United Church of Christ

Into the Mystic: Julian of Norwich

Into the Mystic: Julian of NorwichAre you able to live gladly, even during the age of a pandemic?

I have entitled this podcast “Into the Mystic.”

I am what I call a closet mystic – a soul searching for the inexplicable in an age where if it can’t be explained it can’t be understood; and if not understood it has no value.

I am more interested in what I cannot fathom. I am not a truth or science denier. In fact, I am awed by the beauty of science and reason. The art of logic and the gift of wisdom are essential tools in my brand of spirituality. But never to the neglect of the intuitive wisdom that defies logic and reason, and opens up pathways into the sacred that mere awareness of the facts can never replicate.

Among my favorite mystics is Julian of Norwich. An anchoress for most of her life at St. Julian’s church in Norwich, she authored what is believed to be the first book in English that survived: The Revelations of Divine Love.

I have thought of her in these past weeks. Being sheltered in place in a nice exurb here in Cleveland with my wife and son is not exactly living the life of monasticism. And yet, this life without travel and being sequestered from outside human contact affords me, and I am sure many others, an opportunity to slow down and commune quietly with our sacred.

Her writings, now almost seven centuries old, continue to speak into the deep recesses of our spiritual longings. Some of her wisdom seems perfectly cast for what the world is experiencing now: a pandemic that shakes our confidence in a future we thought was made secure by our affluence and access. Now deprived of some of that, and fearful both of our economic viability and actual health, we seek the wisdom of those who always knew that our security lay elsewhere.

Listen to some of her most compelling words:

“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of God’s love.”

“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

These are not words spoken from the lap of luxury. There are not the assurances of one in denial of the drudgery and trauma that life in the earthly realm can inflict. These are simply the clear and convicted assurances of one who has felt, known, and experienced the power of love that emanates from the giver of Life.

It is the foundational belief in that redeeming and transformative love that grounds her in the certain knowledge that all shall be well.

Sheltering in place, viral pandemics, and collapsing economies can engender the kind of fear that diminishes faith. Let it not be so.

For I am persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God. That grounded Julian. She saw trial, tribulation, and trauma. Through it all she felt God’s love and believed in its power to redeem.

That is our most important matter. Explain it? I don’t think I can. But feel it in my bones? That I can’t deny.

Gentle listener, all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well on this, our journey Into the Mystic.


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