Julian’s 1st Showing – part 1

Many of Julians ‘showings’, or visions, were short, but this first is longer and I have divided it

Chapter 4

“Here begynnith the first revelation of the pretious crownyng of Criste etc. in the first chapter, and how God fullfilleth the herrte with most joy, and of His greate meekenesse; and how the syght of the passion of Criste is sufficient strength ageyn all temptations of the fends, and of the gret excellency and mekenesse of the blissid Virgin Mary. The fourth chapter.”

In this moment suddenly
I saw the red blood trickle
from underneath the Garland,
as hot, and fresh, and plenteous,
as in His Passion when the thorns
pressed on His blessed head.

He who was both God and Man,
who suffered thus for me,
showed me this directly.
I knew, truly, mightily
and in that showing suddenly
the Trinity filled my heart.
I understood with greatest joy:
it shall be so in Heaven without end
to all that shall come there.

the Trinity is God:
God is Trinity;
the Trinity, our Maker, Keeper,
our everlasting love,
our everlasting joy and bliss,
in our Lord Jesus Christ.

In that First Showing, and in all:
wherever Jesus Christ appears,
I feel the blessed Trinity.

And with a mighty voice I cried,
said and meant for reverence
“Benedicite, Domine!”

I wondered and marvelled that He,
so reverend and awe-inspiring
would be so homely with me,
a sinful creature in wretched flesh.

Awe-inspiring: in the original the word used is “dredfull” but in Mediaeval English, dread implied awe rather than apprehensive fear.

This I took for my time of temptation,
for I thought God would have me tempted
by fiends before my death.

With this sight of the blessed passion,
with the Godhead I saw and understood,
knowing well it was strength enough for me,
yes, and to all creatures living,
against all fiends of Hell
and spiritual temptation.

Then He brought our blessed Lady to my mind.
I saw her ghostly, in bodily form,
a simple, meek maid,
young, and little waxen above a child,
in that stature she had
when she conceived with child.

And God showed me in part
the wisdom and truth of her soul.
I understood the reverence
with which she beheld her God, her maker,
marveling that He would be borne of her,
a simple creature of His making.

And this wisdom and truth,
knowing the greatness of her Maker
and the littleness of herself,
led her to say meekly to Gabriel,
“Lo, me, God’s hand-maid.”

In this I truly understood
that she is more than all that God has made
all else is beneath her
in worthiness and grace.
Above her, I could see,
nothing that is made
but the blessed manhood of Christ.

Chapter 5

“How God is to us everything that is gode, tenderly wrappand us; and all thing that is made, in regard to Almighty it is nothing; and how man hath no rest till he nowteth himselfe and all thing for the love of God. The fifth chapter.”

In this same time our Lord showed me
a spiritual sight of His homely love.
I saw He is to us all that is good,
and comfortable for us.

He is our clothing that wraps us in love,
embraces us and all encloses us
for tender love,
that He may never leave us.
I know He is all that is good to us.

In this He showed a little thing
the size of a hazel nut
in the palm of my hand,
round as a ball.

I looked at it, in the eye
of my understanding and thought,
What may this be?

The answer was all-inclusive:
It is all that is made.
I marvelled how it could last.
I thought it so little
it might suddenly fall to nothing.

And I was given to understand:
It lasts and always shall,
for God loves it;
so by God’s love everything has its being.

In this little thing I saw three properties:
God made it,
God loves it,
God keeps it.

But what my maker, my keeper,
and my lover, truly is
I cannot tell,
for till I am fully one with Him
I may never have full rest nor true bliss;
that is to say, till I am so joined to Him
that there is truly nothing made
between my God and me.

We need to know the littleness of creatures
and to count as nothing all things made,
so as to love and hold to God
that is unmade.

For this is why we are not all
in ease of heart and soul,
for we seek rest here in those things
that are so little,
in which there is no rest,
and do not know our God
who is almighty, all wise and all good;
for He is true rest.

God wishes to be known,
and likes us to find rest in Him.
For all that is less than Him
is less than enough for us.
This is why no soul has rest
till it sets at nothing all made things.

Whoever sets all aside for love,
to have Him that is all,
can only then have spiritual rest.

Our Lord God showed His full, great pleasure,
when a simple soul comes to Him
unadorned, plain and homely.

This is the kindred yearning of the soul
by the Holy Spirit’s touch,
as I understand this showing:
“God of Thy goodness, give me Thyself,
Thou art enough for me,
I may ask nothing that is less
that it may be my full worship to Thee.
If I ask anything less I remain wanting;
only in Thee do I have all.”

