Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And All Manner of Things

My homework for small group this week was to look up Lady Julian of Norwich.

She was a 14th Century mystic – a lady with visions, who wrote them down becoming the first woman to write a book in the English language.

The doctrine and revelations were a bit askew from church doctrine (including that of today), but she got away with it. You see, she was an anchoress, meaning that she lived 24/7 in a tiny cell in the church.

She even gave up her name -- Julian is the name of the church, and Norwich the location.

Apparently that level of devotion earned you a bit of respect, so you could talk about G-d’s love being all about joy and compassion rather than the more trendy law and duty, and the church doesn’t slap your hand.

I could quibble with her theology myself, but since I can't get through lent without candy, I'll give the lady walled up in a church for decades a bit of latitude.

The cell for anchoresses had a rule – they needed three windows that opened. One into the church so she could hear mass; one to her servant (even an anchoress has got to eat); and one to the outside, so she can give advice to any who ask for it.

Imagine a “The doctor is in” and “5 cents” plastered to the wall outside, and you get the picture.

This is where the “anchor” in “anchoress” comes from (next week we will discuss who put the “ram” in the “ramalamadingdong”) – she wasn’t to be isolated from the world, but anchored to it.

A life, really, of talking to G-d and to the people passing by.

Some quotes:

(Referring to G-d): “He is our clothing. In his love he wraps and holds us. He enfolds us for love and will never let us go.”

“God accepts the good-will and work of his servants, no matter how we feel.”

And her most famous line:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

What can one say to that other than, “Well said.”

Just my thoughts,



Linds said...

I'm teaching my freshmen about the Middle Ages right now, and your post got me thinking - I've always been a bit snooty about Julian of Norwich's revelations. For me the cynic, they've always seemed to sweet, saccharine really, too trite (except for that 'all shall be well' bit - it gives me such peace).

Upon diving back into a turbulent, bloody, dark, frightening, judgement-filled time period... well, maybe God knew exactly what He was doing plopping a woman of such capacity for grace and light in the middle of it. The balance she brings is nice, and necessary.

Thanks for giving me something new to think about during Lent! I love it when the cynic in me is chided.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't realized it till I read your post, but T.S. Eliot quotes Julian in the last section of his long poem, "Four Quartets":

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

* * * *

One of my all time favorite finales.