“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.”
I’m with you – normally I would look on her as way too sugary – and this from a guy who mixes his Lucky Charms into his Cap’n Crunch.
But G-d gives us what we need when we most need it – and boyo, did they need a little sugar.
You got your plagues, your wars, your multiple popes confusing everybody, plus no wifi – even in coffee shops!
There was a lot of blame throwing for the ills of the day – including the old, “G-d doesn’t like us, so he is punishing us.”
It seems that Julian was a course correction for that.
My friend Joanna, upon learning of my discovery of Lady Julian, loaned me her copy of THE THREAD OF ARIADNE (A collection of essays by the faculty of Dominican College of San Rafael), which includes the essay “All Shall Be Well.”
Here’s some more things I learned that tickled my fancy:
-Julian lived in contemplation in her cell for over 40 years. That’s my lifetime! (For those reading this in Hollywood, please substitute, “That’s twice my lifetime!” Thank you.)
-Anchoresses were allowed to have a cat as a companion. Which at first I thought must somehow help in contemplation, as cats appear to be deep thinkers.
But then it was explained that they helped with the rat problem.
I can only imagine Lady Julian attempting to write down her visions, with a cat in her lap batting away at the feather pen.
-She showed a lot of emotion in her writings, which was against the typical religious writing which emphasized cool restraint.
A lot of religious art was moving towards showing emotion – including the scandalous “Fainting Virgin” that depicted Mary in a swoon at her son’s crucifixion. Scandalous because it was unseemly to depict the saints as feeling, rather than purely thinking, beings.
This groundswell of feeling in art was a reaction to the “excessive intellectualism” of the times.
Which makes me think that Lady Julian should be the poster girl for today’s contemplative post-modern church movement.
-Communities were (and many still are) very proud to have a recluse among their number.
That’s a funny idea to me. “Hey, see that loner over there? Yeah, he’s one of us. We don’t talk to him. We’re so proud!”
Brings a whole new dynamic to the junior high cafeteria.
Just my thoughts,
PS. Thanks Randy for noting T. S. Eliot’s penchant for quoting Julian of Norwich – here and three other times in his poetry.