The fourteenth-century anchorite known as Julian of Norwich offered fervent prayers for a deeper understanding of Christ's passion. The holy woman's petitions were answered with a series of divine revelations that she called "shewings." Her mystic visions revealed Christ's sufferings with extreme intensity, but they also confirmed God's constant love for humanity and infinite capacity for forgiveness.
Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love have had a lasting influence on Christian thought. Written in immediate, compelling terms, her experiences remain among the most original and accessible expressions of medieval mysticism. This edition contains both the short text, which is mainly an account of the shewings and Julian's initial analysis of their meaning, and the long text, completed some 20 years later and offering daringly speculative interpretations.
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About the Author
The 14th-century author of this book was a recluse and spiritual counselor who dwelt at the Church of St. Julian in Norwich, England. She briefly chronicled her visions of Christ's suffering and love immediately after their occurrence and expanded her writings some 20 to 30 years later. Considered a saint in the Anglican Church, she has not been canonized in the Roman Catholic Church, although she is revered as a holy woman.
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Of the number of the Revelations particularly
This is a Revelation of Love that Jesus Christ, our endless bliss, made in Sixteen Shewings, or Revelations particular.
Of the which the First is of his precious crowning with thorns; and therewith was comprehended and specified the Trinity with the Incarnation, and unity betwixt God and man's soul; with many fair shewings of endless wisdom and teachings of love: in which all the Shewings that follow be grounded and oned.
The Second is the discolouring of his fair face in token of his dearworthy Passion.
The Third is that our Lord God, Almighty Wisdom, All-Love, right as verily as he hath made everything that is, also verily he doeth and worketh all-thing that is done.
The Fourth is the scourging of his tender body, with plenteous shedding of his blood.
The Fifth is that the Fiend is overcome by the precious Passion of Christ.
The Sixth is the worshipful thanking of our Lord God in which he rewardeth his blessed servants in Heaven.
The Seventh is often feeling of weal and woe — feeling of weal is gracious touching and lightening, with true sickerness of endless joy, the feeling of woe is temptation by heaviness and irksomeness of our fleshly living — with ghostly understanding that we are kept also sickerly in Love, in woe as in weal, by the Goodness of God.
The Eighth is the last pains of Christ, and his cruel dying.
The Ninth is of the liking which is in the Blissful Trinity of the hard Passion of Christ and his rueful dying: in which joy and liking he will[eth that] we be solaced and mirthed with him, till when we come to the fulhead in Heaven.
The Tenth is, our Lord Jesus sheweth in love his blissful heart even cloven in two, rejoicing.
The Eleventh is an high ghostly Shewing of his dearworthy Mother.
The Twelfth is that our Lord is most worthy Being.
The Thirteenth is that our Lord God will[eth] we have great regard to all the deeds that he hath done: in the great nobleness of all things making, and of the excellency of man's making, which is above all his works; and of the precious amends that he hath made for man's sin, turning all our blame into endless worship. Where also our Lord saith: "Behold and see! For by the same Mighty Wisdom and Goodness I shall make well all that is not well; and thou shalt see it." And in this he will[eth] that we keep us in the Faith and truth of Holy Church, not willing to know his secrets now, but as it [be]longeth to us in this life.
The Fourteenth is that our Lord is the Ground of our Prayer. Herein were seen two properties: the one is rightful prayer, the other is secure trust; which he will[eth should] both be alike large; and thus our prayer pleaseth him and he of his Goodness fulfilleth it.
The Fifteenth [is] that we shall suddenly be taken from all our pain and from all our woe, and of his Goodness we shall come up above, where we shall have our Lord Jesus to our meed and be fulfilled of joy and bliss in Heaven.
The Sixteenth is that the Blissful Trinity, our Maker, in Christ Jesus our Saviour, endlessly dwelleth in our soul, worshipfully ruling, and giving us all things mightily, and wisely saving and keeping for love; and we shall not be overcome of our Enemy.CHAPTER 2
Of the time of these Revelations, and how she asked three petitions
These Revelations were shewed to a simple creature that could no letter the year of our Lord 1373, the eighth day of May. Which creature desired afore three gifts of God. The First was mind of his Passion; the Second was bodily sickness in youth, at thirty years of age; the Third was to have of God's gift three wounds.
As in the First, methought I had some feeling in the Passion of Christ, but yet I desired more by the grace of God. Methought I would have been that time with Mary Magdalene, and with other that were Christ's lovers, and therefore I desired a bodily sight wherein I might have more knowledge of the bodily pains of our Saviour and of the compassion of our Lady and of all his true lovers that [had] seen, that time, his pains. For I would be one of them and suffer with him. Other sight nor shewing of God desired I never none, till the soul were departed from the body. The cause of this petition was that after the shewing I should have the more true mind in the Passion of Christ.
