November focused on Julian of Norwich. To see the full text of the readings chosen click here.
In the time that Julian lived, there was great fear that at the moment of death one would be tempted by devils and taken down to Hell. On her death bed facing this fear, she found great strength and comfort in the visions she had of the Passion, and the overwhelming Love of Christ. Due to these visions, she also believed that there was hope for salvation for those who never had the opportunity to know Christ, because God created everyone and everything, and God would never abandon her creation. The ever-present profound love of God, gave Julian the peace and comfort she sought in her most desperate hour.
Julian spent many years afterward trying to understand these visions she had experienced so powerfully and profoundly. She wrote this about the conclusion she came to: “And from the time that [the vision] was shown, I desired often to know what our Lord’s meaning was. And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: ‘Would you know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. . . Thus I was taught that love was our Lord’s meaning. And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us. And in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had a beginning. But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end …”
These visions, so intimately connected to the passion of Christ, were revelations of God’s love story for all of creation, a love story that continues to be played out every second of every day, in new life, love, passion, compassion (or suffering with), death, redemption, and new life. Jesus our Mother is bringing new life into being every moment, sustaining that life, accompanying that life through suffering into joy, and is no less present at the end of that life. We are called, as followers of Christ and children of God, to engage in our relationship with God, who as Julian reminds us is Father, Mother, Love, Might and Goodness, Wisdom, Light and Grace, Unity, and the only one who can fulfill our true desires.
I chose the story of Martha and Mary because I think it highlights two options we always have in relationships: doing and being, showing our love for others, and letting ourselves be loved. Mary chose to sit at the feet of Love and let herself engage with the one in whom she finds herself. Martha was busy about the task of loving, of showing her love through the good deeds and service she was providing. Do we recognize the presence of Love when it is before us, or are we so busy going about the work that needs to be done, or that we think needs to be done, that we forget to sit with the one who is our Mother, who brought all of creation into being, and who just wants to love us? In trying to do acts of love, do we forget to Be love and accept love?
I recently attend the CTA Conference in Milwaukee, and one of the speakers I listened to was Paul Coutinho. One thing he said that really stood out to me is that the difficult part of a relationship is not to love. The difficult part is let myself be loved. And I can only give out, what I have taken in. If I do not take the time really engage with the source of all life, the Lover who just wants to shower me with her Love, then how can I pour out that Love and Life back into the world if I am not actively engaging in it? He mentioned how he attended a wedding that another priest was presiding at. The presiding priest said that the couple should ask themselves at the end of each day, what more could I have done to show my partner love? Fr. Coutinho said no, that is not the question to ask. The question to ask is how did my partner show their love for me today, especially in ways that I might not have realized? I think this is the question to ask ourselves about God at the end of each day. How did God try and show me Her love today? Was I aware of it? Why or why not? Because the truth is that God is constantly trying to shower you in love, and remind you who you are and who’s you are.
Julian writes about our incredible connectedness, our oneness with God, in that God dwells in our soul and our soul dwells in God so that there is no longer a me and an other but just a oneness that is all interconnected. This incredible oneness that Julian experienced was sourced by the reality and energy of Love, it is that same reality and energy that is the source and substance of all of creation, in which we participate.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and teacher, has a wonderful word that he created to describe this reality in all of creation called “Inter-Being.” Inter-Being is the recognition that we all inter-are, that I cannot exist without you and vice versa. Who I am, is made up of non-me substances. I contain the air, the sun, the food I eat, the people I know, the music I listen to; all that I take in is part of me. The is the same for all of creation. We all are made up of one another, from the smallest seed, to the tallest tree, from the bird in South America to the farmer in India.
Pick up one of the nuts or seeds in the bowl on the table. Hold it in your hand. In one of Julian’s visions, she saw the whole world contained in a single hazel-nut. Can you see the whole world contained in the nut in your hand? It is there. It contains the sunshine, the clouds, the rain. It contains the soil, the tree it came from, the birds who nested on its branches, the squirrels who found nourishment in its substance. It contains the laughter of children who ran by, and our very breath which nourished the leaves. It contains the whole cosmos, created by Love for Love. So too, do each of us contain the cosmos, and are so loved and kept by our Creator.
Questions for shared reflection:
Are there times when you forget about your connectedness? What times have you been aware of your connectedness? Describe that experience. Do you allow yourself to really take in the love of God and others? If not, what gets in the way?