Julian on Love, Struggle and Meaning

Note: Today is Julian’s Feast Day!  Happy Feast Day.  It seems fitting that we are remembering her teachings about the Via Positiva and Via Negativa today.

A spirituality built on “goodness” is a spirituality resulting in joy and love, for goodness elicits both joy and love.  The three feed on one another. 

The English folk song “Julian of Norwich,” sung by Ann Mayo Muir

“We were made for Love,” declares Julian of Norwich.  And “God wants to be thought of as our Lover.” What is love to Julian?  “Love [is] a delight in God completely steeped in wonder.” 

She teaches that the soul is required to “perform two duties: The one is we must reverently wonder and be surprised.”  This is surely the work of the Via Positiva.

“The other duty is we must gently let go and let be, always taking pleasure in God.”  Here she is naming the Via Negativa which in any of its manifestations, whether experienced as silence or as grief and suffering—it requires our letting go and letting be. 

Anguish. Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

She recognizes the Via Negativa as inevitable because “seeing God in this life cannot be a continuous experience.”  Instead of acknowledging that, our imaginations often work overtime to teach us blame and self recrimination.  

We often fail to see God and then we…feel there is something wrong with us—that we are perverse and responsible for the entrance of sin into the world and all subsequent sins.

This analysis parallels that of the brilliant twentieth century psychologist Otto Rank who recognized the primary function of neurosis as distorting our imaginations to create reasons for putting ourselves down and hating ourselves.  He called this misuse of imagination, the artiste manque in us all.  We are often tempted to play old tapes of self-abuse—just as Julian is saying.

Julian continues:

Tempested. Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

These feelings affects us mentally and physically.  But the Holy Spirit, the endless life living with us makes us peaceful and at ease, harmonious and flexible.” 

She urges us to

…do all in our power to keep ourselves strong for happiness is everlasting and pain is passing and will end.

For Julian love permeates the universe through all time and space.  While the Via Negativa can haunt us and persist, trust can see us through it. 

Sometimes we experience such darkness that we lose all our energy.  But our intent in life is to continue to live in God and faithfully trust that we will be shown compassion and grace. This is God’s own working in us.

AMAZON ORBS FALLS” by Suni Nelson of Nature Speaks Art, reflecting the artist’s experience of coming out of a dark jungle, back to the Light. Published with permission of the artist.

She adds:

God did not say: ‘You will not be tempested.  You will not labor hard.  You will not be troubled.’  But God did say: ‘You will not be overcome.’ 

When Julian saw a vision of the book she was writing she learned the following:

It was said to me: ‘Do you wish to see clearly your Lord’s meaning in these Showings?  See it well.  Love was your Lord’s meaning.  

Who showed it to you?  Love.

What did you see?  Love.

Why was it shown?  For Love. 

Translations from Brendan Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich, pp. 113, 119, 78, 42, 86, 115, 134.

See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 42-56.

Banner image: “First Daffies.” Photo by Phila Hoopes.

Queries for Contemplation

Take any one sentence from Julian in this meditation and spend time with it.  In keeping with lectio divina practice, let it wash over you and through you and touch you and speak to you.

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4 thoughts on “Julian on Love, Struggle and Meaning”

  1. Avatar
    Mary O’Dell

    Please know that your daily meditations have been such a blessing to me. I am new to the study of mystics and creation spirituality (raised Catholic, joined United Methodist Church at age 20)-I love the daily meditation essays and videos. I have ordered one of Matthew Fox’s books and can’t wait to get it. Thank you for what you guys do and how you do it.

  2. Avatar
    Anne Marie Raftery

    A meaningful and Joyful meditation – I feel the awe and wonder of the Springtime!
    Thank you?

  3. Avatar
    Margaret Rose Hess

    Today’s meditation and music is so beautiful and healing, especially the lesson that the soul has to perform two duties”, duties that are at once very deep and yet so accessible. Just two, just only two and they are near at hand, within my reach and unfolding, expanding, never complete. There is so much comfort in meditating on just the two. Thank you so much for this guidance.

  4. Avatar

    You really hit a “10” today! Daffodils are my favorite flower, and I really needed to hear that music (one of my favorites) today, after a day of questioning yesterday that left me sad and discouraged. Our daffodils are nearly gone by, and after the snow predicted tomorrow, I expect we’ll not see them in glory till next Spring. You have to love New England! I am really enjoying all the Mystics, but Julian and Hildegard are my favorites. Thank you.

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