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In the Tenth Revelation, while Julian of Norwich is immersed in contemplating Christ on the cross, she sees him gaze into the wound on his right side with a joyous expression. Through this shift in the focus of Christ’s eyes, Julian understands that he is inviting her to enter mystically, through the open wound, into the depths of his Sacred Heart. It is such a magnanimous gesture, like the resurrected Christ showing his five wounds to Thomas and inviting him to touch and “do not doubt but believe” (Jn 20:27).
 
Yet it is even more intimate than that. Christ is offering Julian a profound insight into the abundance of divine love within his human heart. Her mind passes through the physical cleft in his flesh into “a fair, delectable place,” a spiritual heaven, that is “large enough” not only for herself, but “for all mankind that shalle be saved to rest in peace and in love.” While he walked the earth, Christ had offered this same invitation: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Here, Christ allows Julian to experience, very personally and very tenderly, another dimension of heavenly bliss: the ineffable joy of entering into the Heart of God.
 
The Sacred Heart

Devotion to the Sacred Heart had its foundation in Benedictine and Cistercian monastic life of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It was believed that Christ’s wounded Heart of love could be approached through contemplation of the physical wound in his side. William of St. Thierry (d.1148) wrote that he longed to come “to the most holy wound of His side . . . that I may put in not only my finger or my whole hand, but enter wholly into the very Heart of Jesus, into the Holy of Holies.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153) taught that the piercing of Christ’s side shows forth his goodness and the love of his Heart for us. And Richard of St. Victor (d.1173) believed there was no tenderness comparable with that of the Heart of Jesus. In the thirteenth century, the Ancrene Riwle for enclosed women counseled the wounds of Christ as the refuge against temptation:
Name Jesus often, and invoke the aid of his passion, and implore him by his sufferings, and by his precious blood, and by his death on the cross. Fly into his wounds; creep into them with thy thought. They are all open. He loved us much who permitted such cavities to be made in him, that we might hide ourselves in them. And, with his precious blood, ensanguine thine heart.
 
St. Bonaventure (d.1274) wrote frequently on the Sacred Heart: “Who is there who would not love this wounded Heart? Who would not love, in return, him who loves so much?”7 And St. Gertrude (d.1301) had profound revelations concerning the Heart of Jesus. In one vision she received on the feast day of St. John the Evangelist, Gertrude recorded that she was invited to “lay her head” near the wound in Christ’s breast, where she heard the beating of his Sacred Heart. She became bold enough to ask St. John if, at the Last Supper, when he lay his own head on Christ’s breast, he had felt the delightful pulsing of the Lord’s Heart and if so, why had he never recorded it in his gospel. He replied, “Because I was charged with instructing the newly-formed Church concerning the mysteries of the Uncreated Word.” St. John then told Gertrude that the grace of learning of the Sacred Heart was reserved to her century, to rouse it from its lethargy so that it would be inflamed with the great worth of Divine Love.

Throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Carthusians prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but only as a personal and contemplative practice. The Five Wounds of Christ on the cross (in both hands, both feet, and in his heart) were often acknowledged in prayer as symbols of his great suffering and salvific love. But there was no liturgical movement in the church encouraging devotion to the Sacred Heart, and it was not yet at all common among the laity. Julian’s Revelation, while in a long and completely orthodox tradition of private devotion, suggests a fresh and poignant invitation by Christ to see the wound in his side as both the physical and mystical entry point into his Sacred Heart. Julian writes:
And therewith he brought to mind his dearworthy blood and his precious water which he let pour all out for love. And with the sweet beholding he showed his blissful heart split completely in two. And with this sweet enjoying he sh0wed to my understanding, in part, the blessed godhead, to the extent that he wished to at that time, strengthening the poor soul to understand what can be said: that is to mean, the endless love that was without beginning, and is, and shall be forever.
 
It is important here to distinguish between Christ’s physical heart, which poured out blood and water from the cross, and his symbolic heart as unconditional love, forever emptying itself and pouring forth mercy and grace. The physical piercing by Longinus with a lance split Christ’s human heart “completely in two.” By this act, Julian recognizes the Savior’s love being symbolically pierced by sin and apathy in every age. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Is 53:5). The gaping wound from the spear in his flesh becomes the graphic image of Christ’s broken heart, which in turn becomes the spiritual dwelling place for all humankind.
 
