Churches around the world celebrate important events and aspects of Jesus’s life at varying times of the year. They also set aside particular days for remembering Christians of the past who have made an impact with their faith or set an example that is worth following.
Many Christians recall the life of Julian of Norwich. It may not seem that a 14th-century woman has much to teach us today. But many people still find her writings immensely helpful. When I lives in North Norfolk I attended a Julian prayer meeting.
Julian lived in solitude, in a cell which you can still see if you visit Norwich. She spent time in prayer and fasting. The city experienced many hardships during Julian’s time: the Black Death devastated its population; the Peasants’ Revolt affected many parts of England and people often went hungry. Medicine was primitive.
On 8th May 1373, Julian appeared to be on her deathbed. She was preparing to meet her Maker when she received some astonishing visions from God. Julian recovered and shortly afterwards wrote her visions down in what is believed to be the earliest book written by a woman in English. She continued to ponder what she had experienced, and twenty years later wrote a second book, which as well as the visions themselves included her thoughts and meditations on them. It is these, published as Revelations of Divine Love, that still bring spiritual sustenance to people today.
At the heart of what Julian received from God was an overwhelming sense of God’s love. She and her fellow citizens had suffered much, but despite that she believed that it was the love of God that was paramount. In her words: “From the time these things were first revealed I had often wanted to know what was our Lord's meaning. It was more than 15 years after that I was answered in my spirit's understanding. You would know our Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more. But you will not know or learn anything else — ever.” There is suffering in our world – it is part of the brokenness that arises from a world of choice and allowing the possibility of evil – but Julian knew in her heart that ultimately when things are in God’s hands: “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”
Those words, her most famous, have brought comfort and hope to many. Perhaps there is something in them that might help you too if you are finding life hard at this time.
With hope on the horizon as the pandemic restrictions are lifted may we all look forward with hope, but tread carefully.
May we too show the love that in Jesus all will be well.
With my love and prayers.