Julian of Norwich, or Dame Julian, as her contemporaries knew her, was writing at the time of Chaucer, Langland and the anonymous author of ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’. During an illness, she received a vision of the Passion of Christ, on either May 8th or 10th 1373. An early scribe, introducing her account of this, described her as a recluse at Norwich, still alive in 1413, a devout woman whose words were ‘comfortable and most moving for all those who desire to love God’. This vision is what she reflected on throughout her very long life, and she wrote about her ‘revelations’ a great deal.
She was indeed a recluse, in a cell attached to the Church of SS Julian and Edward, which may have given her the name by which she is known. She was also a mystic and may have been a nun, for ‘Dame’ was a usual title for a Benedictine nun and the church was in the gift of the Benedictine Abbey of Carrow, but there is no proof. She tells us very little about herself in her writings: even the visions she counts as of little importance. The most important thing to her was to foster a greater devotion to God, love towards others that overflowed and a deep desire that those who read her words would experience and grow in the love of God
Life at this time was filled with turmoil, war, disaster, rebellion and plague. There was much religious questioning in theology and philosophy, some of which was actively discouraged by the Church. Norwich attracted traders and travellers from across Europe, and many sought Julian’s counsel. She was known to be expert in spiritual things and a skilful counsellor. Our prayer today is based on Julian’s writings:
Our Lord, continually remind us of our longing for You. Show us that nothing hinders us except our sin. If You had only created us without sin, all would have been well; but the pain that we feel when we recognise sin purifies us and leads us to know ourselves and to ask for mercy. Then You assure us that all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Thank You, Lord; may we rest in this assurance. Amen.