Sixty years ago, an old Benedictine monk spoke of God in a way I had never heard before: “Christ is your mother.” He was quoting Dame Julian, a 14th-century woman. “Christ loves you as only a mother can love. God enfolds you in Her love. Like the hazel nut. God created it. God sustains it. God loves it. You do not need to work for it. It is all yours. God has oned you to Herself. She has knit all of your sensuality to your soul. You are one being, enfolded in God’s love.”
Fast forward 60 years: I have returned to reading Julian’s Showings of Divine Love. As I read her words, the impact is instantaneous. I read a few words and it is like this 14th-century woman was writing them just for me. I grew up in a household where father was distant and to be feared, while my mother lived unconditional love. It took a woman to best write this for me.
Julian’s Showings is the first book written in English by a woman. Of course, back then, women were forbidden to learn Latin and even more forbidden to write in it. She was probably a widow, had had children who may have died in the plague. She is a woman very much in tune with the ordinary. Yet she is so bright and writes in a way that can be readily understood. I find reading her brings me more deeply into the enfolding love of God. It is transfiguring.
There are different translations available, but the best one for me is that of Mirabai Starr, The Showings of Julian of Norwich.
Charles Preble, OblSB