Roberta Bondi has been giving us deep insight to Julian of Norwich. While I was introduced to her in seminary, I really never read her work – at least read it with deep thought. Sure, we were told she was a mystic of the ancient church, that she had had several visions from where her writings came, but for some reason we never delved into those writings.
Roberta is quick to point out that everything Julian says is metaphor. Seems I’ve heard a lot about metaphor from my mentor, Dr. Leonard Sweet, as well. It seems that many ancient writers “talked” in metaphor, especially Jesus….that’s another post!
Julian speaks of God’s familiar love and God’s courteous love. Roberta defines both for us: God’s familiar love is God’s close love, the way a person of higher rank would relate to a servant or a child. God’s courteous love is the kind of love between equals, courtly love, polite love, love of respect. This last type of love she explains would never have been talked about in terms of God in the 14th century when Julian lived. This wasn’t the God that the people were acquainted with. They only knew a harsh God, ready to smite them when they didn’t follow the rules. Julian, in her “talks” with Jesus came to know only a God of immense and unconditional love for all of creation. This familiar love, this courteous love, this love that thanks us for our response to God – this is Julian’s starting point of love and of God.
God is not a God to be feared! On the contrary, God is a God that ” is everything which is good and comforting for my help; he is our clothing who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us, shelters us, surrounds us, for his love which is so tender he may never desert us.” It seems that many people today who are disillusioned with religion have an understanding of God that is like Santa Claus – keeping a list and checking it twice; keeping records of all the sin we commit; ready to damn us to hell if we mess up enough. Julian’s vision showed her a totally different way to “see” God and Jesus keeps telling her during the vision that this is for all lovers of God, not just her to hear!
I wonder why no one reads Julian of Norwich any longer. I wonder why the mystics of faith are often understood as heretics or crazy people. We have forgotten the mystery of faith.
Julian said, “Unless I am substantially ONED with God, I can never have perfect rest or true happiness.” Think about how so many today are looking for that perfect rest and that true happiness – not in God however, in success, in other people, in accumulating stuff, etc. Perhaps more of us should listen to these words of an ancient mystic and take them to heart.
Tonight as we partook of communion, again I was struck by these words that choke me up each time I read the liturgy: When our love failed and we turned away, your love remained steadfast.” God’s love remains steadfast! EVEN and ESPECIALLY when our for God fails and we turn from God. That is amazing good news for humanity.
God loves us. Period. Richard Rohr told us today that the most confessed sin of Catholics today is that they missed weekly mass. That isn’t in the realm of sin or evil! The superficiality of the world is the true sin that is destroying most of our people. Go to the depth of sin and you find God. To stay on the surface is to often be highly capable of evil.
Of course we are going to sin. You are going to fall. You have to learn what’s real and unreal. Gambling per se is not evil but to waste a lot of time with that, that has the potential to be evil; has the potential to take us far from God. That is sin.
We live in an age where rules have passed for too long for religion. The moral is all that matters; there is no thought or need for the mystical. And yet, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again is purely mystical. Sit with that for a few and try to explain it rationally, without mystery. It cannot be done. Salvation isn’t a question of if, but when are you going to get it…..wow.