Revelations of Divine Love – The First Revelation

I am excited to begin our reading of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love (Short Text) tonight. For this evening, please read pages 3-11 where we find Julian’s introduction and her First Revelation or Showing. As you read, allow her to draw you into her world and into a deeper understanding and relationship with Jesus. Julian has a deep theology, but an even deeper intimacy with the Divine.

The Nature of Her Revelations: (pp.8-9)

Throughout the Scriptures, different people have had different visions of God. We are often left to wonder about the exact nature of these visions. Julian tells us exactly what her showings consisted of: “bodily sight, words formed in my understanding, and by spiritual vision.” In other words, she expressly claims to have actually physically seen those images of the Passion that she will vividly describe and to have actually heard in her mind’s ear God’s message to her. She also knew God’s message by “spiritual vision” but she will often be at a loss at how to fully convey this part of the revelation, and therefore, can only trust that God will give us, her audience, that same vision as we read through her work.

As we read Julian’s description of her visions, please keep in mind her understanding of what she saw. She did not believe herself to be hallucinating or to be describing to us in words the indescribable. Rather, she is telling us that her writings are of what she actually saw, what she actually heard, and the insight she was specifically given. As she repeatedly writes, she was very surprised to have received any revelation and by the nature of the revelations themselves.

The First Revelation (or Vision) (p.6)

Julian is on her deathbed in pain and with a failing body. As she stares at the crucifix being held by the priest, she finds herself praying to suffer with Jesus (i.e. com-passion) on the Cross. At that moment, she physically observed Jesus wearing the crown of thorns. Notice the vividness of her description – the red blood trickling down from under the crown of thorns, hot and fresh, plentiful and lifelike. Also, notice the directness of the soteriology that flows from this vision: He suffered out of love for us. He suffered to comfort us in our temptations. And this suffering is sufficient for all of creation to have the strength to over the devil, hell, and all spiritual enemies.   Nothing is required of us. The last phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is answered.

The Hazelnut: (p.7)

Julian’s physical vision of the Crown of Thorns gives way to a spiritual vision of Jesus enwrapping us, enfolding us, embracing us, and wholly enclosing us within his love so that we can never be truly parted.

At this moment, Julian (spiritually) sees a sphere the size of a hazelnut in her hand. Upon her inquiry, God tells her “It is all that is made.” In other words, the totality of creation rests in this humble, innocuous, fragile item. Julian wonders why this small fragile item won’t immediately disintegrate. Julian is then given the understanding that “It lasts, and always will, because God loves it; and in the same way everything has its being through the love of God.” She sees that all of creation is created and sustained by God’s love.

In this moment, Julian has a transcendent understanding of the Trinity. When we think of the Trinity, we too often get locked into the terminology of the Nicene Creed, making those words a substitute for God. Julian’s revelations don’t allow this. Rather, Julian writes that she saw this little thing to have three divine properties: God made it, God loves it, and God cares for it. In this one small thing, the Trinity is disclosed to us as the Maker, the Lover, and the Guardian.

Within this understanding, Julian realizes that her chief end is to be fully joined to God so that there is no separation between the two. She longs to be of one substance with him (just as the Creed confesses the Son to be of one substance with the Father). She understands that God has made her and that God has restored her. She understands that the soul is restless until it rests in God, and that rest is only achieved once the soul has made itself as nothing for love.

Character of God: (pp.4-11)

Through the readings (pp.3-11, §§1-7), Julian continuously brings out the character of who God is. God suffered for us. p.6. God is the comforter in the face of temptation. p.6. God is our strength against all spiritual enemies. p.6. God fully surrounds us out of tender love. p.7. God made everything for love and through that love sustains all. p.8. God is everything that is good, and the goodness that is in everything is God (not merely from God.) p.8. God is joy and delight. p.9. Through God’s love, we are all made one. p.9. He is our delight and our assurance. p.11. Therefore, throughout our readings tonight and her Revelations, Julian shouts: “Benedicite Dominus – God be Praised.”

Biblical Allusions:

Within this section, Julian’s biblical allusions are too many to reference. However, if you have time today, please read 1 John 4:7-21 (God is Love), John 17 (Jesus’s Prayer for his Disciples), Colossians 1:15-20 (Supremacy of Christ), and Acts 17:24-28 (Paul’s Sermon on Mars Hill). There are many other Scriptural references in the readings, but these are the ones that stood out for me. If others stood out for you, please share tonight.

Lessons for Us:

Just a quick reading of Julian’s First Revelation necessarily compels us into a deeper understanding of who God is and God’s love for us. I believe that we could go over this First Revelation for the next six weeks, and not fully plumb its depths. (I’ve skipped over Julian’s identification with Mary or the six marks of the First Revelation.) Therefore, as you read through this First Revelation, if something catches your attention, please stop reading and simply go wherever that moment will carry you. Allow Julian’s insights to be your guide in revealing God’s love, God’s goodness, and God’s presence.

Also, try to imitate Julian (without having to go to your deathbed). Julian prays for openness and to be receptive to the actions of God in her life. We should also do the same. Further, each of us, at some time, has had that overpowering presence of divine love in our life either in extraordinary times like the birth of a child or in the mundane such as during a walk on the beach. Julian made the effort to remember and to continuously reflect on these times in her life. God’s revelations to us are precious and full of grace, and Julian shares with us the necessity of remembrance.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is enchilada casserole. Discussion at 6:45. All you need to have read are pages 3-11. Please be prepared to share those excerpts from the readings that caused you to stop and go deeper. Compline at 8. Hope to see everyone here! Please bring a friend.

For our soul is so preciously loved by him that is highest, that it overpasses the knowing of all creatures: that is to say, there is no creature that is made that may know how much and how sweetly and how tenderly our maker loves us. . . . And therefore we may ask of our divine lover, with reverence, all that we will.

Julian of Norwich

2 thoughts on “Revelations of Divine Love – The First Revelation”

  1. Pingback: Revelations of Divine Love – Revelation Nine – Ancient Anglican

  2. Pingback: Revelations of Divine Love – Revelations Ten through Twelve – Ancient Anglican

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *