Julian’s words of guidance in her book Revelations of Divine Love (also called Showings) were written out of love for us, whom she considered her “even Christians”, or “kindred spirits”. Five of these words leapt out at me on that February day in 1992 when, entering the reconstructed anchorhold in the tiny Church of St. Julian in Norwich, I saw incised in a marble slab: Thou art enough to me.
Looking back to that moment now, I wonder that I did not immediately turn around and exit by the door through which I’d just entered. Those five words struck me to the heart, challenging me to make a complete turn-around in my life, to let go of what I had until that moment considered necessary. I had left a place, a ministry and a friendship that had been the threefold source of my life’s happiness. Now I faced a future without all three. There was no way that I could accept that Julian’s unseen “Thou” could be enough.
I see now that I understood almost nothing of the One Julian addressed as “Thou” and even less of the meaning of “enough”. Later, as I prepared to offer Julian’s words to others through James Janda’s play, I found the context for those words:
For this is the loving yearning of the soul through the touch of the Holy Spirit, from the understanding which I have in this revelation:
“God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I can ask for nothing which is less which can give you full worship. And if I ask anything which is less, always I am in want; but only in you do I have everything.” (Showings Colledge and Walsh, 184)
Look now at the same words in a different translation. Marion Glasscoe’s Julian of Norwich: A Revelation of Love is my personal favourite among the dozens of newer renderings of Julian’s “Showings” because it comes closest to the Middle English of Julian’s time (sending my spell-check into orbit):
For this is the kinde yernings of the soule by the touching of the Holy Ghost, as be the understondyng that I have in this shewing: “ God, of thy goodnesse, give me thyselfe; for thou art enow to me and I may nothing aske that is less that may be full worshippe to thee. And if I aske anything that is lesse, ever me wantith, but only in thee I have all.” (Glasscoe 7-8)
Julian is not asking us to set aside our desires; she is not saying that to find God we must relinquish everything for which we long. Quite the opposite. Julian is saying that the deepest yearning of our souls will only be satisfied when we know the One who both made us to yearn and can alone fill that yearning. What Julian found for herself she wants us to know: Only in you (the one to whom we entrust our longings) do I have everything, or in the Glasscoe translation: only in thee I have all.
This is a startling revelation for Julian, for each of us.
As Julian says in Janda’s play:
Some of us believe that God is Almighty
And may do all,
And that God is All-Wisdom,
And can do all,
But that God is All-Love and will do all…..
There we stop short.
The Presence of Love that we in the 21st Century are coming to know as permeating all of life in the metaverse, as well as in the depths of our own souls, our very being, may be differently imaged for us than it was for Julian. Yet our experience of that all-pervading Love within our lives is very like Julian’s. However we name that Love, however we call upon it, we can know ourselves held safe in its embrace. Our deepest yearnings are for Love, for knowing our life has meaning, that we matter to that Love, that our longings are not only understood, but even prompted by that same Love.
Our task then, is to journey within those longings to find how they are drawing us into the embrace of the One who can satisfy them, who can fill us with the kind of joy that might lead us one day to say with Julian: Thou art enough to me.
In that same passage, Julian goes on to say:
And these words of the goodness of God are very dear to the soul, and very close to touching our Lord’s will, for his goodness fills all his creatures and all his blessed works full, and endlessly overflows in them. For he is everlastingness, and he made us only for himself, and restored us by his precious Passion and always preserves us in his blessed love; and all this of his goodness. (Colledge and Walsh ,184)
The Glasscoe text reads this way:
And these words are full lovesome to the soule and full nere touchen the will of God and his goodness; for his goodness comprehendith all his creatures and all his blissid works and overpassith without end, for he is the endleshede. And he hath made us only to himselfe and restorid us be his blissid passion and kepith us in his blissid love. And all this is of his goodness. (Glasscoe, 8)
May we stay safely, joyfully within that “blissid love”.