23 May 2013
The window from the Cell to the Church
It was in 1373, when Julian was just over 30 years old and living with her mother that she received her visions. In her book she tells that she had desired 3 graces from God (i) to have the consistent recollection of Christ's Passion, (ii) to experience bodily sickness when she was 30 years old (the same age as Jesus when he began his ministry) and (iii) to have 3 wounds; true contrition, loving compassion and a longing for God. In her 30th year she became sick to the point of death. The priest came and prepared her for death and gave her the last rites. A few days later on the Third Sunday after Easter, May 8th, having again been visited by her priest, the pain suddenly left her and a series of wonderful 'Revelations' or 'Showings' began. During the next 12 or so hours she received 15 revelations of God's love centering on the cross of our Lord; then a 16th early on the Monday morning. It was this experience that convinced her that she had to devote her life totally to God. She decided not to go off and live in a convent as a nun, but to become an Anchoress. And it just so happened that the anchoress cell attached to S. Julian's Church on King Street was unoccupied at that time. So she became the Anchoress at S. Julian's and eventually wrote down two versions of her Revelations, in the Middle English of her day. The first was written soon after her arrival and a much longer text some years later after much prayer, contemplation and meditation. Her book is called THE REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE: the first book to be written in English by a woman.
The subject of The Revelations is love - God's love for mankind shown in the Passion, suffering and death of Jesus Christ, and the response of man towards God, his Maker, Keeper and Preserver. This love creates all that exists; it sustains all and redeems all; it is unfailing even in times of sorrow or trial; it is unconditional; it is a love plenteous beyond imagining; it is all powerful and all embracing; and in this love there is no place for anger or wrath. God's whole purpose is to bring all into the bliss of heaven, so that 'All shall be well!'
He loves us and enjoys us, and so he wills that we love him and enjoy him, and firmly trust him; and all shall be well.
Our soul rests in God its true peace, our soul stands in God its true strength, and is deep-rooted in God for endless love.
He is our clothing. In his love he wraps and holds us. He enfolds us for love and will never let us go.
He did not say 'You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted'. But he did say, 'You shall not be overcome.' God wants us to heed these words so that we shall always be strong in trust, both is sorrow and in joy.
Flee to our Lord and we shall be comforted. Touch him and we shall be made clean. Cling to him and we shall be safe and sound from every kind of danger. For our courteous Lord wills that we should be at home with him as heart may think or soul may desire
Prayer fastens the soul to God, making it one with his will through the deep inward working of the Holy Spirit. So he says this, 'Pray inwardly, even though you feel no joy in it. For it does good, though you feel nothing, see nothing, yes, even though you think you cannot pray. For when you are dry and empty, sick and weak, your prayers please me, though there be little enough to please you. All believing prayer is precious in my sight.' God accepts the good-will and work of his servants, no matter how we feel.
There were times when I wanted to look away from the Cross, but I dared not. For I knew that while I gazed on the Cross I was safe and sound, and I was not willingly going to imperil my soul.
I was filled full of everlasting assurance, powerfully secured without any pain or fear. This experience was so happy spiritually that I felt completely at peace and relaxed; there was nothing on earth that could have disturbed me. But this lasted only for a short time, and then I was changed and I began to act with a sense of loneliness and depression and the futility of life itself, so that I hardly had the patience to continue living. No comfort or relaxation now, just 'faith, hope and love', and truly I felt very little of this. And yet soon after this our blessed Lord gave me once again that comfort, so pleasant and sure, so delightful and powerful, that there was no fear, no sorrow, no pain, physical and spiritual that could bother me. And then again I felt the pain; then the joy and pleasure; now the one and now the other, again and again, I suppose about 20 times. In the time of joy I could have said with S. Paul: Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ; and in my pain I could have said with S. Peter: Save me Lord, I am perishing. This vision was shown to teach me to understand that some souls profit by experiencing this, to be comforted at one time, and at another to be left to themselves. God wishes us to know however that he keeps us safe at all times, in sorrow and in joy.
In the last chapter of her book Julian writes about her Revelations:
I desired in many ways to know what was our Lord's meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end.
Most Holy Lord
the ground of our beseeching
who through your servant
revealed the wonder of your love
grant that as we are created in your nature
and restored by your grace
our wills may be so made one with yours
that we may come to see you face to face
and gaze on you for ever