Jess has limited computer time, not least because of her scrupulosity in using her time at work for work, and so we will have to bear with her not always being prompt in answering our comments on her new posts. Thursday was an example when a comment went unanswered for that reason. Perhaps, she had already answered it.
Before her illness, she was privileged to attend a lecture by Lord Williams of Oystermouth, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who was speaking on Dame Julian of Norwich. Mother Julian wrote the first book by a woman published in English, “Revelations of Divine Love”, and yes it is available, quite inexpensively, and yes, I have it, and it was one of my mainstays during Jess’ illness and the earlier part of her recovery. It is simply wonderful.
In the article for today, Jess compares what Lord Williams lectured on regarding Mother Julian and how it harks back to what her beloved St. Isaac the Syrian had to say about God’s love.
Why do we imagine God, the infinite and omniscient is angry with us? Is it because we are actually angry with ourselves and project that onto God? Do we really imagine God, who has created us to love Him, actually hates us? If He does/did, then the consequences for us would be much worse than we can imagine. Sin is the hard work we put in to avoid facing up to the fact that God loves us and His love is available to us if we conform ourselves to the pattern of His will for us. These are the main themes I took away from a lecture by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, which I was fortunate enough to attend today.
He was speaking on Julian of Norwich, and one of his complaints was that some people have turned her into a ‘cuddly’ symbol of a God of easy Grace. That God loves us is not, he said, an easy option, because it requires something of us we find it hard to give; that, he explained, was why we are angry we with God. The key text from lady Julian’s revelation is this:
Then said our good Lord Jesus Christ to me: “Are you well satisfied with my suffering for you?” And I said: “Yes, good Lord, in your mercy. Yes, good Lord, may you be blessed for ever!” Then said Jesus, our kind Lord: “If you are satisfied, I am satisfied. It is a joy, a bliss and an endless delight to me that I suffered my passion for you. And if it were needful or possible that I should suffer more, I would suffer more.”
Christ rejoices in our happiness. He wants to know that we are made happy by His sufferings. He is human and he is divine. He suffers because we make him suffer, and yet as God he does it because of his love for us. He is not, Rowan Williams suggested, trying to settle some great legal debt which we owe him, he is trying to overcome our pride and the contrariness which makes us divide ourselves from Him. We cannot, he said, begin to imagine, or exhaust, God’s love.
I wish I there had been a recording available, and hope there will be, as Lord Williams’ thought is not easily captured, but so much of what he was saying chimed with my beloved St Isaac the Syrian. This God lady Julian encountered is the one St Isaac described thus:
“In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the one who has preformed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised.”
The idea that love is in some sense ‘easy’, or the bringer of easy Grace, is part of how our sinful and fallen nature reacts to the immensity of His love; it must, says sin, be complicated and hard, and we must suffer much; that drives us away and closes our hearts; we might be saved, but few others. Our pride divides us from each other and from God’s love. As Julian of Norwich concludes:
I was taught that Love is our Lord’s meaning. And I saw very certainly in this and in everything that before God made us he loved us . . . which love was never abated and never will be. And in this love he has done all his works, 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 beginning, but the love in which he created us was in him from without beginning. In this love we have our beginning, and all this shall we see in God without end
Those, like lady Julian and St Isaac who have experience of the Divine showing know this, know its awful simplicity; we might, Rowan Williams suggested, humble ourselves and cease from mental strife for a moment to glimpse this miracle.