Julian of Norwich: The Fullness of Joy is Our Birthright

Having named the “five supreme joys” within Divinity, Julian tells us that “Christ wants us to rejoice in them, too.” 

“Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said He…” Audio performance by Jo Olivia.

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

She says “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.  

The divine joy calls all creation and all humans to joy. Julian invites us into the via positiva to rejoice, praise, thank, love, bless. 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.” She writes: 

“We are united for peace. Our songs are sending messages of Peace. This is what we want in South Sudan.” Performance groups representing three tribes of Jonduru, South Sudan, invoked peace in traditional drumming, music and dance. Photo by Gregorio Cunha, UNMISS on Flickr.

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.

She offers guideposts to tapping into that birthright, including responding gratified with all that life offers us–the “well and the woe”– therefore; the via positiva and the via negativa; the light along with the darkness.

Another guidepost is learning to love oneself and be nonviolent toward ourselves and others; and loving all of creation as God loves all of creation.  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 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 we undergo.

Forest bathing, Inverness, Reino Unido. Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho on Unsplash

For Julian, once we dwell on goodness in creation it affects our view of the world and fills us with joy. “To behold God in all things is to live in complete joy.”  The “all things” of which she speaks includes difficult and trying things.  

Eckhart says that “everything praises God. Darkness, privations, defects, evil too praise God and bless God.”  Julian says that our joy can be “complete” when we find God in all things.  Eckhart said the same when he declared that the sign that we have undergone breakthrough is that we see God in all things.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 25-29.  

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

Banner Image: Dancing with bubbles, Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by Alex Alvarez on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you believe with Julian that “the fullness of Joy is our birthright?”  What follows from that?

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.

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10 thoughts on “Julian of Norwich: The Fullness of Joy is Our Birthright”

  1. Avatar

    “To Follow ‘the Way’ is What Truly Sets Us Apart in ‘the World’ “
    The Spirit within is very, very still and silent at times and very, very animated at times as well. How can joy be contained and not be expressed? To express one’s own joy is to bear witness to the Spirit within, the love within, and paradoxically, to the stillness and peace within. The awe and wonder of everything new, of eager anticipation of possibility, is our birthright, and is the true nature of soul and Spirit. We may feel like ‘prisoners of war’ and held captive ‘in the world’ but we never give up the freedom and liberation of our love, our soul and our Spirit. So, if our love, our soul and our Spirit are suppressed or under attack, we must surrender all else that is necessary and claim them back, never to be suppressed by anyone, any institution or principality.
    As they say, ‘Live free or die’, and that is a choice we have to make daily, because ‘the world’ is full of illusion and pretends to offer full freedom, but at the cost of the joy and liberty that lives forever within each of us. ‘Let the dead bury their own dead’ and leave ‘the world’ to those that believe in ‘the world’ at the expense of our soul’s freedom. That is our daily commitment to ‘Be the Resurrection’. ‘The Way’ then is another way, and to follow ‘the Way’ is what truly sets us apart in ‘the world’. — BB. 04 13 2023.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      HI Bill,
      I enjoy reading and soaking in your deep process. I nearly always discover a one liner take-away.
      Today’s is your last line, “‘The Way’ then is another way, and to follow ‘the Way’ is what truly sets us apart in ‘the world’. –BB. 04 13 2023
      Thanks, Bill.

      1. Avatar

        Thanks Carol. I enjoy ‘soaking’ as well and have no preconceived notion what will come out of the early morning ‘soak’. It just rises to the surface of awareness as I type and drink coffee.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    I perceive birthrights, as gifts of the Spirit freely given. A gift has to be opened… in order to be fully received, accepted, acknowledged, partaken of and shared. Our part is to open ourselves up, to these gifts given… to discover them, not only within ourselves, but also within others and all of creation.

    I also see these gifts of the Spirit… as co-creative blessings given each one of us… as the artists of our own lives… with which we learn how to create the potential reality; of the beauty and goodness of all that which each birthright contains… already there, inherent within.

    Joy, is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit… one of the birthrights of the Divine, incarnate within all creatures. “Taste, and you will see”, like Julian of Norwhich did… the unfolding, evolving, emerging beauty, goodness and embodiment of this living Spirit, as you converge with the essence and presence of this gift of the Spirit, as a birthright… freely given to all beloved creatures and creations of God.

  3. Avatar
    Barbara McGurran

    Thank you,Matthew for this beautiful teaching and meditation. It brought me great joy as I am each day more fully realizing the Spirits’ prescence in all that is, even the negative. I also felt joy as I sang along with The Lord of the Dance and my heart was warmed by the beautiful picture of Jesus dancing with the children.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      HI Barbara,
      We enjoyed singing and participating in the Joy of the ‘Lord of the Dance’ on Easter Morning.
      I found it nearly impossible to stand still. I wanted to Dance in the aisle. I wish I had!
      Thank you, Barbara.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Hi Ed,
      Hearts are good.
      Curious about your question????????
      I think I missed something…

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