One of England’s most important mystics is Julian of Norwich (1342 – c. 1416) – a woman who at the age of thirty experienced a series of fifteen revelations one day as she lay on her bed, gravely ill, with a final sixteenth revelation the following night. The plague was ravaging Britain, and would end up killing half the population. She was receiving the last rites when the priest asked her to open her eyes and look at a crucifix he was holding in front of her. The revelations began, she survived, and became an anchoresss living in a church in Norwich. Over the following fifteen years she wrote out these revelations and elaborated on them. [In the Tea session I mistakenly say that the sixteenth revelation occurred fifteen years later. The text I read out in fact relays her final realisation or conclusion reached fifteen years after receiving her revelations]. Her manuscript was entitled ‘Revelations of Divine Love’. This is the first book in the English language known to have been written by a woman.
Stressing the ‘omnibenevolence’ of God, she conveyed an optimistic vision of Divine Love and her words will be familiar to those who know T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, when he quotes her Revelations: ‘and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’
In this tea session we explore her work a little, I read excerpts from two of her revelations, and her conclusion, then take as a theme for our meditation an image of ‘All that is made’ in the form of a hazelnut in the palm of our hand.
To learn more about Julian, the Wikipedia article gives a good introduction, and this documentary takes you deeper:
With many thanks to Dr Eleanor Parker for her talk at The Fintry Trust on St. or Mother Julian, as she is known, which inspired this tea session. Eleanor is Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford, the author of Dragon Lords: The History & Legends of Viking England, and author of the blog A Clerk of Oxford which covers the literature and history of medieval England, saints, churches, folklore, Vikings, poetry, and anything else that interests her.