“Jesus is our true mother by nature”
“Jesus is our true mother by nature.”[i] This English mystic lived in a cell as an anchoress for much of her life. Julian’s writings, now known as the Showings or Revelations of Divine Love, described her own mystical encounters with Christ. She wrote over her entire lifetime about the series of visions she experienced at the age of thirty, developing a theology in which she pictured Christ as a merciful mother and compassionately argued for universal salvation. Sin was good since it brings us closer to God. Whatever your faith, Julian’s comfort and compassion is exemplified in these famous words, “[A]ll shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”[ii] She is cited in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Four Quartets.”
[i] Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Short Text and Long Text), translated by Elizabeth Spearing (London: Penguin Books, 1998), 140.
[ii] Julian/Spearing 80.
Read about my pilgrimage to Julian’s cell—
and how I was mistaken for an industrial spy!
A Julian of Norwich pilgrimage may not seem to have much to do with suspicions that I was an industrial spy (spoiler alert: I’m not!). My innocent journey to trace Julian’s life took on comic dimensions when I was a graduate student many years ago.
I took a pilgrimage to the reconstructed anchorite cell of the compassionate visionary author Julian of Norwich in December 1989. It was a chilly winter’s day in Norwich, England.
My parents were living in England for the year. We took this little trip for fun and stayed at the Maid’s Head Hotel where Queen Elizabeth I stayed.
I had to use a step stool to climb into the bed.
One afternoon, my parents took a nap and I decided to explore and find the church Julian of Norwich was associated with. I wore my oversized horn-rimmed glasses, a blue beret, and long pea coat. On my back I wore my pink backpack. I looked pretty innocent. I was pretty innocent!
Here’s the name of the street the church is on with Norwich Cathedral in the background through the trees.
And I saw people’s pleas to God for help through prayer.
The church had a reconstruction of Julian’s cell.
An anchorite like Julian would have looked out into the church through a squint. Here is one from Christine of Carpenter’s cell in Shere. She escaped from her cell. Read documents about her abandoning her cell and her return here. Note that one letter mentions how she might be excommunicated! ChristineCarpenter
I always find it sad to read about the destruction from World War II. The church was bombed in 1942. Read more about the German’s Baedeker Blitz. This article, as well as this one, tells more about the bombing.
20th-century images of Julian at the Cathedral in Norwich.
It didn’t look like abbey ruins! Suddenly, a security guard ran out and asked how I got here. In my American accent, I innocently and honestly said I just crossed the parking lot. He told me to stop and he went to make some calls. Finally, a man came out. Turns out he was the company historian and the company was Colman’s Mustard Factory. They must have thought I was an industrial spy! But I only wanted to see part of Julian’s past. My name cleared, the nice historian told me only about 12 nuns a year visit to see it. He gave me lots of written material and then a personal tour.
And here were more ruins.
There is not much left. Mr. Colman had paid 25,000 pounds to have archeologists work on the site. His financials advisors disapproved, but he did a great service to history! Thank you, Mr. Colman!
It was a cold, late December day in Norwich which is a fabulous small city with lots of heritage.
This wall has been reconstructed.
This wall is made of flint.
And, given my interest back then, I should have known in 1990 that I’d write a book on excrement in the Middle Ages one day!
All good pilgrimages must come to an end. My parents loved my story. I hope you liked it too!