Is this not the all-compassionate Sacred Heart that still and always pours out mercy and love on our sinful, suffering world? Let us offer our own hearts to his Heart on this feast day and every day, that we may ourselves become conduits of divine love, healing, and peace.
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For Julian of Norwich, it is faith, and faith alone, that enables us to know our true origin, who we are, and our ultimate destination. Julian understood that faith and all the other virtues come from the Holy Spirit, and that without the Spirit’s gifts no one receives any virtue. Julian sees faith as the most exalted kind of understanding.
For faith is nothing else but a right understanding with true belief and seker trust within our being, that we are in God and he is in us, which we cannot see.
 
Noticeably, Julian does not lay out a set of doctrines that must be affirmed to have faith (although she never denies that faith involves believing what the church teaches). Her concentration here is different. For her, faith is the secure trust that, within the ground of our being, the soul is in God and God is in the soul. Faith is precisely the spiritual insight that enables us to know what we cannot comprehend by human reasoning alone. It is an inspired understanding of our creation and redemption which, because of the blindness caused by sin, we are obviously unable to experience directly. Sin has deprived humanity of the ability to “see” God, but faith appears as inner vision. It is essential to our self awareness. As St. Paul has written: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1, italics added). If we dare to believe, faith (along with all the other virtues that God grants the soul) “works great things in us.”
 
Of course, it is actually Christ who does the monumental work of mercy in the soul at all times, constantly reconciling us to himself. By his divine activity we are made able to see and understand more and more, through the gifts and virtues of the Holy Spirit. Julian identifies this inner working of the Lord as that which enables us to become “Christ’s children and christian in living.” It is always and ever Christ’s work in our souls, not our own. Julian affirms that Christ is our way, continually leading us and teaching us by his laws. He delights in this work, as does his Father. Julian recalls the Ninth Revelation, in which she saw Christ bear all who are members of his Mystical Body into heaven, where he presents them to his Father, who receives these souls thankfully and then graciously returns them to his Son.
Which gift and working is joy to the father, and bliss to the son, and liking to the holy ghost. Of all the things that we are obliged to do in this life, we must give God the greatest pleasure by rejoicing in this joy. And notwithstanding all our feeling, woe or wele, God wills we understand and believe that we are more truly in heaven than on earth.
 
What an astounding statement! Julian is certain that, because Christ has already saved us and incorporated us into his Mystical Body, our true lives are not here, in our mortal bodies, but in the joyful embrace of the Trinity. For Julian, we are more spiritual than fleshly, more at home in heaven than on earth. She further describes faith as arising from “the natural love of our soul” for what is good and from “the clear light of our reason,” which enables us to think and inform the will in order to make good decisions, as well as from the “steadfast memory” that we have of God in our creation. We might consider faith as a sacred remembrance that never forgets where we have come from: God. It is a spiritual homesickness that longs to return where it belongs.

This coming Pentecost, let us pray for an infusion of faith from the Holy Spirit that will inspire us —in times of “woe or wele”—to lead lives that are truly on fire with faith!
 
PLEASE NOTE: Excerpts above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books, 2013), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
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Today, the 8th of May, is Julian’s Feast Day, the day she received her Revelations of Divine Love! Let us rejoice that Christ chose to show his sufferings on the cross as well as his transcendent joy and bliss to her in such a visceral way, with words of wisdom and comfort that echo through the ages. And let us give thanks that in spite of persecutions and the burning of books after her death, both Julian’s Short and Long Texts were spared, and copied, and so bequeathed to us for our own time. I think if Julian were to say anything to us on her special day, it would be this:
 
And thus I understood that any man or woman who willingly chooses God in this lifetime for love, he may be seker (certain) that he is loved without end, with endless love that works in him that grace [of choosing God]. For he [God] wills we recollect this trustfully, that we are as seker in hope of the bliss of heaven while we are here as we shall be in sekernesse (certainty) when we are there. And ever the more pleasure and joy that we take in this sekernesse, with reverence and humility, the more it delights him.
 
No matter how many trials and sufferings we may have to bear; no matter how dark and dangerous the world situation may look; no matter how little we understand who we really are and why this or that is happening in our lives; and no matter how long we may have to wait for Christ to reveal himself to us, we must never give up certain hope of the bliss of divine union that awaits us! We must hope and trust “mightily” that Christ is always at work in us, and in those we love, and in the world situations; hope and trust that “alle shalle be wele” because God is pure goodness and love; hope and trust that even though we may be distressed or tempted (and often fail), we are never less loved by God; hope and trust that we may be as “certain in hope of bliss in heaven while we are here as we shall be certain when we are there.” As Christ said to Julian: “Thou shalt not be overcome.” And she wasn’t.
 
Happy Feast Day, dear Julian, from all those who love you! Please pray for us!

