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One God, One Love

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Union

One God, One Love
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lady Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-c.1416) is one of my favorite mystics. Julian experienced her showings, as she called them, all on one night, probably May 8, 1373. It was such a profound experience that she asked the bishop to enclose her in a small anchor-hold built onto St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England. (We don’t know Julian’s real name; we call her by the name of this church.) From a window that looked into the sanctuary she would attend mass; from another window she would counsel people who came to visit her. Julian lived in the anchor-hold for perhaps twenty years and spent this time trying to communicate what she experienced in one night.

For me, Chapter 54 of Julian’s Showings is the best description I have read of the union of the soul within the Trinity. The mystics always go to the Trinitarian level because here God is a verb more than a noun, God is a flow more than a substance, God is an experience more than an old man sitting on a throne. And we are inside that flow of love. Julian writes:

Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our soul is God. . . . [This is what some call inter-being.] It is a great understanding to see and know inwardly that God, who is our creator, dwells in our soul, and it is a far greater understanding to see and know inwardly that our soul, which is created, dwells in God in substance, of which substance, through God, we are what we are. [We share in the same substantial, ontological, and metaphysical unity.] 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. [1]

Intimacy implies twoness, but twoness overcome and enjoyed. Julian preserves differentiation, the dance of partners. She is not a pantheist; she is not saying everything is God. She is saying everything is in God and God is in everything— which is panentheism. Mirabai Starr gives a fresh translation of Julian’s words:

The all-powerful truth of the Trinity is the Father, who created us and keeps us within him. The deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we all are enfolded. The exalted goodness of the Trinity is our beloved Lord: we are held in him and he is held in us. We are enclosed in the Father, we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are enclosed in us. All Power. All Goodness. All Wisdom. One God. One Love. [2]

Gateway to Silence:
We are already in union with God.

References:
[1] Julian of Norwich, “The Fifty-Fourth Chapter,” Showings, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Paulist Press: 1978), 285.
[2] Julian of Norwich, The Showings of Julian of Norwich, trans. Mirabai Starr (Hampton Roads: 2013), 149-150.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, CD, MP3 download (CAC: 2013), disc 7.

Image Credit: Early Autumn (detail), Qian Xuan (1235-1305), 13th century, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
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