A Eucharist for Julian of Norwich
The celebrated Anchoress Mother Julian of Norwich (1342-c.1416) experienced her extraordinary series of revelations of Divine Love on 8th May 1373. As that was the day on which we celebrated the commemoration of 75 years since the VE Day I felt it more appropriate then to do a short service of Thanksgiving. However for today I am dedicating the Eucharist, which comes from St Nicholas and All Saints, at Icklesham to Julian.
Julian of Norwich is known to us almost only through her book, The Revelations of Divine Love, which is widely acknowledged as one of the great classics of the spiritual life. She is thought to have been the first woman to write a book in English which has survived.
We do not know Julian’s actual name but her name is taken from St. Julian’s Church in Norwich where she lived as an anchoress for most of her life. We know from the medieval literary work, The Book of Margery Kempe, that Julian was known as a spiritual counsellor. People would come to her cell in Norwich to seek advice. Considering that, at the time, the citizens of Norwich suffered from plague and poverty, as well as a famine, she must have counselled a lot of people in pain. Yet, her writings are suffused with hope and trust in God’s goodness.
Her writings will be well known to many but they seem particularly appropriate in the current climate of fear, uncertainty and sickness brought about by the coronavirus. At the age of about 30 1/2 she experienced a serious illness and became close to death. On the May 8th she received a series of visions assuring her of the love of God. She was immensely revered during her own lifetime and remained confined in a cell from which she dispensed spiritual guidance. Perhaps the words for which she is most remembered are in fact spoken to her by the Lord
“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.
“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’
Instead of my own words for a sermon, I have reproduced Chapter 15 of Revelations of Divine Love, which is a thoughtful reflection of the way in which we can all oscillate between a feelings of joy and confidence and fear and anxiety. Something many will feel at the present moment. Her words remind us that there is nothing new under the sun and that the love of God endures.