Mysticism

Julian of Norwich: Creation as tiny as a hazelnut

This extract from Revelations of Divine Love is chapter 5 from the first revelation. Here Julian discusses the nature of the creation and marvels at how small it is when seen within the eternity of God’s existence. She goes on to express the impossibility of finding peace within something so small and limited.

“At the same time, our Lord showed me, in a spiritual manner, how intimately he loves us. I saw that he is everything that is good and supports us. He clothes us in his love, envelops us and embraces us. He wraps us round in his tender love and he will never abandon us. As I understand it, he is everything that is good. He also showed me a tiny thing in the palm of my hand, the size of a hazelnut. I looked at this with the eye of my soul and thought: ‘What is this?’ And this is the answer that came to me:

It is all that is made.’

I was astonished that it managed to survive: it was so small that I thought that it might disintegrate. And in my mind I heard this answer:

It lives on and will live on forever because God loves it.

So every single thing owes its existence to the love of God. I saw that this tiny thing had three properties that were essential to it. The first is that God made it; the second is that God loves it; the third, that God preserves it. But I cannot say what this Creator, Preserver and Lover is. Until I am united with him in my essential being, there will be no true happiness for me – by that I mean that until I am linked to him so closely that there is absolutely nothing between God and me.

We need to know how tiny creation is and to reckon all creatures as nothing if we are to love the God who is uncreated. This is the reason why we are never entirely at peace in heart and soul: we seek rest in such tiny things that cannot give us rest, and we do not realise that our God is All-Mighty, All-Wise and All-Good. For he is true rest.

God wants to be known and it pleases him when we rest in him, for nothing less than him will satisfy us. That is why no soul finds rest until is has discounted all things. When it has deliberately detached itself for the love of him who is in all things, then the soul will find rest of spirit.

Our Lord God also showed me what pleasure it gives him when a vulnerable soul comes to him, simply, openly and as a friend. For when I think over this revelation, it seems to me that when the Holy Ghost touches the soul, it longs for God in this way:

‘O God, of your goodness, give yourself to me: for you are enough for me and, if I want to be worthy of you, I cannot really ask for anything less. If I do ask for anything less, I shall remain in need. Only in you do I have everything.’

The soul responds to such words lovingly and they come very close to the will of God and his goodness. For his goodness takes in every single one of his creatures and all his blessed works and it surpasses them eternally. For he is eternity itself and has made us for himself alone. He has redeemed us by his blessed Passion and preserves us in his blessed love. And he does all this because he is goodness itself.”


Quoted from The English Mystics by Karen Armstrong, referencing the 1901 text by Grace Warrack.

Next extract: How can anything be amiss?

Read the whole series here

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