PLEASE NOTE: Excerpts above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books, 2013), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
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As we approach the holiest days of the church year, we may wonder how we can walk with Christ on his journey from the Last Supper, to Calvary, to the tomb . . . and then exult at his rising from the dead at Easter. Can we “be there” when they crucified our Lord? Yes we can, because we were truly there in Christ’s heart and in his mind during his washing of our feet, in his prayer that we would not be scandalized, throughout his arrest and trials, and in his shocking betrayal by Judas and then by Peter, the disciple he trusted most. We were always there in his suffering during his scourging, his crowning with thorns, his being mocked and rejected . . . and finally in his crucifixion. We were truly there in his profound divine/human intentionality: he suffered all this for each and every one of us, simply because he loves us.
 
And then we were there in Christ’s ecstatic joy at rising from the dead to reassure us that he has transformed all our sufferings and all our deaths. We were there with women and the disciples running to the tomb and discovering that it was empty, empty of death, radiant with the hope of a new and transcendent life. We were there in the apparitions of the Risen Lord to Mary Magdalene in the garden, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the frightened disciples in the upper room, to the seven disciples on a beach. To “be there” with him throughout Passiontide and Easter, we have only to be still and silent and allow him to take us into his heart in order to become aware that we were always, already “there” in his unconditional love for us.
 
During her Revelations of Christ on the cross, Julian herself became acutely conscious that all the pain of her life, and of everyone’s life, was united with the pain of Christ on the cross. And this because, in becoming human, Christ took on all manner of pain as his own (Heb 2:9–18). Therefore, “when he was in pain, we were in pain” with him. She might have added: “When we were in pain, he was in pain.” St. Paul even dared to write that “in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).
 
Julian also realized that not only “all his true lovers,” but “all creatures” shared in the agony of Christ’s dying. This inextricable connection between the inner life of human beings and the state of the natural world had long been perceived. St. Paul was convinced that the physical earth as well as its creatures are involved in the great struggle of salvation: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:22–23). Julian believed that all earth’s creatures naturally recognized the Lord, “in whom all their virtues stand.” Thus when the Lord died, it behooved creatures out of kindness to die with him, “in as much as they might, for sorrow of his pains.”
 
Julian understood that, when Christ took on all flesh in himself and “failed,” his entire creation failed with him, animals as well as humans, out of “sorrow for his pains.” Even “they who knew him not suffered for failing of all manner of comfort.” And here Julian bears witness to a profound truth: that the fates of humankind and the entire creation are intimately connected.

Yes, we were "there" then. We may be "there" now. We have only to allow the Spirit to take us deep into the sacred liturgy to be with Christ on his path through suffering and death into glory.
God of his goodness, who makes planets and the elements to work in their natures to the benefit of both the blessed man and the cursed, in that time [of the crucifixion] it was withdrawn from both. Wherefore it was that they who knew him not were in sorrow at that time. Thus was our lord Jesus noughted for us, and we stand all in this manner noughted with him, and shall do so till we come to his bliss . . ."
PLEASE NOTE: Excerpts above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books, 2013), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
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Faith is an art. And like any form of art, it makes demands if it is to be perfected.
First of all, it demands commitment. We must devote our lives to studying the foundational truths of our faith, asking questions, seeking answers and spiritual guidance, praying for deeper understanding. We must examine the nature of our faith—is it a flicker or a burning fire? We must cherish our faith as a precious gift of divine life so that it will grow like a mustard seed into a great tree of life (Lk 13:19).
Second, we need to practice. We must do the very things our faith advises: meditate on sacred Scripture, be faithful in celebrating the Lord’s Day and holy days, and receive the grace-filled sacraments with sincere devotion. We must become more involved in the life of our worshiping community, listen to others with compassion, support and reinforce their own faith, speak with conviction and courage, love without condition.
Third, we need to pray. We must pray for an ever deeper faith for ourselves, for those we love, for the whole world. We must believe that Christ is working in every heart to bring each one of us to a more vibrant faith, a more daring hope, a greater love. And we must surrender ourselves completely to the work the Lord is doing in us—with faith that he will make “all things well.”
Fourth, we must persevere. We must hold onto faith in the midst of trials that will sorely test the depth of our belief. We must be willing to endure insults to our faith, even to the point of ridicule, rejection, or outright persecution. We must rejoice that we are able to suffer some small measure of what the saints suffered to be faithful to Christ. And we must pray that those who stand against us or cause us pain might come to believe.
Fifth, we must witness. In a materialistic world, we must bear witness to our faith in the divine dimension as the true source of all reality—not necessarily by preaching or teaching, but by living the values of our faith with joy and transparency. We must be willing to speak to others who are in crisis about the unconditional love of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier in whom we believe.
Sixth, we must trust. Especially in times of tragedy, temptation, or doubt, we must trust that the promises Christ has made to us through our faith will be fulfilled. St. Paul wrote that in this life, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). And Julian of Norwich counsels us in her Second Revelation:
For God wills that we believe that we see him continually, though we think that it be but little, and in this belief he makes us evermore to gain grace. For he will be seen, and he will be sought, and he will be waited for and he will be trusted. . . . And this vision was a teaching to my understanding that the continual seeking of the soul pleases God very greatly. For the soul may do no more than seek, suffer, and trust. And this is wrought in every soul that has it by the holy ghost. And the clearness of finding, it is because of his special grace when it is his will. The seeking with faith, hope and charity pleases our lord, and the finding pleases the soul, and fulfills it with joy.
If we take heed of Julian's words, our faith will become a divine work of art!

