Abiding in Peace and Love

Yesterday we saw how Julian understood sin to be a result of a lack of awareness of God and, consequently, of love. Like the proverbial fish unaware it’s swimming in water, all too often we go through life unaware of the reality before us. Today I’d like to expand on this idea, drawing from Julian’s further reflections on the subject, and the teaching of Jesus.

The whole section in Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love from roughly chapters 30-40 deals primarily with the issue we’ve looked at so much over the past week or so: the problem of sin, its origins, and how, when faced with the greatness of God’s love, it isn’t ultimately a problem at all. As she nears the end of this section, she wonders at how it can be that we aren’t fully aware of God’s love that pervades everything around us, and in us. She writes:

Peace and love are always in us, living and working, but we are not always in peace and in love; but he wants us so to take heed that he is the foundation of our whole life in love, and furthermore that he is our everlasting protector, and mightily defends us against all our enemies, who are very cruel and very fierce towards us, and so our need is great, the more so because by our falling we give them occasion. (Ch 39)*

“Peace and love are always in us … but we are not always in peace and in love.” To put it another way, peace (which, remember, is not about the absence of conflict but the presence of whole relationships known as shalom) and love are all around us, they are the medium of God’s creation, but we are all too rarely aware of it. They are the foundation of everything and yet we live as though they’re ‘nice-to-haves’, extras, gravy on top of the roast rather than the roast itself. But they are what sustains us. (It’s reminiscent of what she wrote in chapter 5 about how God creates, loves, and sustains all things.) She’ll later add:

Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our soul is God, who is uncreated. It is a great understanding to see and know inwardly that our soul, which is created, dwells in God in substance, of which substance, through God, we are what we are. (Ch 54)

All of this is reminiscent of Jesus’ own teaching, as related in the Gospel according to St. John, in which he tells his disciples:

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15.4-11)

Note how Julian’s teaching echoes these words. Just as she wrote, “Peace and love are always in us … but we are not always in peace and in love,” so Jesus exhorts us to abide in him and his love just as he and his love are always in us. When we are “not … in peace and in love,” when we don’t “abide in” him, we cut love off at the source and are therefore unable to love truly and fully.

This talk of being “in peace and in love” and “abiding in “ Christ sounds all very mystical — and it is, it is that heart of all Christian mysticism. But it’s also very practical. It’s not just about the cozy warm feelings of Peak Religious Experiences. It’s not about what happens on the mountaintop, but about how that changes how we respond to life down below. It’s about, yet again, bearing good fruit in keeping with the good news of God’s expansive, openhearted love. Even genuine spiritual masters can be rather disappointing people. This doesn’t mean their encounters with God weren’t real, but that God’s work in them was incomplete — just as God’s work in us remains incomplete. They too are called, just like us, to remember that the point of everything in the life of faith is transformed, loving, relationships — yes, with God, but not just with God. God’s economy is about the flow of resources, of love and grace and life itself; we don’t fully participate in God’s kingdom life unless those gifts we receive from God flow out again from us where they can transform the world.

And so, today, we are being called to awareness: to remember and notice God’s loving and peaceful presence all around us, and to participate in it.


* Unless noted, all quotes are taken from the long text of Julian or Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love as translated and set in Julian of Norwich, Showings, translated by Edmund Colledge and James Walsh. The Classics of Western Spirituality. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978.

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