those things that it is to dwell—we can never find rest in those things. We may look upward and find our soul, yet it is to the Lord within our soul that we set our eyes on. Interestingly, Julian saw that if the Trinity had made the soul any better, then the Lord would not have been as pleased. “And he wants our hearts to be raised mightily above the deepness of the earth and all vain sorrows and rejoice in him” (p 150). Jesus wants us to take heart and have a firm hope in that He is sitting in His dwelling, our soul. While we may be tempted in this life, we will not be overcome. She then had a visitation from Satan again, but was comforted by the Lord; she spoke of Christ’s passion as well, which is what overcomes the evil one, and he vanished in the morning.
When she had been visited by the priest earlier, and was in her pains again, she told the priest that she “raved.” And so Jesus came and told her that she hadn’t raved, and showed her everything over again, even more fully than the first time.
. . . in whatever way he instructs us, he wants us to discern him wisely, receive him sweetly, and keep ourselves in him faithfully. For above the faith there is no goodness left in this life, as I see it; and beneath the faith there is no help to the soul; but only in the faith: that is where the Lord wills us to keep ourselves. And so we must keep ourselves in the faith by his goodness and his own working and, when he permits it, our faith is tested by the spiritual conflict so that we become strong. For if our faith has no conflict it would deserve no reward, as I understand the Lord’s meaning (p 155).
Jesus looks at us always, in love-longing, and wishes our soul to look to him cheerfully. Julian saw him look at us, or regard us, in three different ways. He has a look of suffering, from his time of dying here (this look “is also glad and merry, for he is God” p 156), which he looks upon us with when we suffer. His second look is that of pity and compassion, and he gives us this, with his mercy, when we sin; he thus keeps us and defends us against our enemies. His third look was that of bliss, which she saw the most but which is only mingled with the other two looks for us in this life. The blissful look imparts a touching of grace and enlightens us spiritually.
The highest bliss is to see our Lord, and the opposite is “deepest pain,” which is sin. The more grievous our sin, the farther we are away from seeing our Lord and being in bliss. We may feel dead and be partly dead in that we cannot see him, but to God, we are never dead. But, our Lord cannot be fully in his bliss until we are fully in bliss with him. We will always mourn and weep because we cannot see him, yet we have reason for happiness (“mirth”) since we can know that he is in us and we are in him.
Now Julian says that she had three types of vision: bodily sight, words formed in her understanding, and spiritual sight or visions. Since the spiritual visions are hard to explain, she wants to say more about them. The rest of this showing, then, consists of further elaborations of what she already presented.
There are two kinds of sickness (or sin) that we have, which are impatience or sloth (toward our suffering), and despair or fearful doubting. God is all love, and we tend to doubt this in regard to our sin. We sin regularly and we get so heavy regarding it, that sometimes we fear because of it. If someone takes this to be humility, it is false.
For of all the properties of the blissful Trinity, it is God’s will that we be most sure of and take most delight in his love; for love makes us strong and wisdom humbles us. For just as by the courteous wisdom of God, he forgives us our sin following our repentance, so also he wants us to forgive our sin in respect of our foolish dreads and these doubts that cast us down (p 160).
Julian explains that there are four kinds of dread, but I will not explain them all here. The fourth one, the dread of God, is the most important one to God. The more we dread the Lord, the more we love him, and in fact the less we will feel the dread. This is an apparent contradiction, but reverent dread and meek love cannot be separated, she tells us. The more you have them, the more you will trust God. Pray for them, for you need them to please God.
Regarding penance, Julian said she did not see what kind we should take upon ourselves, but instead endure gladly the penance that God himself gives us. We are to remember Christ’s own passion and what he suffered, and patiently bear our own sufferings. She recalled these words our Lord spoke:
“Do not accuse yourself overmuch, nor imagine that all your troubles and woe are because of your trespasses; for it is not my will that you are heavy and unduly full of sorrow. Whatever you do, you will have sorrow. Therefore I want you to understand it is your penance and you will see in truth that all this life is a penance that is for your benefit.” This place is a prison; this life a penance (p 168).
. . . he wants us to listen readily to his gracious touching, more rejoicing in his whole love than sorrowing in our frequent falls. For it is the most honor we can pay him of all that we might do, that we live gladly and merrily for love of him in our penance. For he beholds us so tenderly that he sees all our living and penance. The natural longing we have for him is ever a lasting penance in us; and this penance is his work in us and mercifully he helps us to bear it (p 175).
And I will end her revelation with one last quote.
And therefore when the doom and judgment is given and we have all been brought up above, then we will see clearly in God those secret things that are hidden from us now. Then will none of us be stirred to say, “Lord, if only it had been thus, then it had been full well”; but we shall say all with one voice, “Lord, blessed may you be! For it is thus, it is well. And now we see truly that all thing is done as it was always ordained by you before anything was made” (p 180).
(c) Vicki Priest
2 thoughts on “Julian of Norwich”
Thanks for your thorough review. Very helpful for people wanting more information.
This was enlightening. It relates to Sri Aurobindo’s writings.