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Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Julian of Norwich

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The place which Jesus takes in our soul he will nevermore vacate, for in us is his home of homes, and it is the greatest delight for him to dwell there. . . . And the soul who contemplates this is made like [the one] who is contemplated.  —Julian of Norwich

On that day, you will know that you are in me and I am in you. —John 14:20

“That day” promised in John’s Gospel has been a long time in coming, yet it has been the enduring message of every great religion in history. It is the Perennial Tradition. Divine and thus universal union is still the core message and promise—the whole goal and the entire point of all religion.

Lady Julian of Norwich uses the idea of “oneing” to describe divine union. In chapter 53 of Revelations of Divine Love, she writes, “This beloved soul was preciously knitted to God in its making, by a knot so subtle and so mighty that it is oned in God. In this oneing, it is made endlessly holy. Furthermore, God wants us to know that all the souls which will be saved in heaven without end are knit in this knot, and oned in this oneing, and made holy in this holiness.” [1]

Julian observes, “If I pay special attention to myself, I am nothing at all; but in general, I am, I hope, in the unity of love . . . for it is in this oneing that the life of all people consists”. . . . [2] She reflects: “The love of God creates in us such a oneing that when it is truly seen, no person can separate themselves from another.” [3] Finally, let us hear Julian in her own Middle English words, speaking of divine and human unity: “For in the sighte of God alle man is one man, and one man is alle man.”[4]

This is not some 21st-century leap of logic. This is not pantheism or mere “New Age” optimism. This is the whole point! Radical union is the recurring experience of the saints and mystics of all religions. We do not have to discover or prove it; we only have to retrieve what has been re-discovered—and enjoyed, again and again—by those who desire and seek God and love. When you think you have “discovered” it, you will be just like Jacob “when he awoke from his sleep” and shouted, “You were here all the time, and I never knew it!” (Genesis 28:16).

As John states in his first Letter, “I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, I am writing to you here because you know it already”! (1 John 2:21; my emphasis). Like John, I can only convince you of spiritual things because your soul already knows what is true, and that is why I believe and trust Julian’s showings, too. For the mystics, there is only one Knower, and we just participate in that One Spirit.

[1] Julian of Norwich, The Fourteenth Revelation, ch. 53 (Long Text). See Julian of Norwich: Showings, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Paulist Press: 1978), 284. Note: Minor edits made here to reflect Julian’s original text, and for more inclusive language.

[2] The First Revelation, ch. 9 (Long Text), Colledge and Walsh, 191.

[3] The Fifteenth Revelation, ch. 65 (Long Text), ibid., 309.

[4] The Fourteenth Revelation, ch. 51 (Long text), The Writings of Julian of Norwich: A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and A Revelation of Love, eds. Nicholas Watson and Jacqueline Jenkins (Pennsylvania State University Press: 2006), 279.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 95;

“Introduction,” The Perennial Tradition, Oneing, vol. 1, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), 14 (no longer available); and

Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 7 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download.

Epigraph: Showings, ch. xxii (Short Text), Colledge and Walsh, 164.

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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