PLEASE NOTE: Excerpts above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books, 2013), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
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As we approach Ash Wednesday, we recall that our Lenten practice should include prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. What if we practiced “a different kind of Lent” this year? What if, in addition to verbal prayer. Liturgy, and reading Scripture, we committed to silent prayer? We would simply sit still in the presence of Christ in our hearts, keep watch on our breath and let go of our thoughts, as well as our emotional attachment to those thoughts. Twenty to thirty minutes of such silent meditation practice every morning and evening would deepen our faith in the Savior on whom we rely for every breath, the ground of our very being, the one who loves us enough to die for us. Is an hour a day too much to offer in return? “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” (Mark 14:37).
What about a different type of fasting—from bickering, complaining, criticizing, gossiping, and judging the words and actions of others? That’s much harder to give up than chocolate, ice cream, or alcohol! We could fast from chewing on the latest scandal, judging people’s motivations, making sweeping condemnations, or spreading lies and fake news. We might even fast from our addictive online news sources, from social networks and newspapers. The world would go on without us knowing about it for forty days. Meanwhile, we would become mentally and emotionally free to send out light, peace, and hope to heal the world from the depths of our silent prayer.
As for almsgiving, perhaps we could care for the poor and persecuted in a special way during this Lenten season. What about a more hands-on approach than just sending a check to our favorite charity or giving a cash handout to a homeless person? What about volunteering for an hour or two a week to offer some service to the needy and marginalized in our community? Our love and compassion could touch many lives and really make a difference this Lent. The need is so great “and the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2).
Notice that silencing our thoughts, speaking only positive words of encouragement, and reaching out to help those in need, express the quality of our faith, hope, and love. And these are precisely the virtues that all Lenten practices are meant to increase. Please let us hear your own thoughts and suggestions for a “different kind of Lent.”
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So excited to share an article on Julian of Norwich that I was invited to write for "Transformation" on OpenDemocracy.net.  It will reach 250 countries. Please take time to ponder it and share with family and friends on social media. "What might a medieval recluse say to postmodern activists?" Read and find out. And please post your comments! Thanks.

​“Alle Shalle Be Wele:” Julian of Norwich and the process of transformation
VERONICA MARY ROLF 10 February 2019

Julian of Norwich was born in 1342. No stranger to violence and suffering, she grew up in a world ravaged by the Hundred Years’ War between England and France and torn apart by the Great Papal Schism. She also lived through the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, during which thousands of disenfranchised tenant farmers and laborers marched all over England looting monasteries, burning records of their serfdom and debt, and killing their hated overlords. Most tragic of all, from the time Julian was six years old, she endured repeated outbreaks of the Great Pestilence - later termed the Black Death - which eventually killed more than half the population of Europe, some 50 million people. It was no less than apocalyptic.
In May of 1373 when Julian was 30, her body broke down. She became paralyzed and was near death. The local curate told her to fix her eyes on the crucifix. Suddenly all her pain was taken away and the figure of Christ on the cross appeared to come alive. For the next 12 hours, Julian entered into a profound mystical experience of Christ’s sufferings and his transformation into glory. She received sixteen revelations and heard locutions that stayed with her for the rest of her life - especially Christ’s personal reassurance that “Alle shalle be wele and alle shalle be wele and all manner of thing shalle be wele.”
At first, Julian could not accept these words. How could she believe that ‘all things would be well’ when her own world was obviously falling apart? She was so tortured by the success of evil and the degradation of suffering that she had often wondered why “the beginning of sin had not been prevented. For then I thought all would have been wele.” She dared to question the vision: “Ah, good lord, how might alle be wele for the great harm that has come by sin to thy creatures?” Julian’s mental anguish was not just an excessive medieval preoccupation with sin; it was indicative of humanity’s innate sense that our lives are terribly broken and that we don’t know how to fix them. We simply cannot save ourselves from the messes we get into because of our pride, anger, selfishness, jealousy, greed and lies.
Surprisingly, Julian was told in a locution that sin could be “behovely” - that is, “useful,” even “necessary”- because it forces us to realize our need for divine mercy and spiritual healing. She further understood that in God there is no wrath or blame - all the anger and recrimination are on our side. God shows only compassion and pity for human beings because of the inevitable suffering we have to endure as a result of our misdeeds. Julian became convinced that everyone is loved unconditionally by God. As she wrote:
“For our soul is so preciously loved by him that is highest, that it overpasses the knowing of all creatures: that is to say, there is no creature that is made that may know how much and how sweetly and how tenderly our maker loves us…And therefore we may ask of our lover, with reverence, all that we will.”
This revelation filled Julian with immense compassion for her fellow human beings. She longed to bear witness to divine love, mercy, and the revelations she had experienced. Admittedly, Julian did not become ‘politically active’ in our contemporary sense. No woman in her time was allowed to be educated at university (i.e. Oxford or Cambridge), hold public office, instruct others, or preach from a pulpit. Lay people were forbidden to teach religion (except to their children). But if we consider that ‘political’ connotes selfless devotion to serving the ‘body politic’ and showing compassion to those in need, then Julian did become a force for social transformation. There were three things she decided to do: pray, counsel, and write.
Around 1390, Julian chose to be enclosed as an anchorite - literally “anchored” to the side of the church of St. Julian (no relation) in Norwich. There she lived for about 25 years in a small hermit’s cell, attended by a maid who brought her food, clean clothing, parchment and ink. She devoted herself to prayer and contemplation, to counseling those who came to her anchorage window seeking spiritual direction, and to writing.
Julian worked diligently on several versions of the Long Text of her revelations (she had penned a Short Text in the 1370s). She developed a mystical theology of the Trinity; of the goodness of God reflected in a tiny hazelnut; of the lack of wrath or blame in God; of the godly will “that never assented to sin, nor never shall;” of the Great Deed that Christ will accomplish at the end of the world; of divine inspiration that is the ground of our beseeching in prayer; of the value of suffering; and of the ‘motherhood’ of God, so relevant to our time.
She realized that “as truly as God is our father, as truly is God our mother.” By giving birth to humankind in blood and water on the cross and by nurturing and inspiring us throughout our lives, Mother Christ is the paradigm for all earthly mothers, caregivers, advisors, teachers, and volunteers; for all those who dedicate their lives to the works of mercy and social service. All the while, Julian searched for the deeper meaning of all the Lord’s revelations. One day she was answered in prayer: “Know it well, love was his meaning.” Divine love became the meaning of her life and her message to the world.
Although Julian was, by her own account, “unlettered” (she could not read or write Latin, the language of Scripture and theology), she was the first woman ever to write a book in the English language. She implored her readers to receive the revelations as if they had been shown to us, not her. She died sometime after 1416, and her writings were almost destroyed during the Reformation. Providentially, the Long Text was scurried away to France by recusant Benedictine nuns. It was not until 1910 that the Short Text finally resurfaced at a Sotheby’s auction. Since then, Julian’s reputation and influence have grown worldwide. The American mystic and activist Thomas Merton called Julian one of “the greatest English theologians,” and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams considered Julian’s book to be “the most important work of Christian reflection in the English language.”
What has Julian to tell us about the process of transformation? How can we work to make ‘all things well’ in our world without losing heart? Anyone who has ever served the poor, the persecuted, or the marginalized knows that the two greatest dangers are disillusionment and burnout. The problems are so vast and our efforts so small. In our frustration, we may try to dictate solutions instead of eliciting creative collaboration. We become exhausted, infuriated, and sometimes feel betrayed. We question how we can continue when the odds seem stacked against us.
Julian would tell us that we must go into the “ground” of our being in order to “live contemplatively.” Like her, we must develop a daily practice in which we learn to rest and breathe in silence and stillness, becoming aware of the turbulence in our minds, releasing thoughts and letting go of our emotional attachment to those thoughts. We need to become ever more aware of being aware, in order to experience the deep interconnectedness of our own awareness with divine awareness. And then we must rely on divine awareness working in us and through us if we are to make a difference. We cannot do it alone. And we cannot do what others must do for themselves. We can only evaluate, advise, encourage, and empower.
Will such a contemplative practice transform the world? Not immediately. But it will transform us. Our love will go deeper, our patience will grow stronger, and our service will become more authentic and productive. We will be able to feel compassion for those who challenge us, and keep our balance in situations that threaten to undermine us. We will listen more attentively, evaluate opposing viewpoints more generously, and cooperate more willingly. We will recognize that the real work of transformation - whether of individuals or of nations - is divine work. Nevertheless, we humans play an indispensable part: every act of peace and loving service, and every word of kindness or forgiveness helps to make “alle manner of thing” well. The more we collaborate with the work of divine love, the more we will experience that love bearing fruit in our own lives and in the lives of others. As we are transformed, others will be too.
The revelation that “alle shalle be wele” does not provide an instant cure-all for our personal, family, and global problems. These words are a prophecy and a promise - of an ultimate transformation. Eventually, divine love will convert every evil into good, every inequality into justice, and every suffering into joy. However, we will not be able to see how this will happen until we have been fully transformed from within; until we have been recreated through death and rebirth into the divine dimension. Then at last we will be able to understand how “alle manner of thing shalle be wele” - because the divine dimension is love.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/veronica-mary-rolf/alle-shalle-be-wele-julian-of-norwich-and-process-of-transformatio
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So excited to share an article on Julian of Norwich that I was invited to write for "Transformation" on OpenDemocracy.net.  It will reach 250 countries. Please take time to ponder it and share with family and friends on social media. "What might a medieval recluse say to postmodern activists?" Read and find out. And please post your comments! Thanks.