And these words are full and lovely to the soul,
touching, full, and close, to God’s will and goodness.
For His goodness includes all His creatures
and all His blessed works
surpassingly without end.

He is endlessly over all,
He has made us only for Himself
restored us by His blessed passion,
keeps us in His blessed love;
and all this by His goodness.

He is endlessly over all,
He has made us only for Himself
restored us by His blessed passion,
keeps us in His blessed love;
and all this by His goodness.

Chapter 6

How we shold pray; and of the gret tender love that our Lord hath to mannes soule, willing us to be occupyed in knowing and loveing of Him. The sixth chapter.

In the 14th century the words ‘of’, ‘off,’ and ‘from’  (or ‘fro’) were not yet fully differentiated. They were often used as different spellings of one another, even within the work of the same author. In the following chapter, I have used, particularly in her references to ‘praying of His goodness’, forms which seem to yield the most suitable understanding to us today.

This showing was made to teach our soul
to cleave wisely to God’s goodness.
Then, how we pray was brought to mind,
how for lack of understanding,
and knowledge of love,
we use so many ways.

I saw greater worship to God,
and truer delight,
if we pray in faith to Him for His goodness,
cleaving to it by His grace,
with true understanding,
held steadfast by love, that truest light,
than if we used all means the heart can think.

For if we use all these means,
it is too little,
and not full worship of God.
But if our prayer is wholly in His goodness,
then truly, nothing fails.

For as I shall say, this came to my mind:
when we pray to God for His holy flesh,
for His precious blood, His holy passion,
His dear and worthy death and wounds;
all the blessed kindness –
the eternal life we gain –
all this is His goodness.

And we pray to Him of His sweet mother’s love,
the love that bore Him,
and all the help we have of her,
all this is His goodness.

By prayer by the Holy Cross He died on,
the virtue gained, the help of His Cross,
is all from His goodness.

And on the same wise,
all the help we have of special saints
all the blessed company of Heaven,
the dear, worthy love,
the endless friendship we have of them,
it is all from His goodness.

God in His goodness has ordained,
full, fair and many means to help us;
of which the chief and principal
is His blessed kindred with us in the Maid,
with all the means before and after,
which belong to our redemption
and our eternal salvation.

So it pleases Him that we seek Him,
worshipping by many means;
but understanding and knowing
that He is the goodness of all.

For the goodness of God is the highest prayer
coming down to the lowest part of our need.

It quickens our soul
it brings it life,
makes it wax in grace and virtue.
It is our nearest kindred
and readiest in grace.

It is the grace the soul seeks, and ever shall,
till we know our God truly
that has us all enclosed in Himself.

For He does not despise His creature,
nor distains to serve the simplest office
belonging to our body in nature,
for love of the soul that He has made
in His own likness.

For as the body is clad in cloth,
the flesh in its skin,
the bones in the flesh,
and the heart in the breast,
so are we, soul and body,
clad in the goodness of God.

Enclosed, yes, and more homely,
for all these may waste and wear away,
but God’s goodness is ever whole,
nearer to us beyond any likeness;
for truly our lover desires our soul
to cleave to Him with all its might,
cleaving forevermore to His goodness.

For of all our heart might hope to do,
this pleases God most,
with quickest gain,
for our soul is so specially loved
by Him that is highest,
that it surpasses all creaturely knowledge.

There is no creature made
that may know how much,
how sweetly, and how tenderly
our Maker loves us.

So, with His grace and help,
our spirit may see, marvelling forever,
this high, surpassing, inestimable love
Almighty God has for us of His goodness.

So we may ask our lover with reverence
all that we wish.
For our natural desire is to have God
and God’s good desire is to have us,
and we may never stop willing,
nor longing,
untill we have Him in fullness of joy.
Then we may desire no more.

For He wishes us always
to be knowing and loving Him
until we shall be fulfilled in Heaven.
So this lesson of love was shown,
with all that follows, as you shall see,
for in this first showing
was shown the strength and ground of all.

Above everything,
beholding and loving its Maker
makes the soul seem least in its own sight,
filled with reverend awe and true meekness,
with great charity to his fellow Christians.

Part 2 of this first showing will follow in a few weeks.

Swirls in a Vast Depth

The universe seems to be made of fundamental particles –
photons, quarks, electrons-
but these in turn appear to be nodes,
points of action,
resonances in the vibrance
of a universal frame;
infinite resonating fields
whose interacting harmonies
we see as particles,
nodes of waveforms in the deep.

