We best know Julian of Norwich for saying: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Despite her optimism in this statement, Julian lived in the late 1300’s in England, facing plague and violent warfare, to say nothing of a church hierarchy that could turn on her in light of her visions of Christ.
At the age of 13 in May 1373, Julian suffered a severe illness and experienced a series of sixteen “showings” or visions of Christ. These visions revealed the love of God in ways seemed to run counter to the assumptions about God during her time, but she managed to both live a quiet life as a female hermit and to put her experiences down on paper. Julian was the first woman to publish a book in English: Revelations of Divine Love.
She is remembered by biographer Amy Frykholm as a mystic who embraced suffering–almost to the point that one would raise an eyebrow. However, the depth of her compassion for others cannot be separated from her embracing of the sufferings of Christ and the suffering of others.
Reviewer Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes,
Julian’s compassion grows out of her passion—a suffering both in and of the church, but a suffering that nevertheless reveals the love at the heart of the church. Julian gets God’s love not because she retreated from the world and focused on spiritual things, but because “she chose Jesus over the bliss of heaven.”
Contemplating a crucifix that began to drip blood onto what she thought would be her deathbed, Julian saw and later wrote about a vision of God that was revolutionary to the church authorities of her day—indeed, to many church leaders in our own time.
May we have eyes to see the suffering of others around us.
May we remember that the cross wasn’t just the means of our salvation. It was the way of life that Jesus modeled and expected us to follow.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…
Philippians 3:10, NRSV
Remain open to the ways you can share in the suffering of Christ today.