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.

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

Ransom

This arose out of some emails I exchanged with someone I hold in great respect. Should you read this I apologise for not telling you first.

I have always struggled with the idea
of Christ being punished for us.
Many believe He was,
but it was punishment set by us,
not by God.

I cannot feel God saying,
‘Someone must pay for this.’
and Jesus replying, ‘Yes,
but I shall pay instead.’

Did Christ die for our sins?
take our punishment on Himself?
Did our Father send His only begotten Son,
begotten, not created,
beloved, pleasing, one in love with Him,
to die as a blood sacrifice,
as the Paschal Lamb,
for us?

We rejected and murdered Him,
but that is not why He came.

For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that all who believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life.

I came that they might have life, and have it more fully.

Like Dame Julian of Norwich,
when I see Jesus Christ
I see the Trinity in Him,
God the Father
acting in His creation,
and in Love.

I see our Father in Jesus
showing the length that He will go
to show His love for us,
to suffer, in Christ, to save us.
As our Lord said,
I and the Father are one.

His suffering was more,
infinitely more, than crucifixion.
He loves us as his dear children,
eternally loving, not condemning
though we betrayed Him.

To bring damned sinners back
He went into the deepest hell
(which we made for ourselves,
bolting the door inside).

One day I shall write on my understanding of hell.
For now give it any meaning you wish.

What debt was paid upon the cross?
The amazing depth of love
in Jesus’ sacrifice
is more than any debt,
more than any price.

What debt was paid upon the cross?
The Aramaic Jesus spoke
had just one word for debt and sin,
and was guilt paid in pain?
Or was sin paid in death
to a wrathful, punishing God?

The Son of Man, the Son of God,
who prayed we may be one
as the Father and He are one,
suffered and died on the cross.
What ransom, what debt, was paid?
If He was not sacrificed for sin,
what debt, what ransom, was paid?

Because I live, you also will live.
In that day you will know
that I am in my Father,
and you in me,
and I in you.

Was our Father, in Christ on the cross,
a true lover grieving, bearing
anything for his beloved,
though we turned on Him murderously?

Is our debt that infinite love?
Was Christ’s crucifixion
not a ransom for our sins,
but a statement of that debt;
not cancelled on the cross
but rewritten in love,
which we owe in return.

Collar and Tie

I was challenged in my teens (long, long ago in the late nineteen-fifties, but still seems like yesterday) for wearing a sweater to church, ‘You would not turn up at work dressed like that so why do so in the house of God?’

As I was a student in London, and under my sweater was wearing a collar and tie. You might think I had a readily available answer but in those days even students wore jackets and ties to college. I gave a mildly apologetic response.

Things have changed since then.

Within ten years I had stopped wearing a tie to church; not from lack of respect but because I noticed that when strangers came into a service they often had open-necked shirts and looked self-consciously out of place. The presence of a few others similarly dressed gave them a chance to feel more at home.

Now things have changed even more; the wearing of ties has become rarer. For many, ties are not worn even for church. I find myself only wearing them on those autumn or winter days when a scarf might be too warm. One day perhaps I might sport a tie more regularly to ease the embarassement of strangers who come dressed in what they have seen in their only attendences at weddings and funerals – or will these also follow the current fashion?

There may be worse reasons for not dressing for church:

There is a story, a parable, of a king inviting guests to his son’s wedding feast
(which carries echoes of the King who invites guests to His Son’s wedding feast).

The kingdom of heaven is like a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He sent his slaves to call guests to the banquet,
but they would not come.

He sent other slaves, saying,
‘Tell those I invited,
“Look! The feast is ready.
My oxen and fatted cattle are slaughtered,
everything is ready.
Come to the banquet.” ’

But they were indifferent and went away,
one to his farm, one to his business.
The rest seized his slaves,
insolently mistreated or killed them.

The king was furious!
He sent soldiers to put those murderers to death
and set their city on fire.

He told his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready,
but those invited were unworthy.
Go into the main streets,
invite all you find to the banquet.’
They went out into the streets and gathered all they found,
filling the wedding hall with guests.

But when the king came
he saw a man not wearing wedding clothes.
He asked him,
‘Friend, how did you get in without wedding clothes?’
but he had nothing to say.
The king told his attendants,
‘Tie him hand and foot
throw him out into the darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing teeth!’

Many are called, but few are chosen.

Why was the guest thrown out for not wearing wedding clothes? Was he too poor? Probably – he had been called in off the street when the king’s rich friends turned their invitations down, but the king knew that and would have allowed for it. So why was he not wearing them?

He seems no better than the rich guests, disdainful of the king’s generosity. He came to eat but without bothering to wear the clothes provided. Rich or poor we can still get it wrong.

We have the King’s clothes to wear
for the wedding feast of His Son:
compassion, care, a held-out hand,
love and the acceptance of love,
the Image of God that God bestowed on Man.

Who is the bride?

The earliest account of Christ’s Great Commission,
translated literally from Mark’s Greek, is
When you have gone into all the world,
preach the Good News to all creation.

All creation is His bride,
over which as His hearers believed,
God set all Mankind to rule.

The true clothing of a ruler
is that of the Servant King:
compassion, care, a held-out hand,
love and the acceptance of love,
the Image of God that God bestowed on Man.

The Language of religion (2)

In February last year I wrote on our use of ‘religious’ words in The Language of Religion. I wrote on much-loved words: I Hope …, I think…, I believe…, I trust…, I know… relating them to faith. In spite of  being apparently easy, well-known words,  we can use them without realising their depth of meaning and how they relate to one another.