We cannnot pin down a single node,
but how can they be points of action
if the energy that drives them
pervades the whole cosmos?
They are, perhaps, not points of energy
but pointers to energy,
mere signposts,
eddies in a greater stream,
swirls in a dark, vast depth:
the whole cosmos.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens

Man, Wisely Wise –

    The right words, 
but not necessarily in the right gender.

The title comes with blessing and a curse,
somewhere along our way we learned
that we know that we know.

Knowledge for knowledge’s sake sets us apart;
it is in our species name:
Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
Homo Sapiens Sapiens has desire and power.
This world is where we live and breathe and are.

We have moved beyond merely sentient,
simply sensing the world,
to being sapient, knowing our place in it.
We have moved beyond merely sapient,
knowing our place,
to sapient sapient.
We have tasted the bitter-sweet fruit.
We know that we know.

Man did not mean male,
it was a species,
in which the male was husbandman,
from hus-bound-Man,
tied to humus, to soil,
our house and home.

Of course it became husband,
but an earlier term was wer-Man
‘male-Man’

The female was wif-Man, which became wife,
then, probably via wi’-Man, became wo-man,
woman.

And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’

…out of Man, not …out of man;
the gender word man was yet unformed

wo-Man meant female-Man
wer-Man meant male-Man.
The human gender term wer survives,
in the human male part of were-wolf.

‘male’ in male and female are unrelated

Female comes from Latin femella,
female-Man.
Male comes from Old French masle
from Latin masculus or malus, male-Man.
Man is the species word,
human regardless of gender,
as were he and she, which were once accents of the same word,
simply meaning a person.
Man is derived from Old English mann,
or earlier Proto-Indo-European mon or man.
Human comes from humus (soil).

Possibly the h at the beginning of human and he
caused a shift of use towards he 
for a person,
leaving she with no role.
so it came to be used for a woman.

If so, then for a time, he meant a person of either sex
while she was only used for women.
Gradually he was applied to men only,
she to women only.

Female stands alone,
It is not fe- prefixing male.
Its origin is in Latin,
coming from femina, or femella,
a female human.
Its use for other species came later.

Male comes from Old French masle
from Latin masculus, or malus,
a male human.

So male in each word is coincidence,
a 14th century spelling confusion,
of similar sounds with similar sense.

But -man in woman and in man
does share the same root:
the word for our species,
Man, any human person.
In Old English the word for male was wǣp or wer
which, with the species suffix mann,
became wǣp-mann, werman.

Werman shortened to man in or before the 13th century
We still use wǣp- or wer as man in were-wolf.
but the word served also as gender neutral
until the last century.
Old English for woman, female-Man,
was wīf-mann or wif.
Wif became wife
wīf-mann became wi’man, woman.
So, unlike female and male,
man and woman have the same root,
Man,
human regardless of gender.

Revelations of Love, Chapters 1-3

Julian’s introduction to what is to follow.

These first three chapters outline the whole book:

  • first, a summary of the chapters to follow (omitted for brevity).
  • second, how when younger, she prayed to share or understand more of Christ’s pains.
  • third, her  serious illness in 1373, in which, during receipt of the last rites, she received the ‘shewings’ or visions which occupy the rest of the book.

In fact she survived. The last record of her still living was in 1413.

What follows is far more than I originally intended. Two or three years ago I began a free verse précis of her book, promising completion in a few months, then a year. But I found such richness and compassion in her writing that the précis became a fuller translation and the timescale grew.

Although written in English it is that of the early middle ages. Spelling was elastic then, not only from writer to writer but within a writer’s own work, hence it is very much a translation into modern English. Fortunately I did not have to work from the original mediaeval alphabet or, worse, from handwritten originals. This has been done by far better writers than myself, particularly Georgia Ronan Crampton.

I have kept Julian’s chapter introductions in her Middle English wording in italic, but using our modern alphabet. Her book, as mentioned in an earlier post, was written in a dangerous and unforgiving age; a time of post- Black Death fear of heresy. The shewings should be read in order.

Revelations to one who could not read a letter. Anno Domini 1373.

A Particular of the Chapters, Of the tyme of these revelations, and how shee asked three petitions, and Of the sekenese opteyned of God be petition.

Chapter 1.

 A Particular of the Chapters. The first chapter, off the noumber of the Revelations particularly.

This is a Revelation of love that Jesus Christ, our endless bliss,
made in sixteen Showings or special Revelations.

