This week, the participants in my Retreat in Daily Living are praying with Julian of Norwich, one of the great mystical writers of the 14th Century. After an illness that almost took her life, Julian had a series of “showings,” dramatic revelations of God’s love. (The book she subsequently wrote elaborating on these “showings” is called Revelation of Love.)
God’s love was not the emphasis of the Church at the time of Julian. Rather, the Church at the time was preaching sin and damnation, viewing the plague as the punishment of an angry God for the evil of the people. In contrast, Julian’s emphasis was on God’s mercy and goodness, on God’s love, because that was her experience of God. In an extraordinarily moving passage that I invited my retreatants to pray with during one of their prayer periods this week, Julian presents to us the fruit of her years of pondering and reflection, writing:
And from the time that it was revealed, I desired many times to know in 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.
Thus I was taught that love was our Lord’s meaning. And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us. And in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had a beginning. But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end.
This is the core of Julian’s teaching: Love was God’s meaning. The message is a timeless one an a crucial one for us to embrace: God’s love is always the meaning.
During our retreat meeting on Tuesday, I recorded my introductory talk on Julian. Although my technical adviser (aka my daughter) is not happy with the sound quality and insists that we re-record a version of the talk, for the time being you can find it here.