Yesterday we meditated on the need to dig deep to get to our true self. Sometimes suffering is a gateway to truth.
Julian of Norwich acknowledges this and teaches that we cannot sit idly by while suffering happens to ourselves or others; we must dig deeper to find the treasure that lies hidden within life and within ourselves.
Julian urges us to become gardeners of the soul as well as the soil.
There is a treasure in the earth that is a food tasty and pleasing to the Lord. Be a gardener, dig and ditch, toil and sweat, and turn the earth upside down and seek the deepness and water the plants in time. Continue this labor and make sweet floods to run and noble and abundant fruits to spring.
Here Julian returns us to the joy of working in and with nature, the outer work becomes the inner work and the inner the outer. Indeed, this work of gardening is not only a holy inner work with the soil and with the soul, but it becomes our worship as well. “Take this food and drink and carry it to God as your true worship.”
Divinity, as Julian sees it, turns a happy face toward us even when there is hardship.
The blessed face that our Beloved turns toward us is a happy one—joyous and sweet. He sees us lost in love-longing, and he wants to see a smile on our souls, because our delight is his reward.
Compassion and delight are part of the exchange with the divine.
Eckhart’s understanding of God as the “ground of being”—which was Thich Nhat Hanh’s favorite name for divinity—lends itself well to Julian’s talk of “digging and ditching.”
Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki teaches that the “True Self” is the formless, original mind and Merton says that Suzuki “has explicitly compared this concept to that of the Godhead in Meister Eckhart and the Rhenish mystics.”
He says Suzuki’s use of the word mind in Zen does not mean the intellectual faculty as such but rather what the Rhenish mystics [including Eckhart] called the ‘ground’ of our soul or of our being, a ‘ground’ which is . . . enlightened and aware, because it is in immediate contact with God.
Suzuki, he says, was “obviously thinking of Eckhart” when he talks of the light of Prajna penetrating “the ground nature of consciousness” and illuminating things inside and outside.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 27.
And Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, p. 34.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “Digging up the onions.” Photo by Woodley Wonder Works on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
What does God as the “ground of being” mean to you? How do you “dig and ditch” to arrive there?
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.