devine love

Julian of Norwich & Revelations of Divine Love

Julian of Norwich, who lived from 1342 to 1416. She is the first writer in English who can be certainly identified as a woman. In 1378, when seriously ill and apparently dying, she received an extraordinary series of ‘showings’ or revelations from God, which she subsequently wrote down. This goes by the title ‘Revelations of Divine Love’. In later life she lived as an anchoress at St. Julian’s Church, Norwich, from which she adopted the name by which she is known. She became famous as a spiritual adviser.

At the same time, our Lord showed me a spiritual vision of his familiar love. I saw that for us he is everything that we find good and comforting. He is our clothing, wrapping us for love, embracing and enclosing us for tender love, so that he can never leave us, being himself everything that is good for us, as I understand it.

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 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.’ In this little thing I saw three properties: the first is that God made it, the second is that God loves it, the third is that God cares for it. But what the maker, the carer and the lover really is to me, I cannot tell; for until I become one substance with him, I can never have complete rest or true happiness; that is to say, until I am so bound to him that there is no created thing between my God and me.

We need to know the littleness of all created beings and to set at nothing everything that is made in order to love and possess God who is unmade. This is the reason why we do not feel complete ease in our hearts and souls: we look here for satisfaction in things which are so trivial, where there is no rest to be found, and do not know our God who is almighty, all wise, all good; he is rest itself. God wishes to be known, and is pleased that we should rest in him; for all that is below him does nothing to satisfy us; and this is why, until all that is made seems as nothing, no soul can be at rest. When a soul sets all at nothing for love, to have him who is everything, then he is able to receive spiritual rest.

(‘Revelations of Divine Love’ Ch. 5 Long text. Penguin edition.)

At the end of the book, Julian tells us that from the time of her original vision, she often desired to know ‘what our Lord meant.’ After 15 years her spiritual understanding received an answer, which was this:

‘Do you want to know what your Lord meant? Know well that love was what he meant. Who showed you this? Love. What did he show? Love. Why did he show it to you? For love. Hold fast to this and you will know and understand more of the same; but you will never understand or know from it anything else for all eternity.’

This is how I was taught that our Lord’s meaning was love. And I saw quite certainly in this and in everything that God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall. And all his works were done in this love; and in this love he has made everything for our profit; and in this love our life is everlasting.