He did not say, “You shall not be tormented, you shall not be troubled, you shall not be grieved,” but he said, “You shall not be overcome.” God wants us to pay attention to his words and wants our certainty always to be strong, in weal and woe; for he loves and is pleased with us, and so he wishes us to love and be pleased with him and put great trust in him; and all shall be well (34).
When Julian was 30.5 years old, she became sick. As someone who is myself 30.5 years old, her age interested me greatly.
In her illness, as she looked upon a crucifix her priest brought her, Julian experienced various “showings” of God’s love. The first appeared as a small sphere, the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of her hand. It was fragile, and she discerned that it was creation held together only through God’s love for it.
Here Julian mentions three nothings, which the editors suggest are “all that is created,” “sin,” and the “Devil” (181n5). This seems accurate given the thrust of the Short Text.
First, Julian says that we must transcend creation in order to know and love God. She writes,
[A]ll men and women who wish to lead the contemplative life need to have knowledge of it: they should choose to set at nothing everything that is made so as to have the love of God who is unmade. This is why those who choose to occupy themselves with earthly business and are always pursuing worldly success have nothing here of God in their hearts and souls: because they love and seek their rest in this little thing [that is the size of a hazelnut] where there is no rest, and know nothing of God, who is almighty, all wise and all good, for he is true rest. God wishes to be known, and is pleased that we should reset in him; for all that is below him does nothing to satisfy us. And this is why, until all that is made seems as nothing, no should can be at rest (8).
Julian stresses the love of God, which provides rest and salvation.
For Julian, this love reveals that we are bound together in a very real oneness. Additionally, love is the source of the Eucharist (13) as well as the source of protection in times of both sorrow and joy (17).
According to Julian, sin is a non-reality. In light of the paschal mystery, the making right what Adam made wrong, our sins are nothing and are also easily overcome by Christ’s work. Thus her famous “all shall be well” phrase. All that we make wrong, all the injustices that we commit, will be made right by Christ at his coming (21–30). And, again, this is done out of love.
Moreover, sin does not separate us from the love of God. She notes “David, Peter and Paul, Thomas of India and the Magdalene – how they are famous in the Church on earth with their sins as their glory” (26). I suspect the assertion that their sins were their glory reflects the truth that their sins were not the final word but that the final word was reconciliation and that that is their glory.
She also notes that sin is punishment because it is separation from God. It is non-real, but it is real in that it has consequences. The sacrament of reconciliation reverses those consequences though, according to Julian. And, while sin “is punished here with sorrow and suffering, . . . it shall be rewarded in heaven by the generous love of our Lord God almighty . . . And so all shame will be turned into glory and into greater joy” (26–27).
Turning to prayer, Julian writes that “[p]rayer unites the soul with God; for though the soul is always like God in nature and substance, yet because of sin on man’s part, it is often in a state which is unlike God. Prayer makes the should like God; when the soul wills what God wills, it is then in a state like God. . .” So prayer is important because it shapes us into being more godly people. We desire to be with and to see God, “[b]ut when we do not see God, then we need to pray because we lack something, and to make ourselves open to Jesus” (29). God responds to us then out of generous love.
The short text concludes with Julian’s meditation on fear, saying that fear of attack, fear of punishment, and doubtful fear are unproductive for life and only serve to disquiet. Reverent fear, “very sweet and gentle because of the greatness of love,” is the fear that allows us to flourish. Reverent fear is the product of love and “it softens and comforts and pleases and rests us.”
The long text repeats the content of the short with more meditation on its contents throughout. The long text holds the parable of the lord and the servant as well as Julian’s famous meditations on God as mother.
Julian receives a vision of a lord and a servant. The lord calls the servant to go out and work for him, but the servant falls and injures himself. At first, she thinks this is an image of Adam, falling in the garden. But later she discerns that it is an image of the incarnation. Gad the Father calls the Son to go out. And he falls into the womb of Mary, becoming human and suffering.
Just as Mary birthed Jesus, Julian sees God as mother, noting that “[t]he mother’s service is the closest, the most helpful and the most sure, for it is the most faithful” (141). While the baby is in the womb, the mother cares for the child and then gives birth, sending the baby out into the world. So too God nurtures us and bring us to “spiritual birth,” friendship with God.