This year, we celebrate the 650th Anniversary of Mother Julian of Norwich’s famous book, Revelations of Divine Love. Who was Julian? Pope Benedict Explains:
As Julian herself recounts, in May 1373, most likely on the 13th of that month, she was suddenly stricken with a very serious illness that in three days seemed to be carrying her to the grave. After the priest, who hastened to her bedside, had shown her the Crucified One not only did Julian rapidly recover her health but she received the sixteen revelations that she subsequently wrote down and commented on in her book, Revelations of Divine Love.
And it was the Lord himself, fifteen years after these extraordinary events, who revealed to her the meaning of those visions.
Would you learn to see clearly your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Learn it well: Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love….Why did he show it to you? For Love…Thus I was taught that Love was our Lord’s meaning” (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 86).
Inspired by divine love, Julian made a radical decision. Like an ancient hermit, she decided to live in a cell located near the church called after Saint Julian in the city of Norwich — in her time an important urban center not far from London.
This decision to live as a recluse, the term in her day, might surprise or even perplex us. The anchoresses or recluses devoted themselves to prayer, meditation, and study. In this way, they developed a highly refined human and religious sensitivity which earned them the people’s veneration. Men and women of every age and condition who needed advice and comfort would devoutly seek them. To be a recluse, therefore, was not an individualistic choice; precisely with this closeness to the Lord, Julian developed the ability to be a counselor to a great many people and to help those who were going through difficulties in this life.
It was precisely in the solitude infused with God that Julian of Norwich wrote her Revelations of Divine Love. This book contains a message of optimism based on the certainty of being loved by God and of being protected by his Providence.
In this book, we read the following wonderful words: “And I fully that before God made us he loved us; his love was never lacking nor ever shall be. And in this love he has made all his works, and, in this love, he has made all things profitable to us; and in this love our life is everlasting…in which love we have our beginning. And all this shall we see in God, without end” (Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 86).
The theme of divine love frequently recurs in the visions of Julian of Norwich who, with a certain daring, did not hesitate to compare them also to motherly love. This is one of the most characteristic messages of her mystical theology. The tenderness, concern, and gentleness of God’s kindness to us are so great that they remind us, pilgrims on earth, of a mother’s love for her children.
Julian of Norwich understood the central message for the spiritual life: God is love, and it is only if one opens oneself to this love, totally and with total trust, and lets it become one’s sole guide in life – that all things are transfigured, true peace and true joy found, and one begins to radiate that peace and joy.
God’s promises are ever greater than our expectations. If we present to God, to his immense love, the purest and deepest desires of our hearts, we shall never be disappointed. “And all will be well” and “all manner of things shall be well.” This is the awesome message that Julian of Norwich transmits to us and that I am also proposing to you today.