Revelations of Divine Love – Background

A very Happy Easter Tuesday to everyone. We are not gathering this evening. When we return on April 9 and throughout Eastertide, we will be reading through Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love (Short Text). Julian wrote during a time of great upheaval throughout Europe, but she concludes her work with that timeless statement that whatever happens in this life, we must remember that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Two good online resources about Julian’s life and her work are Friends of Julian and The Order of Julian of Norwich. I am also reading through Veronica Rolf’s An  Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich and John Roden’s Love’s Trinity: A Companion to Julian of Norwich. (And please remember that the name of her town is pronounced nar-ich.)


Julian was born in November 1342 in Norwich, East Anglia, England. Norwich is the most eastern city in England, and at the time, was the second largest city in the country. It was the center of the English woolen industry. On her deathbed on May 8, 1373, Julian received sixteen revelations from Jesus. Julian recovered and wrote these down. This first writing became the “short text” that we will read through. Over the next twenty years, Julian thinks through these revelations, and in February 1393 she writes down these further meditations on her revelations. This second writing becomes the “long text.” Julian is mentioned in a will in 1416, but there are no further mentions of her thereafter. Julian is the first known English woman author. (For context, she is a contemporary of Chaucer who wrote The Canterbury Tales between 1387 and 1400.)

We know every little of Julian’s life. She does not provide a biography in her work, because, as she writes, she is not the topic of the work, but Christ who revealed himself to her. We are not certain of her actual name. In 1393 she became an Anchorite at St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, therefore, no one is certain as to whether she was named after the church or whether her association with the church obscures her real name. Most likely she was not a nun or other religious but simply a common parishioner. Her knowledge of written English indicates she was probably middle-class. She does not mention a family. However, because her visions are of God’s motherly love, most scholars think that she had been a wife and mother, but had lost her husband and child(ren) prior to her revelations.

Julian’s Time:

Julian lived in a time of war, plague, and social upheaval. She was born only five years after the start of England’s Hundred Years War with France in 1337. Six years after her birth, England experienced the first wave of the Black Death in 1348-49. Approximately 40% of Norwich died. Subsequent waves of the black death occurred in 1361-62 and 1369.

The Black Death tore at the foundations of society. The Great Peasant Revolt occurred in 1381 and was centered in East Anglia. The Bishop of Norwich, Henry le Despenser, militarily crushed the rebellion.

In the religious realm, this was the time of the Avignon Papacy (1309-1376) when Pope Clement V and his successors left Rome and moved to Avignon which later led to the Western Schism (1377 to 1417) where there were several popes at the same time. This is also the period of John Wycliffe (1330-1384), the early English Reformer, who began systematically attacking the Church, her clergy, her doctrines, and her temporal power beginning in 1379. Wycliffe gave rise to the Lollard Movement which the Church and Crown brutally suppressed.

Our Study:

It is within this time of war, plague, social rebellion, and religious division that Julian receives and transmits to us, her revelations of God’s tenderness and care and that “all will be well.” I have chosen for us to simply read through the short text over our six-week study. The short text is only 25 parts over 35 pages whereas the long text is 86 parts over 140 pages. The shorter readings will allow us to delve deeper into Julian’s revelations and her deep personal understanding of who Jesus is. More importantly, I want us to use Julian’s writings as a means for us to go deeper into ourselves and into articulating who we personally understand Jesus to be. I would encourage you to read through both texts at the same time, and I will attempt to incorporate any significant insights from the long text into our readings. I will be using the Oxford World’s Classics translation, but any translation will be sufficient. There are online versions as well.

On December 1, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI gave a short address on Julian of Norwich. I would encourage you to read his thoughts HERE.

Our format will remain the same: Dinner at 6, Discussion at 6:45, and Compline at 8. Please bring a friend.

Triune God, Father and Mother to us all, who showed your servant Julian revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all. Amen.

Collect for Julian of Norwich, Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

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