Faithful Heroes: Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

 

Julian of Norwich was a Christian mystic and theologian. Her Revelations of Divine Love, written around 1395, is the first book in the English language known to have been written

Julian of Norwich

by a woman.

Little is known about her life. She is believed to have been born around November 8, 1342, based on her writings.

While Julian was a common name for women in the Middle Ages, it is unknown if this were truly her name, or taken from the Church of St. Julian in Norwich.

One source stated it likely she received her early education in nearby Carrow with the Benedictine nuns and may have come from a privileged family.

Scholars debate if she was a nun or laywoman. She was said to become an anchoress, which was a woman who set herself apart for God and lived in an isolated cell. It is unknown when she began to live life as an anchoress.

Julian of Norwich

One source stated in seeking a deeper love of Christ, she appealed for God to provide a deeper understanding of Christ’s passion, a sickness like death without actual death and the wounds of absolute contrition, kind compassion and steadfast longing towards God.

Around the age of 30, she suffered a serious illness and was believed to be near death. A priest arrived to administer last rights and held the crucifix over the foot of her bed. Over the next several hours, she experience a series of sixteen visions of Jesus Christ, which ended by the time she recovered from her illness on May 13, 1373.

Immediately afterward, she began to write her visions and what happened. This came to be known as the Revelations of Divine Love. These are known as the Short text.

Twenty to thirty years passed and she then began to write a theological exploration of the meaning of the visions, known as the Long Text.

In 1413, she was described by a scribe as “a devout woman, who is a recluse at Norwich, and still alive.”

She is believed to have died sometime around 1416 in Norwich.

Julian of Norwich statue

Only one manuscript of the Short text exists and is not as widely known. The Long Text seems to exists in two manuscripts and may have been a little better known during her time.

The first printed edition of Revelations was in 1670.

Julian of Norwich is now recognized as one of England’s most important mystics. Revelations is a celebrated work for the clarity and depth of her visions of God by both the Catholics and Anglicans.

Today, her readings are still read with great interest. Her lasting faith and writing of her visions of Christ make her a faithful hero.

 

 

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