The Second came to my mind with contrition; [I] freely desiring that sickness [to be] so hard as to death, that I might in that sickness receive all my rites of Holy Church, myself weening that I should die, and that all creatures might suppose the same that [had] seen me: for I would have no manner comfort of earthly life. In this sickness I desired to have all manner [of] pains bodily and ghostly that I should have if I should die, with all the dreads and tempests of the fiends, except the out-passing of the soul. And this I meant for [that] I would be purged, by the mercy of God, and after live more to the worship of God because of that sickness. And that for the more speed in my death: for I desired to be soon with my God.
These two desires, of the Passion and the sickness, I desired with a condition, saying thus: "Lord, thou wottest what I would — if it be thy will that I have it —; and if it be not thy will, good Lord, be not displeased: for I will naught but as thou wilt."
For the Third [gift], by the grace of God and teaching of Holy Church I conceived a mighty desire to receive three wounds in my life: that is to say, the wound of very contrition, the wound of kind compassion, and the wound of wilful longing toward God. And all this last petition I asked without any condition.
These two desires aforesaid passed from my mind, but the third dwelled with me continually.CHAPTER 3
Of the sickness obtained of God by petition
And when I was thirty years old and a half, God sent me a bodily sickness, in which I lay three days and three nights; and on the fourth night I took all my rites of Holy Church, and weened not to have lived till day. And after this I lingered on two days and two nights, and on the third night I weened oftentimes to have passed; and so weened they that were with me.
And being in youth as yet, I thought it great sorrow to die — but for nothing that was in earth that meliked to live for, nor for no pain that I was afeared of — for I trusted in God of his mercy. But it was to have lived that I might have loved God better and longer time, that I might have the more knowing and loving of God in bliss of Heaven. For methought all the time that I had lived here — so little and so short in regard of that endless bliss — I thought [it] nothing. Wherefore I thought: "Good Lord, may my living-no-longer be to thy worship!" And I understood by my reason and by my feeling of my pains that I should die; and I assented fully with all the will of my heart to be at God's will.
Thus I [en-]dured till day, and by then my body was dead from the middle downwards, as to my feeling. Then was I minded to be set upright, under-leaning with help, — for to have more freedom of my heart to be at God's will, and thinking on God while my life would last.
My Curate was sent for to be at my ending, and by when he came I had set my eyes, and might not speak. He set the Cross before my face and said: "I have brought thee the Image of thy Maker and Saviour; look thereupon and comfort thee therewith."
Methought I was well [as I was], for my eyes were set uprightward into Heaven, where I trusted to come by the mercy of God; but nevertheless I assented to set my eyes on the face of the Crucifix, if I might; and so I did. For methought I might longer dure to look evenforth than right up.
After this my sight began to fail, and it was all dark about me in the chamber, as if it had been night, save in the Image of the Cross whereon I beheld a common light; and I wist not how. All that was beside the Cross was ugly to me, as if it had been mickle occupied with the fiends.
After this the other part of my body began to die, so far forth that scarcely I had any feeling; — with shortness of breath. And then I weened soothly to have passed.
And in this [moment] suddenly all my pain was taken from me, and I was as whole (and specially in the other part of my body) as ever I was afore.
I marvelled at this sudden change; for methought it was a privy working of God, and not of nature. And yet by the feeling of this ease I trusted never the more to live; nor was the feeling of this ease any full ease to me: for methought I had liefer have been delivered from this world.
Then came suddenly to my mind that I should desire the second wound of our Lord's gracious gift: that my body might be fulfilled with mind and feeling of his blessed Passion. For I would that his pains were my pains, with compassion and afterward longing to God. But in this I desired never bodily sight nor shewing of God, but compassion [such] as a kind soul might have with our Lord Jesus, that for love would be a mortal man: and therefore I desired to suffer with him.CHAPTER 4
Here beginneth the First Revelation of the precious crowning of Christ
In this suddenly I saw the red blood trickling down from under the Garland hot and freshly and right plenteously, as it were in the time of his Passion when the Garland of thorns was pressed on his blessed head [that was] both God and Man, the same that suffered thus for me. I conceived truly and mightily that it was himself shewed it me, without any mean.
And in the same Shewing suddenly the Trinity fulfilled my heart most of joy. And so, I understood, it shall be in heaven without end to all that shall come there. For the Trinity is God: God is the Trinity; the Trinity is our Maker and Keeper, the Trinity is our everlasting lover, everlasting joy and bliss, by our Lord Jesus Christ. And this was shewed in the First [Shewing] and in all: for where Jesus appeareth, the blessed Trinity is understood, as to my sight.
And I said: "Benedicite, Domine!" This I said for reverence in my meaning, with a mighty voice; and full greatly was astonied for wonder and marvel that I had, that he, that is so reverend and dreadful, will be so homely with a sinful creature living in wretched flesh.
This I took for the time of my temptation, — for methought by the sufferance of God I should be tempted of fiends ere I died. With this sight of the blessed Passion, with the Godhead that I saw in mine understanding; I knew well that it was strength enough for me, yea, and for all creatures living, against all the fiends of hell and ghostly temptation.