This post, and others to follow, deal with words which cannot be described as much-loved: today: wrath & anger…  not easy words, neither easily understood nor comfortable. Later posts may not fit this category but I have chosen them because they involve words I once thought I knew so well they did not need explanation, and have since found I was wrong: forgiveness, justice, eternity…

There will be gaps (we still have not moved house, although it is drawing closer)

Wrath…
Anger…

For thousands of years
we have associated these words with God.
Their use has changed,
but echoes remain.

Wrath and anger are now synonyms,
words with the same meaning,
but anger shares no roots with wrath.

Words grow like trees from roots far back in time
branching as they grow.
Sometimes suckers rise, sharing roots,
or cross-pollinated seeds
send stems from the earth,
with new roots to a related tree.

Wrathstems from Old English,
Anglo-Saxon, Scandanavian words.
The roots of wrath involve turning,
particularly turning away;
wrath shares them with wreathe and writhe,
with twist and twine,
with wrist (a turning joint),
turning awry words
which wring,
and wreck,
and wreak wrong.

Angeralso has Scandanavian and Anglo-Saxon roots,
but in New Testament Greek the word is οργε (orgé)
from this root come anguish and grief,
and angina (a constricting, choking pain),
yet it was not translated as anger,
but wrath.

Anger carries emotions of grief and regret;
an anxious response to imposed grief.
We see God’s anguish as anger,
then interpret anger as wrath,
seeing ourselves as hated things
because of our failings.
In this we increase our grief,
and His own.

God’s wrath is not a twisted,
writhing, turning away from a hated thing.
Wrath and anger are as different from one another
as over-strict, vicious punishment of a childs’s wrong…
turning the child away… turning away from the child…
is from the true, grieving response of a loving parent.

The True Parent grieves,
but the True Parent has no wrath.
The True Parent’s grief and regret and correction
is not wrath.
If it is anger, it is compassionate anger.

Two months before I wrote The Language of Religion I posted  How we Love Children which compares our Father’s love for us with parent’s love for children. Everything we feel and hope for is contained in our Father’s love.

Made in the Image

Cneius Pompeius was the first of our countrymen to subdue the Jews. Availing himself of the right of conquest, he entered the temple. Thus it became commonly known that the place stood empty with no similitude of gods within, and that the shrine had nothing to reveal.
Tacitus, Histories, Book 5, chap. 9

When Cneius Pompeius entered as conqueror
into the Holy of Holies, did he find nothing there?
No Godlike image? No fragment of wonder?
no token of the invisible God?
an empty room?

Did nothing in that empty, holy shrine,
ask the great question of our common daily tasks,
those shared hopes of yours, and mine, and his;
the great perhaps that there might be
something there that speaks beyond desire,
beyond you, beyond me, beyond him,
that knew his name?

No ark, no cherubim, no tablets of the Law,
hidden or lost since that first temple,
destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
half a thousand years before?
Did holiness remain?
or any thing?

No ark, no cherubim, no tablets of the Law,
Was that image in the seige-towers?
The battering rams?
the hand to hand facing with the enemy?

And were his gods in the victory parade,
passing like a sword through vanquished, sullen-lined streets?
Or in the holy place beyond the double veil?
The Holy of Holies of the only God of this strange race?

Pompey returned to his daily soldier round,
to his home’s embrace, his wife, his children,
and was His image there?
Did he recall in the empty shrine
that image of God seen there,
in himself,
and in the little things of home?

Two thousand years have passed, and more,
since Pompey came as conqueror
into the Holy of Holies.
Did he find nothing there?
No Godlike image? No fragment of wonder?
no token of the invisible God that asks,
as we are asked now,
in our homes, our daily tasks,
our homely shrines, where we,
wives, husbands, children,
each made in the image of God –
are asked to see,
and love and be loved.

Why do we bicker, in and with His image,
with weapons forged of words,
of sighs and glaring eyes,
with those whom we should love?
How, faced daily with His image,
should we do anything but love?

The Debate Of The Gaps

Can science explain faith? Perhaps, but ‘explaining’ must not be misinterpreted as ‘explaining away’. In the debate between science and religion the debaters are often separated into those discussing how we exist and those discussing why. Sometimes the religious argument is described as plugging holes that science has not yet explained – a retreating ‘God of the gaps’, but this is reversible. There are gaps on both sides. We can too easily treat the discussion as ‘either/or’.

There is a move away from the ‘God of the gaps’ to an equally erroneous ‘science of the gaps’ such as the apparent counter to Big Bang Creation theology by multiverse theories which avoid a single creation moment by postulating an infinite supply of them; or the infinite-finite source of Hartle-Hawking space which does the same by making the creation moment unattainable. It is easy to point out that neither answer the ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ question, but nor does religion. Both skate round an unknown centre.

There is neither a God of the gaps nor a science of the gaps. They are two views of the same whole.

Even if we could remove the need for God it would not necessarily remove our desire for Him. Lovers do not need each other, they want each other. Richard Leonard touches on this in ‘What Are We Doing on Earth for Christ’s Sake?’, describing a friend struggling with some religious work or duty suddenly feeling the peace of knowing God did not need him but simply loved him. If he died or did not finish, someone else could do it. Although God loved him doing it He did not need him.

Removing the need does not remove the love or the lover.