Note Taking on Julian of Norwich pt1

Julian of Norwich (1342-1430)  ‘Love was His meaning’

Three encounters:

  1. With myself: Insightful and integrated encounter
  2. God:  The holiness beyond me and my availability to God
  3. Julian of Norwich:
    • Childhood in bustling city devastated by the ‘The Great Pestilence’ – so familiar with death
    • Visions were received and processed over 20 year period.

Pastoral ministry is not “helping people”, but attending to what matters most to people.


Julian’s theology was very different process than most Church historical examples.  Where the major doctrines were wrought in controversy and councils; where Aquinas pursued every possible theological conundrum to the enth degree and then some, Julian theologized through present encounter, in the moment – “it is valuable because it has value.”


“Most of my students don’t get beyond the “yuck” factor of the visions; or they don’t move on from the “cute” factor (sentimentalism) or hazelnut theology; the sloganeering of famous out-of-context sayings.

“All shall be well…..” has a context!


We are to tread between the “yuck” and the “cute”!


Julian’s “showings” are an unusual use of seeing, a description and method that was very unusual for the time.

She makes us think about “revelations” not as certainty or answer, but invitation, prompt and stimulus to question, and even so, the visions are developed over time and “open-ended” in meaning and content.  And no doubt it is interesting that early on in her Revelations, she writes that she has “some measure of feeling for the passion of Christ.”


As a theologian:  Are we asking the right questions?  Cf. the “anti(e?)-theological nature of Julian’s work.” Rowan Williams

E.g.  God asks Julian:  “Are you satisfied by the Cross?”  This completely turns the question round from God being “satisfied” in the Cross of Jesus to secure atonement for the cosmos, but radically, Julian is faced with her own satisfaction of God’s way of doing things (this is Julian encountering God in herself)!


She identifies sin as:

  1. Impatience
  2. Anxiety

If there were any doubt Julian wasn’t relevant to our world today – she hits on the big two!


[Learned Helplessness – psychologically linked to depression – referenced experiments of caged dogs being electrocuted – eventually they stopped jumping and yelping].


Spiritual Exercises:

  1. Think of one good theological question and one question that doesn’t need to be answered at all (cf. theology is the quest for the better question).
      1. How are all Three Persons of the Trinity involved in our salvation?
      2. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  2. What does it mean to me to think of God as our clothing?
    1. “Clothe yourselves with Christ” is a favourite metaphor of mine in describing the Christian life.

“All things have being by the love of God.”


These quickly scribbled notes (which will contain my mistakes) come from my recent retreat at the Mary and Martha Society (Sheldon) in South Devon, led by Rev. Dr. Stephen Cherry.  The book we used was Revelations of Divine Love by Barry Windeatt.


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