Finding Christ in Isolation: 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 life as an anchoress, finding Christ in isolation, and then finding that Christ transfigured that isolation into a communion of love, has been an inspiration for many in the current lockdown. 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.

1413

From the Amhurst Manuscript of Julian’s showings

10 Comments

Filed under imagination

10 responses to “Finding Christ in Isolation: A Sonnet for Julian of Norwich

  1. Angela prime

    Thank you for a beautiful sonnet. Angela prime

  2. I cherish the memory of listening to you reciting this fabulous sonnet in Norwich when you gave the Julian talk/lecture there. Mother Julian’s life and witness speak to me so much especially during this season where many of us are incarcerated in our homes yet still retain a window on the world. Thank you, Malcolm.

  3. I enjoyed this. Hers is a powerful Christian voice that gets to what matters! Best wishes, Michael

  4. Richard D. Bainbridge

    Many thanks for this. My daughter was baptised on this day and ever since then I have read and treasured the words of Mother Julian. Richard

  5. Chris McDonnell

    these few words were written on May 8th for a friend in some distress.

    All shall be well

    Tears touched with tenderness
    the sunlit, blue-skied warmth
    of a Spring afternoon.

    The breakdown of memory
    brought to full-focus by a song
    in a familiar childhood language.

    Your consequent call sought comfort
    which I could offer only through
    listening and the gentle conversation

    of a distant fading dream.
    ‘Yet all shall be well
    and all manner of things shall be well’.

    Even though, through circumstance,
    the tenderness of touch is missing,
    sing the song of evening prayer

    blessing the closing day. All shall be well
    with birdsong of the coming dawn
    in the still softness of another morning.

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