OK, I have a confession to make… I never read “Revelations of Divine Love” by St. Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) for my medieval theology class last semester… Perhaps I am a bad feminist… Yes, it has been on my list to read for years now, but I just have never gotten around to it. However, now that I am in England, I have a mission to read authors of the country I am currently inhabiting — and more specifically works that are of theological significance. And I finally got around to reading St. Julian’s “Revelations of Divine Love” once my boyfriend and I had decided that we were taking a day trip to Norwich. The day before we left for our visit to the city, I made it my mission to at least get through the short text before arriving at St. Julian’s shrine.
When I finally opened the book, I didn’t realize how much of an impact the text would have on me. I mean I consistently use Julian’s phrase, “All shall be well,” — and I recite it often during finals — but I was unaware of how deeply I would connect with her view of God. As my boyfriend, Nate, and I read aloud the short text to each other the word “love” jumped off the page. For St. Julian God is love. Period. End stop. God is a God of joy and compassion; a God who loves everyone and desires salvation for all. She writes, “[God] is our clothing, wrapping and enveloping us for love, embracing us and guiding us in all things, hanging about us in tender love, so that he can never leave us.” How optimistic this theology was, considering the turmoil of her age.
And I felt this love during my pilgrimage to Norwich. After touring both the castle and cathedral, Nate and I finally made it to the Church of St. Julian. If you ever visit Norwich, you must visit this tiny church off an inconspicuous side road. It is a holy place. When we first stepped into the sanctuary, it was dark and intense — like Julian’s revelations of Christ’s suffering —, but as we moved into to the side door, down a few steps and into Julian’s cell, the atmosphere completely changed. As I entered the presence of Julian’s shrine, I felt an outpouring of warmth and tranquility. I felt as though I was communing with St. Julian, wrapped in both her love and God’s love. And in that sacred space I stood before her shrine, lit a candle, and prayed, “Julian, help me to love God as you loved God, and to show love to all God’s children.”