Julian of Norwich: Inventor of the Word Enjoy

Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write a book in English, invented the word enjoy.  She insists that “the fullness of joy is our birthright”—and it goes along “with intense yearning and unshakable trust.” For Julian, we are born into a “birthright of never-ending joy.”

“Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Photo by lauren lulu taylor on Unsplash

She writes:

We will not take possession of our birthright of never-ending joy until we find ourselves fully gratified with God and all his actions and judgments, loving and nonviolent toward ourselves and toward all our fellow seekers and able to love everything God loves.

There are guideposts to tapping into that birthright, including responding with gratitude to all that life offers us, the “well and the woe” therefore; learning to love oneself and be nonviolent toward ourselves and others; and loving all of creation as God loves all of creation.

Julian teaches that, “Jesus is true, lasting joy” who possesses a “loving face” that invites each of us to reconnect our “outer and inner” faces so that joy shines forth from us.

Christina Zenato shares the story of her love relationship with sharks as she removes hooks from their mouths. Video by The Dodo.

She recognizes three faces in Jesus—one is suffering, yet “glad and joyful,” another was of “empathy and compassion,” but “the joyful face was shown more than the other two and continued the longest.”

Here she is adapting Jesus’s teaching to “love others as oneself.” Healthy self-love is what we project onto others and into our relationships with others—and notice that the “others” are all of creation—that is,“everything God loves.” These are the means to recognizing joy and staying in it no matter what circumstances are at work around us.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 25f.

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

Banner Image: Opening to all that is. Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you feel at times that you are born into a “birthright of never-ending joy?”  What moments or circumstances bring you to that truth?

Recommended Reading

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.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

7 thoughts on “Julian of Norwich: Inventor of the Word Enjoy”

  1. Avatar

    Matthew says “So I think that’s significant, especially as we’re moving into more discussion about the shadow
    masculine and then the golden masculine, if you will, the healthy and the sacred masculine. Because
    healthy masculinity incorporates the divine feminine, incorporates the goddess, a healthy man welcomes
    the Divine Feminine into himself, but also into the women that he knows; he is not threatened by the
    strength of the feminine.”

    And I add: This is a perfect time to re-imagine Joseph of Nazareth, a man who transcended the misogyny of his culture, a man of deep soul and dreams who was prompted to see this young woman, his betrothed, the way that God saw her…innocent of the charges being levelled against her….and the child she was carrying as a child of God…no matter the circumstances of his conception.

    Canadian scholar Donald Harmen Akenson leads us to reflect on “the cruelly devalued figure of Joseph…Within the context of his society, a man whose wife-to-be turned up pregnant by someone else, and who let the matter ride, inevitably became a lame figure…Joseph’s behaviour was an instance of quiet moral greatness whether one viewed the unknown father of Yeshua as being Yahweh’s Holy Spirit, or a normal biological human male…” [Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds, 1998, p. 463].

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for making the connection about the month of December, and the Divine Mother, birthing the beauty and joy of light amidst dark times.

    Something also came to my remeberance as I listened to Mathew speaking in the video clip today, regarding the union and balance of the masculine and feminine. In my journey into Indigenious Spirituality, I remember a teaching about how both the masculine and the feminine give birth. It was taught that the brothers have a spirit womb. When we learnt, as women to work with what’s called The Marriage Basket, the sisters would place this basket cupped over their wombs. However, when the brothers learnt to work with the marriage basket, they would place the marriage basket facing outwards, on the same area of their bodies. I was not made privey to the brotherhood teachings regarding their spirit wombs and the use of the marriage basket, as I was only taught what this meant for a woman.

    I also remember that when we worked with the marriage baskets together, the brothers marriage basket faced outwards, then when coming into union with the sisters marriage basket that faced inwards, the brothers marriage basket wrapped itself around the sisters marriage basket and became one.

    I have not heard of any other spiritual path that teaches this, however it makes sense to me that brothers would have a spirit womb, and that they too birth, but in a different way than sisters do. When I speak of this, I am speaking of birthing beyond the physical aspects of the feminine and masculine genders.

    I wish I could remember more of this teaching, but it was all such a long time ago.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, I too am moved by the idea of brothers with spirit wombs, Meister Eckhart said, “I once had a dream. I dreamt that I, even though a man, was pregnant, pregnant and full with Nothingness like a woman who is with child. And that out of this Nothingness God was born.”

  3. Avatar

    After some digging, I found the teachings that I was taught, regarding the marriage basket. I thought I would share this with you all, in light of today’s DM and the various things we’ve been discussing.

    “The ancient design of the basket is full of imagery, that deepens it’s beauty and holds within it, the creation story of the people. The center coil symbolizes creation from which all things are birthed. The outward spiral emulates our journey into wisdom. The inward design represents the union with our ancestors and generations of past and present. The open gate represents a path from the center for Spirit to come and go. Guardians are woven into the outer ring, to stand as protection during the gateway ceremonies that we go through in life.

    The Marriage Basket also represents the One Womb, from which all things are birthed. This birthing refers to not only physical children, but also the birthing of relationships, as well as the birthing of our spiritual self, as well as our dreams and visions into actualization. The Marriage Basket holds within its structure the balance of the feminine and masculine energy, holding both energies in proper alignment, with which we create new life.

    The spiralling outward from the center recounts the stories of creation and emergence into this fourth world, the human world. It reinforces the concept of the world as a place of beauty and harmony, when things are balanced. The braided border signifies all human life, as humans are the recipients of all the blessings of life and the beauty of it’s gifts given from the Great Spirit.

    The colors white, red, and black also have significance. The inner white coils of the basket represent birth. As you journey through life, you begin to encounter more black. The black represents darkness, struggle and pain. As you make your way through the darkness, you enter into a blood covenant of marriage with creation. During this time, there is no darkness. Traveling further outward, you encounter more darkness, however, this darkness is interspersed with white light. The light represents increasing enlightenment, which expands until you enter the all white banding of the outer rim. This braided banding represents the Spirit world, where there is no more darkness. The open gateway line from the center of the basket to the outer rim, is there to remind you, that no matter how much darkness you encounter in this world, there is always an open pathway to the light.”

  4. Avatar
    Sr Noelline Haung Yan

    I have been reading a book of Julian Nourish very moving and inspiring ,that’s why l love to use materials in my journey.

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: