We’re just over the half-way point in this series on Julian of Norwich, and I hope that if nothing else is clear by now, the one thing that is clear, is that Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love is very well-named. Love permeates her whole experience of God, her theology, and spirituality. Today I’d like to review the ways love pervades everything that we’ve looked at before, and introduce a further aspect, which is a consequence of everything else.
First, we’ve seen that love is God’s identity and nature: Love is Who God is (Ch 26) and love precludes God from doing anything out of anger (Ch 46). Second, we’ve seen that love is at the heart of how God interacts with creation: Everything was created through love and sustained by love (Ch 5), God preserves and protects all things through love (Ch 8), God willingly and joyfully suffered on the cross because of love (Ch 22), God’s love and peace are always within us (Ch 39), God’s love is revealed to us in times of joy and sorrow (Ch 15) and in our sin and our repentance (Ch 61), and we are saved and united wholly to God through God’s love (Ch 31). And third, we’ve seen that love is to be the driver of our own orientation towards life: we wait for God in love (Ch 10), we are called to hate sin “because of love” (Ch 40), sin is a lack of love (Ch 37), and the only time we should allow ourselves to think about other people’s sins is when we can do so in love (Ch 79).*
Love is the centre, the core, the heart of everything. And if this the case, then it is to be the centre, core, and heart of everything that we do too. Julian writes of this in connection to truth and wisdom:
Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and of these two comes the third, and that is the marvellous delight in God, which is love. Where truth and wisdom are, truly there is love, truly coming from them both, and all are of God’s making. For God is endless supreme truth, endless supreme wisdom, endless supreme love uncreated; and a man’s soul is a creature in God which has the same properties created. And always it does what it was created for; it sees God and it contemplates God and it loves God. Therefore God rejoices in the creature and the creature in God, endlessly marvelling, in which marvelling he sees his God, his Lord, his maker, so exalted, so great and so good in comparison with him who is made that the creature scarcely seems anything to itself. But the brightness and clearness of truth and wisdom make him see and know that he is made for love, in which love God endlessly protects him. (Ch 44)
Here, she links love with truth and wisdom, which she defines as seeing and contemplating God respectively. If we see truly, we see that God is at the heart of things, and if we bask in and truly receive this wisdom, we will know that this means that love is at the heart of things. And so, “where truth and wisdom are, truly there is love.” This is possible, once again, because we are make in God’s likeness and like knows like. And in this divine union, we are made to more closely resemble that “peace and love” which are always within us, and thereby find that we are “made for love.”
This is nothing other than the teaching of the apostle John. Christians love to quote 1 John 4.8, that “God is love.” On its own this seems like it’s a warm and cozy teaching. And indeed, it should come as a great comfort to all of us. But, this is only half of that verse. The first half shows that this is no easy teaching, but is in fact a difficult vocation. The verse in its entirety reads: “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Once again, this is the divine economy of flow at work: We cannot say we have truly appropriated God’s love for us if we are not loving towards others. Or, to frame it slightly differently, we have only appropriated God’s love for us to the extent that we are loving towards others, in thought, in word, and in deed. We were created by love, for love. Everything God is and does in and for us is for the sake of love.
Love is at the heart of things. Love is at the centre of who we are. The calling, the challenge, is to live that out.
* 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.