Tag Archives: Julian of Norwich

Article: Two Ways of Seeing: The Challenge of Julian of Norwich’s Parable of a Lord and a Servant, by Philip Sheldrake

In an article appearing in the latest edition of Spiritus, Philip Sheldrake explores one of the central passages in Julian of Norwich’s Revelations, the parable of a lord and a servant. Sheldrake argues that Julian is using the parable as a an exemplum as a way of showing how she can hold two contrasting beliefs, her often quoted “Every kind of thing will be well” with a central belief of the Church: “one article of our faith . . . that many creatures will be damned.” Here are the article’s opening paragraphs:

In what is described conventionally as the Long Text of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, or A Revelation of Love, Chapter 51 is the longest chapter. In important ways it is also the heart of the text and a key to Julian’s major theological insights and teachings. The chapter outlines a parable of a lord and a servant and then reflects upon this narrative in challenging ways. The parable is presented as God’s answer to Julian’s various anxieties about how to understand her own experience of daily sinfulness in the light of her growing sense of God’s lack of blame.

In Chapter 45 of the Long Text, Julian outlines her background problem that is a result of her visionary experience. How is she to reconcile the “judgment of Holy Church” that “sinners sometimes deserve blame and wrath” with the fact that “I could not see these two in God”? However, “to all this I never had any other answer than a wonderful example of a lord and a servant, as I shall tell later, and that was very mysteriously revealed.” By “example,” Julian means an exemplum of the kind that medieval preachers used to illustrate their message.

Here is the article’s citation data:

Philip Sheldrake. “Two Ways of Seeing: The Challenge of Julian of Norwich’s Parable of a Lord and a Servant.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality. 17, 1 (Spring 2017): 1-18.

Paper: Julian as Spiritual Director: Julian’s Theodicy of Sin and Soul Growth , by Janna Gosselin

Janna Gosselin gave a paper at the Christian Spirituality Group’s session “Perspectives on Spiritual Direction: Historical and Contemporary” which took place during last November’s AAR conference. It was titled “Julian as Spiritual Director: Julian’s Theodicy of Sin and Soul Growth,” and here are the first two paragraphs:

The argument for reading Julian of Norwich as a spiritual director is not new.  Margery Kempe was the first to make such a claim. In Margery’s book, she extolls Julian as an “expert” in spiritual matters who could give good advice. More recently, scholars have turned to Julian for guidance as well.  Julia Gatta and Kenneth Leech have looked to Julian as an inspiration for spiritual directors.  Gatta sees Julian as a director of both passion and compassion, who contemplates a God who suffers.  Gatta addresses Julian’s view of “the larger, cosmic problem of sin” yet she finds hope in Christ’s assurance that “all shall be well.” In Soul Friend, Kenneth Leech, calling Julian one of the greatest spiritual guides of all time, astutely claims that, for Julian, God permits sin in order that good may be achieved.  He notes that Julian “seems to mean by this that sins are disguised virtues for ‘in heaven what sin typifies is turned into a thing of honour’”.

In this paper, I will argue that Julian steps beyond both Gatta and Leech’s assessment of her theology of sin and soul growth. For Julian, Christ not only assures us that all will be well, and that our sin will be turned to good, but that the Holy Spirit will lift us higher than where we were before we had sinned in the first place.  As Bernard McGinn has observed, Julian’s theology of sin can be likened to the notion of felix culpa, whereby Adam’s sin is a happy sin because, with Christ, we are left better off than we were before. Yet, Julian applies this concept to all of our sins.

Copies of this paper are available to members of the SSCS by contacting the blog moderator.