In this he brought our blessed Lady to my understanding. I saw her ghostly, in bodily likeness: a simple maid and a meek, young of age and little waxen above a child, in the stature that she was when she conceived with child. Also God shewed in part the wisdom and the truth of her soul: wherein I understood the reverent beholding that she beheld her God and Maker [with], marvelling with great reverence that he would be born of her that was a simple creature of his making. And this wisdom and truth — knowing the greatness of her Maker and the littleness of herself that was made, — caused her to say full meekly to Gabriel: "Lo me, God's handmaid!" In this sight I understood soothly that she is more than all that God made beneath her in worthiness and grace; for above her is nothing that is made but the blessed [Manhood] of Christ, as to my sight.CHAPTER 5
How God is to us everything that is good, tenderly wrapping us
In this same time our Lord shewed me a ghostly sight of his homely loving.
I saw that he is to us everything that is good and comfortable for us. He is our clothing that for love wrappeth us, claspeth us, and all becloseth us for tender love, that he may never leave us; being to us all thing that is good, as to mine understanding.
Also in this he shewed [me] a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: "What may this be?" And it was generally answered thus: "It is all that is made." I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for little[ness]. And I was answered in my understanding: "It lasteth, and ever shall [last] for that God loveth it." And so all thing hath the Being by the love of God.
In this Little Thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it: the second is that God loveth it: the third, that God keepeth it. But what is to me soothly the Maker, the Keeper, and the Lover, — I cannot tell; for till I am substantially oned to him, I may never have full rest nor very bliss: that is to say, till I be so fastened to him, that there is right naught that is made betwixt my God and me.
It needeth us to have knowing of the littleness of creatures and to naughten all thing that is made, for to love and have God that is unmade. For this is the cause why we be not all in ease of heart and soul: that we seek here rest in those things that be so little, wherein is no rest, and know not our God that is Almighty, All-wise, All-good. For he is the Very Rest. God will[eth to] be known, and it liketh him that we rest in him; for all that is beneath him sufficeth not us. And this is the cause why that no soul is rested till it is naughted of all things that are made. When it is wilfully naughted, for love to have him that is all, then is it able to receive ghostly rest.
Also our Lord God shewed that it is full great pleasance to him that a silly soul come to him nakedly and plainly and homely. For this is the kind yearnings of the soul, by the touching of the Holy Ghost (as by the understanding that I have in this Shewing). "God, of thy Goodness, give me thyself: for thou art enough to me, and I may nothing ask that is less, that may be full worship to thee; and if I ask anything that is less, ever me wanteth, — but only in thee I have all."
And these words are full lovesome to the soul, and full near touch they the will of God and his Goodness. For his Goodness comprehendeth all his creatures and all his blessed works, and overpasseth without end. For he is the endlessness, and he hath made us only to himself, and restored us by his blessed Passion, and keepeth us in his blessed love; and all this is of his Goodness.CHAPTER 6
How we should pray, and of the great tender love that our Lord hath to man's soul
This Shewing was made to learn our soul wisely to cleave to the Goodness of God.
And in that time the custom of our praying was brought to mind: how we use for lack of understanding and knowing of Love, to make many means. Then saw I soothly that it is more worship to God, and more very delight, that we faithfully pray to himself of his Goodness and cleave thereto by his Grace, with true understanding, and steadfast by love, than if we made all the means that heart can think. For if we make all these means, it is too little, and not full worship to God: but in his Goodness is all the whole, and there faileth right naught.
For thus, as I shall say, came to my mind in the same time: We pray to God for his holy flesh and for his precious blood, his holy Passion, his dearworthy death and wounds: and all the blessed kindness, the endless life that we have of all this, is [of] his Goodness. And we pray him for his sweet Mother's love that him bare; and all the help we have of her is of his Goodness. And we pray by his holy Cross that he died on, and all the virtue and the help that we have of the Cross, it is of his Goodness. And on the same wise, all the help that we have of special saints and all the blessed Company of Heaven, the dearworthy love and endless friendship that we have of them, it is of his Goodness. For God of his Goodness hath ordained means to help us, wholly fair and many: of which the chief and principal mean is the blessed nature that he took of the Maid, with all the means that go afore and some after which belong to our redemption and to endless salvation. Wherefore it pleaseth him that we seek him and worship by means, understanding and knowing that he is the Goodness of all.
For the Goodness of God is the highest prayer, and it cometh down to the lowest part of our need. It quickeneth our soul and bringeth it on life, and maketh it for to waxen in grace and virtue. It is nearest in nature; and readiest in grace: for it is the same grace that the soul seeketh, and ever shall [seek] till we know verily that he hath us all in himself beclosed.
For he hath no despite of that he hath made, nor hath he any disdain to serve us at the simplest office that to our body belongeth in nature, for love of the soul that he hath made to his own likeness.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Revelations of Divine Love"
Copyright © 2019 Kaya Oakes.
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Table of Contents
Contents Foreword by Kaya Oakes Introduction by G. Roger Hudleston, OSB Chapters 1-86 Glossary Notes
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