Julian of Norwich Celebrating Divine Wisdom and the Feminine

Julian of Norwich lived through the worst pandemic in European history, the bubonic plague of the 14th century.  Unlike many of her contemporaries (and ours), she did not curse the darkness or create scapegoats of Jews or “heretics” or “others.”  She instead grounded her view of the world and of Christ in the “goodness of creation” where encountered a God who is “the goodness in all things.” 

Julian of Norwich and her vision of the cosmos in the size of a hazelnut, beloved and kept by God. Iconographer unknown.

She also developed a profound theology of the divine feminine and the “motherhood of God” and even the “motherhood of Christ.”  She states that “the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother.”  Notice how she is linking together Wisdom, Divinity (understood in its richness and diversity as Trinity), Motherhood, the feminine.  Julian was very familiar with the wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Bible (scholars agree that Jesus came from the wisdom tradition also), a tradition that is both cosmic and practical, nature-based and committed to creativity as the work of the creating Spirit. 

Preexistent wisdom is celebrated in Israel on numerous occasions.  In the book of Job the question is asked, “Where does wisdom come from?” (Job 28:12 20) and in Baruch wisdom is celebrated as the divine attribute by which God governs the world (Bar. 3:9-4:4).  She is personified in Proverbs:

Wisdom. Manuscript illumination from Scivias (Know the Ways) by Hildegard of Bingen (Disibodenberg: 1151)

Wisdom calls aloud in the streets,

            she raises her voice in the public squares;

            she calls out at the street corners,

She delivers her message at the city gates.  (Prv. 1:20f)

Notice: She is not elitist.  She is not ensconced in the ivory tower at the academy but in the streets and public squares and at the street corners and the city gates.  She is eager to speak truth and justice to all, especially the oppressed.  Like a mother who cares.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 124, 83f. 

See also: Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 20-33, 45-58.

To read the transcript of Matthew’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Wisdom in the streets: a woman stands in St. Paul, MN, protesting the construction of crude-oil-bearing Line 3 at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Photo by Lorie Shaull on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you believe that the world at large is governed by Wisdom?  And that she is available to all but that humans have to struggle to find it and live it and that a patriarchal consciousness often banishes it?  What can we do about that? 

Recommended Reading

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

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.

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3 thoughts on “Julian of Norwich Celebrating Divine Wisdom and the Feminine”

  1. Avatar

    The Proverbs verses that you read are part of the section of chapter 8:22-31 that always remind me of John I: 1-5. I see Sophia as Christa. And she is a lot more fun in her creativity, to be honest. She enjoys co-creating with God and being delighted. I first became aware of this section of Proverbs over 40 years ago as part of a group studying how women’s spirituality developed differently from men’s. That is where I first learned of “Original Blessing”and the writings of Elaine Pagels, Bishop Spong, Marcus Borg and others. I wish that more people could learn about the divine feminine, and I thank Matthew for all his efforts to educate on that subject.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, I totally agree with you, “thank Matthew for all his efforts to educate on that subject!” I remember the time you are referring to–I remember when I first discovered Matthew, Bishop Spong, Marcus Borg, Elaine Pagels, and books like WHEN GOD WAS A WOMAN, WISDOM’S FEAST and THE CHALICE AND THE BLADE. But I really thank Matthew for his work with women saints such as Hildegard, Julian and Mechtild–and if you look “saints” up on Google you’ll find that there are over 10,000 saints in the Catholic Church! So what other women saints might be out there who also upheld the Divine Feminine. Thank you again for your comment!

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