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Friday, November 30, 2012

Julian of Norwich - Grace Jantzen

Julian of Norwich by Grace Jantzen is a book containing a biography and commentary on the work of the anchoress Julian of Norwich, who lived between 1342-1416.

Julian lived as an anchoress, which meant she had a servant to take care of her daily needs and spent most of her time in prayer and meditation.  She would have lived outside of a village, but close enough that she could give counsel to residents.

Julian began her journey when she prayed for three things.  She prayed for a deep understanding of the passion of Jesus.  She prayed for physical illness that may bring her near death.  The third was a prayer for three things: "true contrition, loving compassion, and the longing of the will for God."

Julian did receive the sickness she desired and the near-death experience brought her visions.  She originally wrote them down and then returned to expand upon them twenty years later.  The original is often simple called 'the short text' and the latter called 'the long text'.  They have been translated and modernized for modern readers under various names, such as "Revelations of Divine Love" or "Showing of Love".

Her probing into the mysteries of God and the world will be fascinating to many.  She explores the divine love, the trinity, and much more.  I found her view on sin particularly interesting.  She suggests that when the body and soul are out of alignment, it causes the person to sin.  This misalignment, she says, is often due to a person being out of contact with God.  This same view is perceived by another female Christian mystic: Hildegard of/von Bingen.

The author writes in a first person narrative, often employing the use of "we", which may turn readers off who are not of the Christian persuasion.  Still, the author provides valuable insight into Julian's works by commentating and using quotes from both the short and long text.

This is an excellent book for those who want to become familiar with this amazing mystic and her work before embarking on reading her more complicated work.

Revelations of Divine Love:
Audio version available for free download from Librivox.org
Text version available for free download from Archive.org

Showing of Love:
Available for free viewing
Showing of Love by Julian Bolton Holloway

Other books about female Christian Mystics:
Passionate Spirituality Hildegard Of Bingen And Hadewijch Of Brabant by Elizabeth A. Dreyer
Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs by Matthew Fox
The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen Volume I edited by Joseph L. and Radd K. Ehrman

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