I have omitted this chapter’s summary of her sixteen revelations as, in the light of the historical background in which they were written, they are better read in in order.

Chapter 2

The second chapter. Of the tyme of these revelations, and how shee asked three petitions.

These Revelations were shown to a simple unlettered creature in the year of our Lord 1373, the eighth day of May, which creature had desired previously, three gifts of God.

The first was to understand His passion.

The second was bodily sickness in youth at thirty years of age.

The third was to have God’s gift of three wounds.

As to the first gift,
I thought I had some feeling of Christ’s passion,
but desired more by God’s grace,
as though I were there with Mary Magdalen
and others that loved Christ;
desiring an actual sight
to know more of our Saviour’s physical pains,
our Lady’s compassion,
and of all His true lovers that saw them,
in that way I would be one of them
and suffer with Him.

I desired no other sight
nor showing of God
till my soul departed from my body,
so that by this showing alone
I should more truly understand Christ’s passion.

The second gift came to my mind with contrition,
freely desiring a sickness so deathly hard
that I might undergo all rites of Holy Church,
believing I was dying,
and that all that saw me might suppose the same,
for I would get no comfort from earthly life.

In this sickness I prayed to have
all manner of physical and spiritual pains
that I would feel if I were dying,
with all the dreads and tempests of the fiends,
except the outpassing of my soul.

By this I meant to be purged by God’s mercy,
afterward  to live more to His worship
because of that sickness;
and that it might speed my death,
for I desired to be soon with my God.

These two desires, the passion and the sickness,
I desired with a condition, saying,
“Lord, you know what I desire.
if it be Thy will, may I have it,
and if it be not Thy will,
good Lord, do not be displeased,
for I want nothing but Thy will.”

For the third gift, by the grace of God and the teaching of Holy Church,
I conceived a mighty desire to receive three wounds in my life:

the wound of full contrition,
the wound of kindred compassion,
and the wound of willfull longing for God.

And all this last petition I asked without any condition.

The first two desires passed from my mind,
but the third dwelt with me continually.

Chapter 3

Of the sekenese opteyned of God be petition. Third chapter.

When I was thirty and a half years old,
God sent me a bodily sickness
in which I lay three days and nights.
On the fourth I had rites of Holy Church
and did not expect to live till day;
but after this I languished
two days and two nights.

The third night I often thought I had passed,
as did they that were with me;
still young, I thought it great pity to die;
not for anything in earth
that might give me pleasure to live,
nor fear of any pain,
for I trusted in God in His mercy.

But to have lived to have loved God better
and for a longer time,
that I might have more knowledge and love
of God in the bliss of Heaven.

For I thought,
the time I had lived here was too slight,
too short to deserve that endless bliss.
It seemed nothing.

I thought,
“Good Lord, may the end of my life be Thy worship?”
And I understood by my reason,
by my feelings of pain,
that I should die,
and assented fully, with all the will of my heart,
to be at God’s mercy.

Thus I endured until day,
and by then my body was dead
with no feeling from the middle down.

Then I was stirred to be set upright,
and was leant back with help,
to have more freedom in my heart
to be at God’s will,
thinking on God while my life might last.

My curate was sent for to be at my end,
by the time he came my eyes were fixed
and I could not speak.

He set the cross before my face and said,
“I have brought the image
of thy maker and Saviour.
Look thereon and have comfort therewith.”

I thought I needed no comfort
for my eyes were set upward to Heaven
where by God’s mercy I trusted to come,
but I assented to set my eyes, if I could,
in the face of the Crucifix
and so I did,
thinking I might endure longer
looking ahead than right up.

After this my sight began to fail,
the chamber dark as night about me
except in the image of the Cross
which I saw by its own light,
I knew not how.

All beside the Cross was ugly to me
as if greatly occupied with fiends.

The rest of my body began to die.
I had scarcely any feeling,
with shortness of wind;
and believed I had truly died.

And in this, suddenly, all my pain was taken from me,
I was as hale, and sound in body as ever before.

I marvelled at this sudden change,
I thought it was God’s secret work
and not of nature,
yet feeling this ease
I trusted no more in living.

This ease was no full ease to me,
for I would rather be delivered from this world.

Then came suddenly to my mind
that I should desire the second wound
of our Lord’s gracious gift,
that my body might be fullfilled
with mind and feeling of His blessed passion,
I wanted His pains my pains with compassion,
and afterward to belong to God.

I desired neither bodily sight nor showing of God,
but compassion,
as a kindred soul might have with our Lord Jesus,
who for love became a mortal man.
I desired to suffer with Him.

