Julian of Norwich
Almost 20 years ago I met a woman named Julian. She had a love of God, community and cats. I met her when my best friend in seminary said she was really excited to be taking this class. I tagged along because I liked spending time with my friend and the professor. The entire class centered around Julian (no last name) who was an anchoritic nun in Norwich England 1342-1416. Her book Showings is heralded as one of the most important spiritual books written. I liked her a whole lot more than the book. I sometimes struggle reading works from other time periods. Julian was born just as the 100 years war began between England & France. She was 6 when the "Black Death" appeared on the Southern Coast of England. Julian was gravely ill when she was 30 and had 16 visions centered the crucified Christ. She understood the visions to mean that God loves us unconditionally. After she recovered she chose to live in a small cell attached to a church that gave her a view of the altar so she could dedicate her life to prayer for her community. Her constant companion was a cat. Many years ago Josh gave me an Icon with her on it. It remains in my office to this day.
What I most remember and treasure from Julian is her saying, "And all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." I remember this words regularly when things are difficult. It's not a magic phrase. But it is a reminder not just of Julian's life & witness but the depths of God's love for us.
Julian in her writing tried to explain that the suffering of Christ is like that of a mother who suffers when her child is ill. She also wrote of the suffering of Christ on the Cross as a mother giving birth. At the time I was not a mother and had not experienced pregnancy or child birth. I had not experienced the depth of love for someone I had yet to meet. I had not yet experienced the agony of worry as my child's life was in a surgeon's hands. Neither had Julian and yet her vision is true.
We long for a return to the days of February long before we knew about physical distancing and the coronavirus was something on another continent. But we cannot escape our reality. As I sit outside, listening to the birds of the air I am reminded that this is not the first time illness has upended society. As I shared in the sermon last Sunday that we have an opportunity to reorder our lives. And as exciting as that might be it is also hard as we grieve what is lost and wonder how to live in community together. Today, I am clinging to the promise that God loves us deeply and dearly. I am reminding myself that "all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." I am asking God to lead and guide us, so that our lives together may be a faithful response to God's call in our lives to love God and neighbor. Amen.