​“Alle Shalle Be Wele:” Julian of Norwich and the process of transformation
VERONICA MARY ROLF 10 February 2019

Julian of Norwich was born in 1342. No stranger to violence and suffering, she grew up in a world ravaged by the Hundred Years’ War between England and France and torn apart by the Great Papal Schism. She also lived through the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, during which thousands of disenfranchised tenant farmers and laborers marched all over England looting monasteries, burning records of their serfdom and debt, and killing their hated overlords. Most tragic of all, from the time Julian was six years old, she endured repeated outbreaks of the Great Pestilence - later termed the Black Death - which eventually killed more than half the population of Europe, some 50 million people. It was no less than apocalyptic.
In May of 1373 when Julian was 30, her body broke down. She became paralyzed and was near death. The local curate told her to fix her eyes on the crucifix. Suddenly all her pain was taken away and the figure of Christ on the cross appeared to come alive. For the next 12 hours, Julian entered into a profound mystical experience of Christ’s sufferings and his transformation into glory. She received sixteen revelations and heard locutions that stayed with her for the rest of her life - especially Christ’s personal reassurance that “Alle shalle be wele and alle shalle be wele and all manner of thing shalle be wele.”
At first, Julian could not accept these words. How could she believe that ‘all things would be well’ when her own world was obviously falling apart? She was so tortured by the success of evil and the degradation of suffering that she had often wondered why “the beginning of sin had not been prevented. For then I thought all would have been wele.” She dared to question the vision: “Ah, good lord, how might alle be wele for the great harm that has come by sin to thy creatures?” Julian’s mental anguish was not just an excessive medieval preoccupation with sin; it was indicative of humanity’s innate sense that our lives are terribly broken and that we don’t know how to fix them. We simply cannot save ourselves from the messes we get into because of our pride, anger, selfishness, jealousy, greed and lies.
Surprisingly, Julian was told in a locution that sin could be “behovely” - that is, “useful,” even “necessary”- because it forces us to realize our need for divine mercy and spiritual healing. She further understood that in God there is no wrath or blame - all the anger and recrimination are on our side. God shows only compassion and pity for human beings because of the inevitable suffering we have to endure as a result of our misdeeds. Julian became convinced that everyone is loved unconditionally by God. As she wrote:
“For our soul is so preciously loved by him that is highest, that it overpasses the knowing of all creatures: that is to say, there is no creature that is made that may know how much and how sweetly and how tenderly our maker loves us…And therefore we may ask of our lover, with reverence, all that we will.”
This revelation filled Julian with immense compassion for her fellow human beings. She longed to bear witness to divine love, mercy, and the revelations she had experienced. Admittedly, Julian did not become ‘politically active’ in our contemporary sense. No woman in her time was allowed to be educated at university (i.e. Oxford or Cambridge), hold public office, instruct others, or preach from a pulpit. Lay people were forbidden to teach religion (except to their children). But if we consider that ‘political’ connotes selfless devotion to serving the ‘body politic’ and showing compassion to those in need, then Julian did become a force for social transformation. There were three things she decided to do: pray, counsel, and write.
Around 1390, Julian chose to be enclosed as an anchorite - literally “anchored” to the side of the church of St. Julian (no relation) in Norwich. There she lived for about 25 years in a small hermit’s cell, attended by a maid who brought her food, clean clothing, parchment and ink. She devoted herself to prayer and contemplation, to counseling those who came to her anchorage window seeking spiritual direction, and to writing.
Julian worked diligently on several versions of the Long Text of her revelations (she had penned a Short Text in the 1370s). She developed a mystical theology of the Trinity; of the goodness of God reflected in a tiny hazelnut; of the lack of wrath or blame in God; of the godly will “that never assented to sin, nor never shall;” of the Great Deed that Christ will accomplish at the end of the world; of divine inspiration that is the ground of our beseeching in prayer; of the value of suffering; and of the ‘motherhood’ of God, so relevant to our time.
