Christian Classics Study Group – Julian of Norwich – June 17 AD 2016

Revelations of Divine Love
by Julian of Norwich

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Lianne van der Veer and Esther van Ekris

Our next Christian Classics Study Group is Friday June 17 6:30-9:30pm at the Parsonage Hall.   Lianne van der Veer and Esther van Ekris (longtime fans of the work!) will lead us in our discussion.

Revelations of Divine Love is a report of 16 intense spiritual showings as experienced by the then 30 year old Julian of Norwich.  She experienced them within a few days and nights in May 1373 while being very ill, close to the point of death.  As the title suggests, the revelations are about divine love, the heart of God. They transmit the feeling of being loved by God, as illustrated by the following quote;

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Statue of Julian at Norwich Cathedral

‘In God’s endless love, our souls are kept whole; this is what all the showings demonstrated, this is what they each meant. In this endless love we are led, kept safe in God, and we will never be lost, for our safety is inherent in the moment and method of our creation.  God wants us to be aware that our souls are alive, filled with life that shall endure without end, thanks to God’s goodness and grace.’ (chapter 53).

Soon after Julian recovered from her illness, she records a first short account of her experiences.  The book we will be talking about is a six-fold longer recollection published 20 years after the showings.  It is the oldest surviving book written in English by a woman.  What makes it deeply significant is that Julian incorporates the results of 20 years of contemplation and reflection in this book.  Her analysis supports the narrative of the visions, always considering the doctrinal and devotional implications.

Although a lot of thought went into writing this book, it is not academic in nature. She wrote in beautiful, but plain English.  Many images she uses are rooted in everyday life.  Some of her ideas are thought provoking (especially chapter 32 to 34 with the memorable quote, ‘all shall be well, all matter of things shall be well’).  But she does not imply a theological dispute.  She simply states that only God knows how the truth she perceived in the revelations go together with the truth the Church taught her.  She rather asks her reader to powerfully, wisely and humbly look at God while reading this book, because the visions where given for the benefit of us all (chapter 8).

We do not know much about Julian, as she does not reveal much about herself.  Historical accounts do tell us that Julian was an anchoress.  Anchoresses were women who spent their life in a small room that was directly attached to a church or abbey. The rule Julian probably lived by (the Ancrene Riwle, an anonymous guide for anchoresses written around 1200) prescribe a small room with three windows: One window to hear mass and receive holy communion; one for practical use; and one to the outside world.  The third window provided daylight and the possibility to council people.  In Julian’s case, one of the women who called upon her was Margery Kempe (c.1373-1438), another English mystic, who mentions Julian in her book.

In preparation for the evening, you might want to read chapter 8, 9 and 66, as these chapters show how Julian herself viewed her showings.  Chapter 19 to 22 are wonderful to read, as they focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  But maybe you can just pray, open the book and read.  This is what Julian asks of her readers.  Turn to God, open our heart and receive.

This translation is outdated, and is a little less accessible to second language readers, but both text and an audio book are freely available.  –

A very modern translation, that is very easy to read.  It describes the choices the translator made very well.

An accessible translation with an excellent introduction. The typography helps understand the structure of the text.

We begin with dinner at 6:30pm, discussion 8 to 9:30, concluding with fellowship.
All are most welcome!

Please let Hanna know if you’re coming so we can plan the dinner.