Friday, June 22, 2012

Julian of Norwich & "Mother Christ"

Today I discovered Julian of Norwich, but at the moment I don't know what led me to her.  Little is known of the life of this Catholic mystic.  She was an English anchoress who lived from 1342 to c.1416.  Julian became gravely ill, and in a near-death experience had a vision from God and spent the next 20 years writing about it.  Her XVI Revelations of Divine Love is believed to be the first book written in English by a woman.  So why did I not learn of her in college as a student of English literature?  She was Catholic, and she was a woman.  I suppose those were two large strikes against her.

At any rate, I had remotely heard of Julian before.  Sarah Ban Breathnach quoted her in Simple Abundance:
"All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing shall be well" (according to Julian, God said this to her).  Famed 20th century poet T.S. Elliot even borrowed from Julian's writings.  Once again, odd to not have heard of her academically before!  Well, I ordered her book from the library, but for now let me give you a sampling I found online (  Julian's theology of the Divine Mother is well-developed and echoes my own theology, which I have been recording here.  I will let it speak for itself for now, and undoubtedly Julian of Norwich is a topic to which we will return!

 Blessed Julian of Norwich

"Thus I saw that God rejoices that He is our Father, God rejoices that He is our Mother, and God rejoices that He is our true Spouse and that our soul is His beloved wife.  And Christ rejoices that He is our Brother, and Jesus rejoices that He is our Savior. (Ch. 52)

These virtues and gifts are treasured for us within Jesus Christ, for at that same time that God knitted Him to our body in the Maiden's womb, He assumed our fleshly soul…. Thus Our Lady is our Mother in whom we are all enclosed and out of her we are born in Christ (for she who is Mother of our Savior is Mother of all who shall be saved within our Savior). And our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and never shall come to birth out of Him. (Ch. 57)

Thus in our creation, God All Power is our natural Father, and God All Wisdom is our natural Mother, with the Love and the Goodness of the Holy Spirit —who is all one God, one Lord. And in the knitting and in the one-ing, He is our most true Spouse, and we are His beloved Wife and His fair Maiden. With this Wife He is never displeased, for He says: "I love thee and thou lovest me, and our love shall never be separated in two." (Ch. 58)

…the Second Person of the Trinity is our Mother in human nature in our essential creation.  In Him we are grounded and rooted, and he is our Mother in mercy by taking on our fleshliness. And thus our Mother is to us various kinds of actions (in Whom our parts are kept unseparated) for in our Mother Christ, we benefit and grow, and in mercy He redeems and restores us, and, by the virtue of His Passion and His death and resurrection, He ones us to our essence. In this way, our Mother works in mercy to all His children who are submissive and obedient to Him. (Ch. 58)

As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother. (And that He showed in all the showings, and particularly in those sweet words where he says "It is I" — that is to say" "It is I: the Power and the Goodness of the Fatherhood. It is I: the Wisdom of the Motherhood. It is I: the Light and the Grace that is all blessed Love. It is I: the Trinity. It is I: the Unity. I am the supreme goodness of all manner of things. I am what causes thee to love. I am what causes thee to yearn. It is I: the endless fulfilling of all true desires.") I understood three ways of looking at motherhood in God:  the first is the creating of our human nature;  the second is His taking of our human nature (and there commences the motherhood of grace); the third is motherhood of action (and in that is a great reaching outward, by the same grace, of length and breadth and of height and of depth without end)  and all is one love. (Ch. 59)

The mother can give her child such from her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with Himself; and He does it most graciously and most tenderly with the Blessed Sacrament which is the Precious Food of true life. And with all the sweet Sacraments He supports us most mercifully and graciously. (Ch. 60)

This fair lovely word "mother" is so sweet and so kind in itself, that it can not truly be said of anyone nor to anyone except of Him and to Him who is true Mother of life and of all. To the quality of motherhood belongs natural love, wisdom, and knowledge — and this is God….The kind, loving mother who is aware and knows the need of her child protects the child most tenderly as the nature and state of  motherhood wills. And as the child increases in age, she changes her method but not her love. And when the child is increased further in age, she permits it to be chastised to break down vices and to cause the child to accept virtues and graces. This nurturing of the child, with all that is fair and good, our Lord does in the mothers by whom it is done. Thus He is our Mother in our human nature by the action of grace in the lower part, out of love for the higher part." (Ch. 60)


  1. hello, i am elizabeth. i've email you my address, have you received it? am so excited about your sharing about Wisdom.

    i believe, we could share more re this because it came as a gift to our community. the Wisdom of God is a gift as written in the bible.

    1. Elizabeth, could you send your email address again? I emailed you before but did not hear back from you. Thanks!