Today is the Feast Day when we celebrate the life and ministry of Julian of Norwich! If anything should be obvious from the name and look of my blog, it is that Julian has had a great impact on my life. At many times when I wasn't sure what to believe or where to look for wisdom, I have found comfort in Julian's writings and the story of her life.
If you aren't familiar with Julian, let me tell you a little bit about her. She lived during the Fourteenth Century (1300s) in Norwich England. When she was 30 years old, she became deathly ill. After about a week's slow decline, she was convinced she was finally dying, so she called for her parish priest to come and pray with her and give her a final communion. She began to lose feeling in her legs, then her chest, and the lights seemed to go out in the room where she was lying. All she could see was a crucifix that her priest held before her eyes, and it was surrounded by light. Suddenly, Julian was healed and she began to have a series of 16 visions revealing truths from God.
Physically, Julian saw the crucifix come to life and experienced what Christ went through in his last hours, his death, and his resurrection. Spiritually, she saw Jesus in new ways: as a humble Lord, who served those who served at his table; as a Mother, who bears her children into new life; as a Brother, who is close by to experience life with you; and as a Lover, who surrounds us with his love.
One of the most powerful messages for me in Julian has been the image of Jesus as the ultimate Mother. I suppose, then it's appropriate that Julian's Saint's Day falls so close to Mother's Day. Being a mother in this broken world can be a painful and sad calling. We carry with us guilt and sacrifice and exhaustion and physical pain (both ours and that of our children). We fight against powers of death that threaten those we love, and sometimes it seems like we lose. But Jesus is the ultimate Mother. By his labor on the cross he bears us into eternal life. As Julian puts it,
The mother's service is nearest, readiest and surest: nearest because it is the most natural, readiest because it it most loving, and surest because it is truest. No one ever might or could perform this office fully, except only Jesus. We know that all our mothers bear us for pain and for death. O what is that? But our true Mother Jesus, he alone bears us for joy and for endless life, blessed may he be. So he carries us within him in love and travail, until the full time... (Showings, chapter 60)Julian also paints a picture of how Jesus nourishes us by his body at communion, disciplines us in love, clothes us, protects us, teaches us, comforts us, and does everything to bring us up in faith.
These images were truly encouraging to me long before I myself became a mother, but they continue to encourage now that I am a mother. Our God truly cares for us, in the simplest, most physical, most practical ways. Because of that, as Julian's most famous saying goes, "All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."