Julian’s visions follow approximately monthly, interspersed with other posts.

In the Beginning

In the beginning God,
who had no beginning,
created waves of darkness;
dark, vital waves of energy,
a vast outpouring constancy,
that streamed beyond all knowing,
powerful, steady, flowing.

His spirit brooding, moving,
stirred eddies in the darkness,
eddies around eddies,
round eddies around eddies,
which were and yet were not.
A sea of possibility,
potential and intensity,
chaotic, void and dark.

God, with no beginning,
created our beginning,
brooding on creation,
until the first conditions
were settled and were right.
God spoke, ‘Let there be light.’

Eddies spinning, lasting, shining,
light and dark in harmony,
light in darkest energy,
and time began.

Then –

In a new beginning,
God who is eternal
entered His creation.
He who is eternal, other,
entered space-time in Christ.
He who created time and space,
who is other than time, other than space,
energy pervading, streaming through creation,
whose spirit brooded over the waves,
in that Trinity revealed in Christ,
celebrated by shepherds,
wise men, kings,
came to a human birth,
to an earthly mother,
to us.

Now –

Near fourteen billion years since first creation,
four thousand years since Abraham,
two thousand plus since Christ,
we celebrate a feast of flesh and wine,
and giving of gifts as a sign
of the greatest gift.

We decorate our darkest hours
with thorn-bearing holly,
poisonous mistletoe,
and a tree.

Dame Julian

Revelations of Divine Love

INTRODUCTION

 ‘This is a Revelation of love that Jesus Christ, our endless blisse, made in sixteen Sheweings or Revelations particular.’

Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Julian of Norwich is a remarkable book; probably the first in English by a woman. Some of its themes ran counter to the church’s teaching – dangerous in the troubled century in which she lived. Her calm and compassionate writing, visionary and mystical, came from sixteen visions or ‘shewings’ in 1373 during a severe, paralysing illness, so severe that she received the last rites.

In Middle-English language, she called them shewings (showings) and revelations. Others have called them visions but they were sometimes visual, and other times intellectual, auditory or spiritual. I use showings to keep the sound and intent of the original.

She describes them as personal revelations to herself by God that she was to pass on to her fellow Christians. She reviewed the first 14 showings with twenty in-depth chapters of comment, preparing the way for the dangerous ground in her 15th and 16th showings.

Her Middle-English is hard to read today. Most translations are  readable but use much original wording and phrasing to keep the mediaeval colour. I have tried to avoid this. Words then can have different meanings to the same words today. In my modern renderings of Julian’s visions I have used Georgia Ronan Crampton’s excellent version of her later, longer book here. This is probably the closest to the original Middle-English but uses our modern alphabet. Another more comfortably modernised version is in the Christian Classics Ethereal library here.

Beware: you may find yourself on a beautiful but long road. Sometimes the meanings of words have changed, sometimes it is our understanding of what underlies those words. For instance, fear in Julian’s day carried far more sense of awe than it does today. Now it has been simplified to mean fright. We use the same word but a sense of wondering caution has given way to one of cowering. To fear God has lost something in the process. Dread carried a combined sense of respect and awe rather than horror.

14th Century Background

Continue reading

Eddies

How long had I been roaming through
cloud-misted lanes that run
where fog-dripped tree and dew-dropped flower
and path behind and path before
glow in an unseen sun?

When my way led me where a bridge
arched a broad dark stream,
a flow from source to unknown sea,
ran dark and wide and strong and free;
dark energy, extreme.

The bridge curved high above the flood,
where I stood gazing down,
its ends stretched misting into cloud,
the stream-banks melting in a shroud,
the arching bridge rose high and proud;
the dark stream pouring on.

Below, above a stream-bed rock,
rose eddies in a spin
the handrail melting into mist,
one eddy rose with twirl and twist
and grew, and drew me in.

I found myself within its swirl,
a turning, whirling world,
where, spinning within spinning,
eddies in eddies, singing,
small within smaller, swirled.
And all beyond, more powerful yet,
the stream rolled fast along,
dark and wide, and strong and free,
and though the eddies seemed to be
a mad-cap whirl that I could see,
the dark stream drew them on.

Eddies spun within themselves,
spin within spin in spin.
Each eddy spread from each, to go
turning faster in the flow,
whirled without, within.

I turned and walked on as the mist,
clearing, showed the sky,
and trees and flowers and flowing stream
were no longer what they seem,
but planet, star and galaxies,
spreading in the run
of darker faster energy
beneath another Sun.