Well, I appear to be on another streak, reading-wise. Now I’m exploring women saints / religious / mystics from hundreds of years ago. And I just ordered 2 more saints from the library, as well as 2 more books just on Julian of Norwich.
This is a popular biography – meaning not full of footnotes – about Julian of Norwich, who was an anchorite / anchoress – essentially living as a hermit in the midst of a town, in her own little house in a church’s enclosure. She would receive and counsel people by talking through a black curtained window.
The subtitle of the book, by Amy Frykholm, is A Contemplative Biography, by which she means that on her part, the book is ‘an act of empathetic imagination.’ Which makes sense, since very little is known of Julian’s life – except that it’s very likely her name was not Julian, but was taken from the name of the church where she was anchored.
She lived through the plague in the 14th century / 1300’s twice in her lifetime, probably losing her children and family in the second sweep of the disease through the town (leaving her with only her mother). Shortly after May Day of 1373 (Beltane), at about age 30, she fell ill, and while receiving the Last Rites, her visions began.
This book, which intuits much of the truth of Julian’s life, does not have much detail of the visions, or of her actual writing – thus my request to the library. As she recovered from her illness, she began to write her visions – and to work with a Friar, an educated man, about whom little is known. Her messages are all of love, with Jesus ‘filling his household with mirth and joy’, ‘more bard than lord, interested in our comfort and delight’, who ‘wanted our love more than our submission.’
Julian’s expression of all this ‘at once practical and mystical’ is that we had been ‘oned together in love’, a phrase she used often.
These messages of hers fit with my understanding of many things – particularly the fact that the time of sacrifice and sin and pain is over – so 20th century, and the two thousand years before that. We are here, in the 21st century, for joy, for delight.
And, Jesus-wise, we are all sisters and brothers, quite literally children of God / Universe / All That Is. Julian was way ahead of her time in many ways – her book was the first written in English by a woman, and remains a great theological work. From her visions, and with the guidance from her visions, ‘She wrote that the righteousness required of us was simply this: delight in God’s good world.’
That’s our job, people. Love, compassion, joy. Wow!