One thing that follows from bringing back the divine feminine is the primacy of love. Julian connects motherhood and compassion. “Compassion is a kind and gentle property that belongs to the Motherhood in tender grace.” What is this tender compassion about? “Compassion protects, increases our sensitivity, gives life and heals.” At the root of compassion lies love in action. “The ground of compassion is love and the working of compassion keeps us in love.” Compassion, then, is love at work. It is an action. “Compassion is a sweet gracious working in love, mingled with abundant kindness; for compassion works at taking care of us and makes all things become good.” Compassion is about putting kindness and caring into action. It is our work.
Often the test of compassion is not when things are going well, but when darkness descends and troubles occur. The dark night of the soul invites compassion and stretches our capacity for compassion—it becomes a school for compassion. Failure happens. As Julian puts it, “Compassion allows us to fail measurably and in as much as we fail, in so much we fall; and in so much as we fall, in so much we die; for we must die if we fail to see and feel God who is our life.” Julian addresses death and the many deaths we undergo in life, especially during a pandemic. Only after these dyings do we undergo that awakening we know as the “first resurrection.”
“Our failing is fearful, our falling is shameful and our dying is sorrowful: but in all this the sweet eye of kindness and love never leaves us, nor does the working of compassion cease.” So compassion sees us through falling and failing, fearing and dying. Compassion persists in the hardest of times. It is strong, it is our strength.
Hildegard also names love to lie at the heart of creation and the very reason for creation. And she attributes it to the divine feminine. Following is her commentary on a vision she had of a young woman.
I heard a voice speaking to me: ‘The young woman whom you see is Love. She has her tent in eternity… It was love which was the source of this creation in the beginning when God said: ‘Let it be!’ And it was. As though in the blinking of an eye, the whole creation was formed through love. The young woman is radiant in such a clear, lightning-like brilliance of countenance that you can’t fully look at her… She holds the sun and moon in her right hand and embraces them tenderly… The whole of creation calls this maiden ‘Lady.’ For it was from her that all of creation proceeded, since Love was the first. She made everything… Love was in eternity and brought forth, in the beginning of all holiness, all creatures without any admixture of evil. Adam and Eve, as well were produced by love from the pure nature of the Earth.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 49f. And from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, p. xiii.
Can you agree with Hildegard that “love made everything”? What follows from that? And with Julian that compassion lies at the heart of the divine motherhood?
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.
Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.