Over the past year many of us have had lots of time on our own due to the strictures of the Pandemic and various lockdowns. Some people have found this a positive experience. For others, it has been incredibly challenging and there has been a huge increase in loneliness.
Being forced to be alone is very different from choosing solitude. Throughout history, there have been those people who feel called by God to a life of solitude. On May 8th, we celebrate the life of Mother Julian of Norwich. She was born around 1342 and lived well into her 70s. She was a mystic who spent much of her life as a recluse, devoting herself to prayer and contemplation. Being a recluse, however, didn't mean that she kept herself apart from people. Julian was a wise woman, and many people came to seek her advice at her window which looked out from the church where she lived.
We would probably have known nothing of Julian, except that when she was 30 years old, she had a profound experience of God. During a serious illness, Julian experienced a series of 16 visions or 'showings' which she later wrote down. She was not an educated person and wrote with a simplicity which still resonates today. Her visions were tested by the church and found to have come from God.
Julian's 'Revelations of Divine love' are still available to read. They demonstrate a God of love and compassion. As she says at the conclusion of her writings: 'So it was that I learned that love was our Lord's meaning'. Her main concern is with God and our relationship to him. God is Trinity, the three-in-one she calls 'life, love and light.'
God is also sometimes Mother, a reflection of that tender maternal love which comes through strongly in her writings. She meditates on the crucifixion and on the creation which "exists, both now and for ever, because God loves it. In short, everything owes its existence to the love of God."
Despite the fact that she received her Revelations of Divine Love at a time when she was gravely ill, Julian's writings are always optimistic. And her ultimate trust is placed in God, who loves her and all that he has made. In the end, she concludes, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." These words were given to Mother Julian at a time of great personal need. As we look to the future where so much is uncertain. I believe they can be words of hope for us too.
With every blessing,
Joy (Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough)
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.