Julian of Norwich ‘A Book of Showings’ Chapters 7 and 27

In Chapter 7, Julian describes again the drops of blood falling from the crown of thorns. She uses three similes to describe them, all of them startling in their freshness and down-to-earth realism. When they come out they are as round (meaning spherical) as pellets, when they drop, they are as round as herring scales and they fall down so copiously as raindrops from the eaves during a heavy rain. She also emphasizes two features of Jesus: he is homely and courteous, just like a truly great king is courteous to his lowliest servants. [This is a big jump in time and subject, but it reminds me of what Proust wrote about his aristocrats: the greatest and highest-ranking ones could be recognized by their invariable politenes to opera ushers.] The “marvellous homeliness” will be known to all people in the afterlife, but in this life only people who were granted a special grace can experience it.

In Chapter 27 Julian meditates upon the nature of sin, and she wonders in her “folly”, why God being omniscient did not prevent the original sin. Jesus answers her in the famous words (quoted by TS Eliot) “Sin is behovely, but all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. Julian then understands that suffering in this world is a way in which the sinful humankind can participate in Christ’s passion and purge itself from its sins. She also says, interestingly, that she saw no sin in her visions because sin has “no manner of substance, ne no part of being” and can be seen also through the pain it causes. I think it’s quite interesting philosophically but I don’t have enough knowledge or time to pursue it. God is merciful, writes Julian, and it was very ungrateful of me to blame God for my sin, if he doesn’t blame me for my sins. She also claims that God hides a great secret  that will be revealed to us in heaven. All this can indicate that Julian is also a believer in universal salvation, although she doesn’t dare to write about it openly.

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