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Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich (1342-c 1416) was the most important English mystic of the 14th century. Her spirituality is strongly Trinitarian and basically Neoplatonic.

In her Revelations of Divine Love Julian relates that in May 1373, when she was 30 years old, she suffered a serious illness. After she had been administered extreme unction, she received 16 revelations within the span of a few hours. When she wrote her Revelations, she was a recluse at Norwich, supported by the Benedictine convent of Carrow. Anchorite seclusion was a rather common form of life in 14th-century England among Christians with high spiritual aspirations. A woman of little formal education— she calls herself "unlettered"—Julian writes in a beautifully simple style and shows a solid grasp of traditional theology.

Julian's revelations, a mixture of imaginary and intellectual visions, bear all the characteristics of true mysticism. According to her, her visions came in fulfillment of three petitions of her youth: to have in mind the Passion of Christ, to have a critical bodily sickness at 30 years of age, and to receive the wounds of "true contrition," "genuine compassion," and "sincere longing for God." The revelations consist mostly of visions of the crucified Christ occasioned by the sight of a crucifix which the priest had left at her bedside. But through the Passion, Julian is led to intellectual visions of the Trinity and of the universe as it exists in God. Thus she is confronted by the teachings of sin and damnation, which she finds hard to reconcile with God's grace in Christ. Nevertheless the accepts the traditional Church doctrine of the existence of an eternal rejection. Yet on the sinfulness of those who will be saved she hedges: "In every soul to be saved is a godly will that has never consented to sin, in the past or in the future. Just as there is an animal will in our lower nature that does not will what is good, so there is a godly will in our higher part, which by its basic goodness never wills what is evil, but only what is good." Obviously she finds herself unable to accept that divine goodness could ever allow the elect to be truly sinful. Her fundamental outlook is optimistic. The Lord tells her: "All shall be well," and "You will see for yourself that all manner of thing shall be well."

Little is known of Julian's later years, not even the date of her death. She is last referred to as a living person in a will dated 1416. Apparently even during her life she enjoyed a certain renown, for people came from afar to see and consult her.

Further Reading

There are two versions of the Revelations, one much longer than the other. It is not known whether the short one is merely an excerpt from the older one or whether it is the first authentic report on which Julian elaborated in the longer version. A critical edition is being prepared by Sister Anna Maria Reynolds and James Walsh. Meanwhile, a modernized edition of the short version is A Shewing of God's Love (1958) by Anna Maria Reynolds. Several modern translations of the longer version, under the title Revelations of Divine Love, are by Roger Hudleston (1927), James Walsh (1961), Anchoret Juliana (1966), and Clifton Wolters (1966). Important studies of Julian are Paul Molinari, Julian of Norwich: The Teaching of a 14th Century English Mystic (1958), and James Walsh, ed., Pre-Reformation English Spirituality (1966). □

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Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich (1342–c.1416). Anchoress and mystic. Probably educated by Benedictine nuns, her claim that she was ‘unlettered’ probably means that she knew no Latin. After nearly dying (1373) she had a series of sixteen religious experiences, ‘shewings’, and decided to become a recluse and spiritual counsellor in an anchorage attached to St Julian's church, from which she took her name. Twenty years later, she wrote The Revelations of Divine Love, meditations on her ‘shewings’, the first book known to have been written by a woman in English. She describes God as all-loving, despite contemporary suffering. Her saying ‘All shall be well’, and her vision of all creation in ‘a little thing, the size of a hazel-nut, lying in the palm of my hand … for God loves it’ are well known. A positive thinker in an age of suffering, uncertainty, and change, her meditations are attractive in the early 21st cent.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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"Julian of Norwich." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Julian of Norwich." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/julian-norwich

"Julian of Norwich." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved July 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/julian-norwich

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich (c.1342–after 1413). English mystic. Little is known of her life, except that she probably lived as an anchoress close to St Julian's church in Norwich. On 8 or 13 May 1373, while she was suffering from a severe heart attack, she had a series of fifteen visions relating to the Passion of Christ, followed the next day by a final vision. This she recorded in the shorter text of her Showings. More than fifteen years later she had a further revelation, after which she recorded a longer version in which she develops more deeply their significance. From her come the familiar words of consequent trust, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. She also laid great stress on the motherly nature and love of God: ‘God is really our Mother as he is Father’ (cf. FEMINIST THEOLOGY).

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"Julian of Norwich." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Julian of Norwich." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved July 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/julian-norwich

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich (c.1342–c.1413), English mystic. She is said to have lived as a recluse outside St Julian's Church, Norwich. She is chiefly associated with the Revelations of Divine Love (c.1393), a description of a series of visions she had in which she depicts the Holy Trinity as Father, Mother, and Lord.

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"Julian of Norwich." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Julian of Norwich." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved July 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/julian-norwich