She realized that “as truly as God is our father, as truly is God our mother.” By giving birth to humankind in blood and water on the cross and by nurturing and inspiring us throughout our lives, Mother Christ is the paradigm for all earthly mothers, caregivers, advisors, teachers, and volunteers; for all those who dedicate their lives to the works of mercy and social service. All the while, Julian searched for the deeper meaning of all the Lord’s revelations. One day she was answered in prayer: “Know it well, love was his meaning.” Divine love became the meaning of her life and her message to the world.
Although Julian was, by her own account, “unlettered” (she could not read or write Latin, the language of Scripture and theology), she was the first woman ever to write a book in the English language. She implored her readers to receive the revelations as if they had been shown to us, not her. She died sometime after 1416, and her writings were almost destroyed during the Reformation. Providentially, the Long Text was scurried away to France by recusant Benedictine nuns. It was not until 1910 that the Short Text finally resurfaced at a Sotheby’s auction. Since then, Julian’s reputation and influence have grown worldwide. The American mystic and activist Thomas Merton called Julian one of “the greatest English theologians,” and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams considered Julian’s book to be “the most important work of Christian reflection in the English language.”
What has Julian to tell us about the process of transformation? How can we work to make ‘all things well’ in our world without losing heart? Anyone who has ever served the poor, the persecuted, or the marginalized knows that the two greatest dangers are disillusionment and burnout. The problems are so vast and our efforts so small. In our frustration, we may try to dictate solutions instead of eliciting creative collaboration. We become exhausted, infuriated, and sometimes feel betrayed. We question how we can continue when the odds seem stacked against us.
Julian would tell us that we must go into the “ground” of our being in order to “live contemplatively.” Like her, we must develop a daily practice in which we learn to rest and breathe in silence and stillness, becoming aware of the turbulence in our minds, releasing thoughts and letting go of our emotional attachment to those thoughts. We need to become ever more aware of being aware, in order to experience the deep interconnectedness of our own awareness with divine awareness. And then we must rely on divine awareness working in us and through us if we are to make a difference. We cannot do it alone. And we cannot do what others must do for themselves. We can only evaluate, advise, encourage, and empower.
Will such a contemplative practice transform the world? Not immediately. But it will transform us. Our love will go deeper, our patience will grow stronger, and our service will become more authentic and productive. We will be able to feel compassion for those who challenge us, and keep our balance in situations that threaten to undermine us. We will listen more attentively, evaluate opposing viewpoints more generously, and cooperate more willingly. We will recognize that the real work of transformation - whether of individuals or of nations - is divine work. Nevertheless, we humans play an indispensable part: every act of peace and loving service, and every word of kindness or forgiveness helps to make “alle manner of thing” well. The more we collaborate with the work of divine love, the more we will experience that love bearing fruit in our own lives and in the lives of others. As we are transformed, others will be too.
The revelation that “alle shalle be wele” does not provide an instant cure-all for our personal, family, and global problems. These words are a prophecy and a promise - of an ultimate transformation. Eventually, divine love will convert every evil into good, every inequality into justice, and every suffering into joy. However, we will not be able to see how this will happen until we have been fully transformed from within; until we have been recreated through death and rebirth into the divine dimension. Then at last we will be able to understand how “alle manner of thing shalle be wele” - because the divine dimension is love.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/veronica-mary-rolf/alle-shalle-be-wele-julian-of-norwich-and-process-of-transformatio
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When I give talks or retreats on the Revelations of Divine Love of Julian of Norwich, I am repeatedly struck by how relevant her teachings are to our nation’s situation and to our world crises. What is it about this fourteenth century mystic that speaks so directly to us in the twenty-first? Why should we read and ponder Julian’s Revelations now?

