A Sonnet for Julian of Norwich

Icon of Julian with her cat by Br Robert Lentz OFM

The 8th of May is the feast day of Julian of Norwich, sometimes known as Mother Julian or Lady Julian. She was an English Mystic of the late fourteenth Century, living as an Anchoress in Norwich. Her Shewings, or Revelations of Divine Love, a series of mystical visions of and conversations with Jesus, remain a source of profound wisdom and a gift to the church, present and future. For a good introduction to her work I recommend Julia Bolton Holloway’s website, she is herself an anchoress in Florence, and Robert Llewlyn’s classic work ‘With Pity, not With Blame, now reprinted by the Canterbury Press.

This poem is from my book The Singing Bowl which you can buy on Amazon or order from any good bookshop.  Please feel free to use this poem in services, and print it in service bulletins, just include a brief acknowledgement that it comes from ‘The Singing Bowl’, Canterbury Press, 2013. Thanks

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or on the title.

Mother Julian


Show me O anchoress, your anchor-hold

Deep in the love of God, and hold me fast.

Show me again in whose hands we are held,

Speak to me from your window in the past,

Tell me again the tale of Love’s compassion

For all of us who fall onto the mire,

How he is wounded with us, how his passion

Quickens the love that haunted our desire.

Show me again the wonder of at-one-ment

Of Christ-in-us distinct and yet the same,

Who makes, and loves, and keeps us in each moment,

And looks on us with pity not with blame.

Keep telling me, for all my faith may waver,

Love is his meaning, only love, forever.


From the Amhurst Manuscript of Julian’s showings


Filed under christianity, literature

12 responses to “A Sonnet for Julian of Norwich

  1. Alan

    Keep telling me, for all my faith may waver,
    Love is his meaning, only love, forever.

    This is a nice conclusion to the sonnet. Because our love is not steady or changeless, we sometimes project our fickleness onto God (or Jesus), and then we find it hard to believe that God is completely loving and faithful. We may claim to believe that God is love, but inside we still have doubts, and we still feel that God will blame us as we blame ourselves.


  3. Kevin Rice

    What a beautiful poem!
    On her feast day may I share my own poem about Julian with you?

    On this bright morn the birdsong is a prayer
    Chimed across the Norwich fields and meadows
    Chorused in jubilation,
    Spreading its beauty
    Across the sunlight and silence
    Unfolding its ecstasy
    To earthly kingdoms
    And to realms beyond

    And on this day, within my anchorage
    Blessed by my wounds
    And after long seclusion and reflection,
    I recognise no wrath in our creator
    The quill upon the parchment
    Remembers and relates
    The love and the compassion
    Of Mother Christ
    I fathom no sin in man
    As I reflect
    That imperfection is our road to God

    Much has been shown to me
    Of things divine,
    Much can be read
    Within my revelations
    But you need only
    To listen to the birdsong,
    Reminding us of truths forgotten,
    Disclosing the sweet reality
    That all things shall be well.

  4. Beautiful Malcolm. My heart is thirsting for more of your homilies / talks … Your talks on the Inklings really deepened my heart’s sacramental tapestry. Of course, my book shelves are now full of new (old) material and my vacation shall be enriched with great reads! Thanks for resourcing us with divine beauty.

  5. Marilyn Griffin

    Please. “I fathom no sin in man” is not according to scripture that clearly states, (1John 1:8) “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” We either believe the ancient scripture and Word of God or we believe some made-up mystic’s poetry?

    • Kevin

      Marilyn,your comment on the line” I fathom no sin in man” is so correct.
      Really it is a lesson to an aspiring poet,(not a mystic), to do his research more thoroughly on someone who was a true mystic, Julian, whom I greatly admire.

      She had plenty to say about sin, but certainly never claimed that it did not exist in man.Why else would our saviour have suffered the horror and ignominy of torture and crucifixion, were it not for the purpose of claiming us back for God and for redemption?

      No confusion or offence intended, truly.
      Now I shall rewrite the line and see how I can hopefully improve the poem.
      God bless,

  6. Reblogged this on Pastor Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    A beautiful reflection and background on a beautiful soul… thank you, Malcolm!

  7. Anita Evans

    Learned of you and your poetry at a Steve Bell concert – bought your CD of sonnets ❤
    "Love is his meaning, only love, forever."
    Reminds me of words from a Steve Bell song, "Love is our way to God, for God is love." ❤
    Love this sonnet… definitely reminds me of Julian and her writings! ❤

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