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Julian of Norwich

God Is Our True Mother

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Julian of Norwich

God Is Our True Mother
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

In Chapter 54 of Julian’s Showings, we find what I consider the best description I have read of the union of the soul inside of the Trinity. Julian writes, “[God] makes no distinction in love between the blessed soul of Christ and the least soul that will be saved.” [1] God can only see Christ in us, it seems, because we are the extended Body of Christ in space and time. Christ is what God sees and cannot not love and draw us back into the Divine Dance of Love. Julian continues:

And I saw no difference between God and our substance, but, as it were, all God; and still my understanding accepted that our substance is in God, that is to say that God is God, and our substance is a creature in God. For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and keeps us in him. And the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enclosed. And the high goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us. [emphasis mine —RR). [2]

Describing God as both mother and father was quite daring in Julian’s time. She called Jesus our “true Mother” from whom we receive our beginning, our true being, protection, and love. Even in terms of gender, mystics tend to be expansive. In chapter 59 she reflects:

Our high Father almighty God, who is Being, he knew us and loved us from before-any-time. Of which knowing, in his full marvelous deep Charity, by the foreseeing endless counsel of all the blessed Trinity, he willed that the second Person should become our Mother, our Brother, and our Saviour.

Whereof it follows that as truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother. Our Father wills, our Mother works, our good Lord the Holy Ghost confirms. And therefore it belongs to us to love our God, in whom we have our being . . . for in these three is all our life. . . .

And therein is a forth-spreading, by the same grace, of a length and breadth, of a height and a deepness without end [see Ephesians 3:18–19]. And all is one love. [3]

After spending years contemplating her visions, Julian finishes her text with this confident description of God’s meaning:

So I was taught that love is our Lord’s meaning. And I saw very certainly in this and in everything that before God made us [God] loved us, which love was never abated and never will be. And in this love . . . [God] made all things profitable to us, and in this love our life is everlasting. . . . In this love we have our beginning, and all this shall we see in God without end. [4]

[1] Julian of Norwich, The Fourteenth Revelation, ch. 54 (Long Text), Julian of Norwich: Showings, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Paulist Press: 1978), 285.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Fourteenth Revelation, ch. 59 (Long Text). See The Revelations of Divine Love of Julian of Norwich, trans. James Walsh (Harper and Brothers: 1961), 162.

[4] The Sixteenth Revelation, ch. 86 (Long Text), Colledge and Walsh, 342–343.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 7 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download, and

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 45–46.

Image credit: Revelations of Divine Love (detail), mid-15th century, (Add MS 37790) f. 97r from The British Library Manuscript, The British Library, London, England.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Julian [of Norwich] experienced . . . sixteen visions, or “showings” as she called them, all on one May night in 1373 when she was very sick and near death. As a priest held a crucifix in front of her, Julian saw Jesus suffering on the cross and heard him speaking to her for several hours . . . then she patiently spent twenty years as an anchorite in contemplation and prayer, trusting God to help her discern the deeper meanings to be found in the visions. Finally, she wrote a long [text] titled Revelations of Divine Love. —Richard Rohr
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