Perhaps the best answer to the question “Why Julian now?” is that in our age of uncertainty, inconceivable suffering, and seemingly perpetual violence and war (not unlike fourteenth-century Europe), Julian shows us the way toward contemplative peace. In a time of rampant prejudice and religious persecution, Julian inspires us to non-judgmental acceptance and universal compassion. In a world of deadly diseases and ecological disasters, Julian teaches us how to endure pain in patience and trust that Christ is working to transform every cross into resurrected glory. In a generation of doubt, cynicism, and disbelief, Julian offers a radiant vision of faith and hope— not in ourselves, but in the Lord who created us, loves us, and will never, ever abandon us.

Moreover, across six centuries, Julian’s voice speaks to us about love. She communicates personally, as if she were very much with us here and now. Even more than theological explanations, we all hunger for love. Our hearts yearn for someone we can trust absolutely—divine love that can never fail. Julian reveals this love because, like Mary Magdalene, she experienced it firsthand. Julian tells us about her mystical visions of Christ’s love on the cross and how that love totally transformed her life. Unlike other medieval mystics (who may appear sometimes too extreme, too ascetic, or too intellectual for our postmodern taste), Julian comes across as a flesh and blood woman, thoroughly sympathetic to our human condition. And in heartfelt terms she expresses her profound awareness of God who became human like us, suffered, died, and was transformed into glory.

Why is Julian so appealing today? I think because she is totally vulnerable and transparently honest, without any guile. She is “homely”; in medieval terms, that means down-to-earth, familiar, and easily accessible. She is keenly aware of her spiritual brokenness and longs to be healed. So do we. She experiences great suffering of body, mind, and soul. So do we. She has moments of doubt. So do we. She seeks answers to age-old questions. So do we. Then, at a critical turning point in her revelations, she is overwhelmed by joy and “gramercy” (great thanks) for the graces she is receiving. We, too, are suddenly granted graces and filled to overflowing with gratitude. Sometimes, we even experience our own divine revelations.

​Again and again, Julian reassures each one of us that we are loved by God, unconditionally. In her writings, we hear Christ telling us, just as he told Julian: “I love you and you love me, and our love shall never be separated in two.” Indeed, Julian’s teachings have greatly endeared her to Christians and non-Christians alike. Everyone can relate to her as a spiritual mentor because we sense that, even though she lived and wrote six hundred years ago, Julian the mystic, the seeker, and the theologian is very much “a woman for all seasons.” Julian’s voice of prophetic hope, speaking to us from the fourteenth century, is one that we in the twenty-first century desperately need to hear.

PLEASE NOTE: The excerpts above are from "An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich" (InterVarsity Academic Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
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As we approach Christmas Eve, let us consider that in the first Revelation, Julian of Norwich had a “ghostly” or “spiritual” vision of the Virgin Mary at the moment she conceived the Savior. Julian glimpsed “the wisdom and truth” of Mary’s soul as the young girl marveled that God “would be born of her who was a simple creature of his making.” Julian realized that Mary was, like herself, uneducated, and without any earthly status. She observed Mary’s “reverent beholding” of her Creator. “For this was her marveling: that he that was her maker would be borne of her that was made.” Julian understood that it was Mary’s recognition of her very “littleness” that made her tell the angel Gabriel, “Lo, me here God’s handmaiden.” But because the Creator chose her, Mary was more worthy than all the other creatures below her. And above her there was “nothing that is made but the blessed manhood of Christ, as to my sight.”

This tells us a lot about how Mary marveled as she beheld her Son in her arms after his birth. Again she marveled that God “would be born of her who was a simple creature of his making.” Again she reverently beheld her Creator and marveled that “he that was her maker would be borne of her that was made.”

Nakedly, Plainly and Homely
Julian was certain that the Lord is greatly pleased whenever a soul comes to him like Mary: “nakedly, plainly, and homely”; that is, simply, humbly, and intimately [like home], full of eagerness to offer him everything. This Christmas, let us consider that God longs to be born of us, into every aspect of our daily reality with all its complexities, joys, and sorrows. Let us approach the newborn Christ Child in Mary’s arms “nakedly, plainly, and homely” -- like the poor shepherds, without anything to offer but our love. Then perhaps we, too, may realize that he who is our maker is being born of us who are made.

Then, contemplating Mary and the Child, we may whisper Julian’s own heartfelt prayer of wonder, adoration, and joyful surrender:
“God, of thy goodness, give me thyself. For thou art enough to me, and I may ask nothing that is less that may be full worship to thee. And if I ask anything that is less, ever will I be wanting. But only in thee do I have all.”

I wish you all a blessed Christmas, full of the love of Christ in your hearts!

PLEASE NOTE: The excerpts above are from "An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich" (InterVarsity Academic Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.

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