A Response to Julian of Norwich

Initially, Julian’s revelations made me debate with myself if they were real or just the words of a hallucinating woman. Then I thought that, if Julian had written about her revelations nowadays, she would have probably been admitted to a hospital and treated for some illness whose name resides outside my medical knowledge. The fact she wrote about her revelations in the 13th century could be a reason the scripts were preserved until today—but it could not be the only reason.

Although Julian informed her readers that she was a “simple creature unlettered,” we can’t deny her rhetorical talents. Julian’s writing is highly sophisticated and meets every point on the checklist for a successful and meaningful theological text. Especially in the first chapters of her Revelations, where Julian describes how she came to envision and compose her script, her desire to write about Christ and His passions resemble the creative process of a modern writer that follows a moment of inspiration. Additionally, Julian demonstrates an impressive talent in creating metaphors. The most prominent metaphor, which stacks in mind, was the one where she envisions the universe as a thing so small—like a hazelnut—placed in the palm of her hand. What is fascinating about this metaphor is what God answers to Julian when she asks Him what this small thing is. The utterance, “it is all that is made…it lasts and ever shall, for God loves it,” combines the core of Christian religion and all of the doctrines in a straightforward sentence: God created everything, even the smallest things, and His love for his creations shall give them immortality (7).

The above metaphor—among others—brings me to the next reason that assured the Revelations’ preservation. Julian’s theological text contains many revolutionary theories for her time on what is sin, evil, and how love is the principal dogma of Jesus Christ. Sin was believed to be a scheme of Satan to corrupt human souls. For Julian, sin is not an evil action—or one which originates from the devil—but “Sin is no deed” (35). Julian’s utterance is widely supported by 21st-century theologians, who believe that sin and evil are nothing but the absence of good—like darkness is nothing but the lack of light.

Another revolutionary idea is that of love, As I mentioned earlier, is depicted by metaphors, such as the one with the walnut. Concepts such as “all creation are in God’s wise care” and that the evil has been defeated by the “cross” illustrate the end of an era. Humans cannot anymore accuse the devil of their deeds—they are responsible for their actions, and they will have to answer to God.

Of course, during the time of inquisition where whoever was doubting the power of the church would most probably meet a scorching death. Julian, however, makes sure to inform the readers—who back in that were mostly men of the church—that she is nothing but a weak woman. The only moment where Julian makes a comment is when she wakes up to see a priest above her, and she utters that the cross at the end of her bed was bleeding. Was she remarking God’s disappointment toward the church, or was she emphasizing, even more, the passion of Christ? We can’t know, because to be able to know we would have to ask her. As I said, Julian was such a good writer that any insinuations in her text are artistically hidden.

Finally, Julian captivates the reader with a collective work that goes beyond her talent as a writer or her groundbreaking ideas of Christianity.  Her revelations, one by one, are utterances that create the same emotional and spiritual nirvana as the teachings of the Bible. She utters that God loves all of his creations (males and females) and takes care of them, that Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross and His suffering seized the suffering of our souls, that God is omnipotent and omnipresent, and that He resides in the souls of those who love him. These utterances are so synergistic with the teachings of the Bible that the reader—as did I—can not think of them as the words of a “false prophet.” Thus, even reading them today, with the medical knowledge to argue that the revelations were nothing but hallucinations, the Essenes of those utterances brings to an awkward position to accept that God spoke to Julian.

What makes a book preserve itself almost eight centuries? Well, each book has its own merits and wonders that make it immortal. In the Revelations of Divine Love case, however, it was the writing as a whole. Julian’s writing techniques are artistic and successful, the ideas she conveys are solid and speak through the reader, and her theme—a theological one for all that matters—makes every page a new discovery for the reader. This is how Julian of Norwich achieved immortality.

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