Longing and waiting are integral to Advent, a time of awaiting a cosmic-shattering birth—our own and the Christ born in us. When Julian talks about love—including the “endless love” that embraces us and all creation—she frequently speaks of longing.
As she sees it, such longing is not just of us for the divine, but the divine for us. “Love makes God long for us,” she declares. “Just as there is a property in God of compassion and understanding, so also is there a property of thirst and longing.” Christ, too, exhibits a longing, for “the spiritual thirst of Christ is a love-longing that lasts and always will until we are all together whole in him.”
This mutual longing in God and in Christ goes both ways. “In this manner of longing and waiting, God wants us to do the same.” Learning to wait while longing can be painful. “This is our natural penance—and the highest, as I see it.” Longing is a dimension to love that manifests itself as a part of the via negativa. But what do we do in this in-between time when longing is not fulfilled? “God wants us to set our hearts away from the pain we feel into the joy we trust will be ours.” Even here, trust shows the way. Joy can be just around the corner. Hope matters.
Julian recognizes love as our liberation, or salvation: “We will never be blissfully liberated until we are at peace and love, for that is our liberation.” Peace and love liberate us, make us whole, save us. And our work is to pass that love along so others are liberated. We are invited to learn how to “live in longing” for “God’s will that we live in longing and rejoicing is so powerful, it made me realize that anything opposed to this cannot possibly come from him, but rather from the spirit of evil.”
An awakening to our deeper selves is part of Advent and Christmas, and to know oneself is to know God, and to know God is to know oneself. Our longing “compels us to find our own soul where it is, which is in God.” We learn about self and God together, for “whether we are moved to seek God or our own souls, the Holy Spirit leads us through grace to know them both as one. Both impulses are good and true.”
Learning to wait while longing can be painful, but “this is our natural penance—and the highest, as I see it.” Longing is a dimension to love that manifests itself as a part of the via negativa. “Holy longing derives from the love of God. What to do in this in-between time when longing is not fulfilled? “God wants us to set our hearts away from the pain we feel into the joy we trust will be ours.” Even here, trust shows the way. Joy can be just around the corner. Hope matters.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 90, 121, 152f., 158.
Banner image: The Nativity, Woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Public Domain, Wikimedia
Does longing play a role in your undergoing of Advent? And of Christmas? And self-knowledge? And service? What follows from that?
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond
Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.” –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.