Sermon: Dame Julian of Norwich

worldDame Julian of Norwich was born in the mid-15th century in England and was an anchoress, that is, one who withdraws from the world for the sake of spending a life in prayer. At age 30 she became ill and was so near death that she was given last rites; however, after seven days she suddenly appeared to heal, and was then given fifteen visions regarding Our Lord’s Passion. She would later write, “From that time I desired oftentimes to learn what was our Lord’s meaning and fifteen years after I was answered in ghostly understanding: ‘Wouldst thou learn the Lord’s meaning in this thing? Learn it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it thee? Love. What showed he thee? Love. Wherefore showed it he? For Love. Hold thee therein and thou shalt learn and know more in the same.’ Thus it was I learned that Love was our Lord’s meaning.”

Julian recorded these visions – there is a short version and a longer one – and you can find them in the book Revelations of Divine Love. It is a bit too much reading for any sermon, but I would still like to share a short passage from one of the them. It is one of my favorite:

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”

A person could spend hours trying to understand all that is said in that one statement, Julian spent years attempting to understand it herself, but in it we can begin to see the vastness of God. We understand that all of creation rests in the palm of God’s hand. From the smallest particle of the atom to the seemingly infinity of the heavens. But not only does he hold it, but through His Son, Jesus, God is a part of that creation. If it stopped there, then we could at least know that there is someone out there who is in control, but it doesn’t stop there. The first of the three properties were that “God made it.” The third was that “God keeps it.” But the second is that “God loves it.” All that there is was made by God and is held by God and even though he is so vast and we so small, He loves.

The Psalmist asks:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

What is man that You are mindful of him,

And the son of man that You visit him?

Why does God care about this small orb He holds in the palm of His hand? Because He loves you. Julian’s most famous passage sums it up for many, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” All shall be well, because God is love and God loves.

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