Our Deepest Desire — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Our Deepest Desire

Meeting Christ Within Us

Our Deepest Desire
Thursday, May 30, 2019

Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire. —Psalm 37:4

One of my favorite mystics is the English anchorite Julian of Norwich (1342–1416). After a serious illness, during which she experienced “shewings” or revelations of Jesus’ love, she wrote about the compassionate, mothering God she had encountered. Today’s meditation is longer as I want to share John Philip Newell’s beautiful summary of Julian’s visions:

She says that Christ is the one who connects us to the “great root” of our being. . . . [1] “God is our mother as truly as God is our father,” she says. [2] We come from the Womb of the Eternal. We are not simply made by God; we are made “of God.” [3] So we encounter the energy of God in our true depths. And we will know the One from whom we have come only to the extent that we know ourselves. God is the “ground” of life. [4] So it is to the very essence of our being that we look for God. . . .

God “is in everything,” writes Julian. [5] God is “nature’s substance,” the very essence of life. [6] So she speaks of “smelling” God, of “swallowing” God in the waters and juices of the earth, of “feeling” God in the human body and the body of creation. [7] . . . Grace is given to save our nature, not to save us from our nature. It is given to free us from the unnaturalness of what we have become and done to one another and to the earth. Grace is given, she says, “to bring nature back to that blessed point from which it came, namely God.” [8] It is given that we may hear again the deepest sounds within us.

What Julian hears is that “we are all one.” [9] We have come from God as one, and to God we shall return as one. And any true well-being in our lives will be found not in isolation but in relation. She uses the image of the knot . . . to portray the strands of time and eternity intertwined, of the human and the creaturely inseparably interrelated, of the one and the many forever married. Christ’s soul and our soul are like an everlasting knot. The deeper we move in our own being, the closer we come to Christ. And the closer we come to Christ’s soul, the nearer we move to the heart of one another. In Christ, we hear not foreign sounds but the deepest intimations of the human and the divine intertwined.

And for Julian, the key to hearing what is at the heart of the human soul is to listen to our deepest longings, for “the desire of the soul,” she says, “is the desire of God.” [10] Of course, many of our desires have become infected or overlaid by confusions and distortions, but at the root of our being is the sacred longing for union. It is to this deepest root that Christ leads us. Our soul is made “of God,” as Julian says, so it is grounded in the desires of God. And at the heart of these holy desires is what Julian calls “love-longing.” [11] It is the most sacred and the most natural of yearnings. The deeper we move within the human soul, the closer we come to this divine yearning. And the nearer we come to our true self, “the greater will be our longing.” [12]

How did we ever lose such massive, in-depth wisdom?

[1] Julian of Norwich, Showings, chapter 51 (long text). See Revelation of Divine Love, trans. Elizabeth Spearing (Penguin: 1998), 123.

[2] Chapter 59 (long text). Ibid., 139.

[3] Chapter 53 (long text). Ibid., 129.

[4] Chapter 62 (long text). Ibid., 145.

[5] Chapter 11 (long text). Ibid., 58.

[6] Chapter 56 (long text). See Showings, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Paulist Press: 1978), 290.

[7] Chapter 43 (long text). See Revelation of Divine Love, Spearing, 104.

[8] Chapter 63 (long text). Ibid., 146.

[9] Chapter 6 (short text). Ibid., 10.

[10] Chapter 43 (long text). Ibid., 103.

[11] Chapter 63 (long text). Ibid., 147.

[12] Chapter 46 (long text). Ibid., 107.

John Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation (Jossey-Bass: 2008), 67-69.

Image credit: Knot the One, by Karen Jacobs, 1993. Used with permission of the artist.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Christ’s soul and our soul are like an everlasting knot. The deeper we move in our own being, the closer we come to Christ. And the closer we come to Christ’s soul, the nearer we move to the heart of one another. —John Philip Newell, explaining the teachings of Julian of Norwich
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