Mysticism

Julian of Norwich: How can anything be amiss?

This extract from Revelations of Divine Love is chapter 11 from the third revelation. Here Julian discusses how God acts within the creation and that nothing happens by accident because it’s all his doing. God does everything so it’s all good. She sidesteps the question of sin at this point, but comes back to it later.

“After this I saw God, as it were, concentrated in a Point (I mean that I ‘saw’ it in my mind). In this vision I understood that he is in all things. I gazed at it and meditated, and my seeing and thinking were tinged with fear. I was thinking: ‘What is sin?’ For I realised that in fact God does everything, however small it is. And indeed I saw that nothing happens by chance or luck but everything is caused by the providence and wisdom of God. If things seem to happen by chance or luck that is because of our blindness and lack of foresight. Things which God’s wise providence foresaw from before the beginning of time and which he so justly and honourably always brings in due course to their proper end, drop on us suddenly and we don’t understand what is happening. That is why, in our blindness and lack of foresight, we say: these are accidents and strokes of luck. But they are not like that to our Lord God.

So I have to agree that anything that happens is done well because our Lord God does it. I did not at this time see how creatures act but how God works in his creatures, because he is the end of all things and he does everything. And I was quite sure that he does no sin! And from this point I went on to see that sin is not an action, for no sin was revealed to me in all this activity. I did not want to speculate about this but instead I turned towards our Lord and looked at what he wanted to show me. And thus, the righteousness of God’s actions was shown to my soul, as far as it was possible at that time.

Righteousness has two good characteristics: it is correct and it is complete, and so are all God’s works. It does not need mercy or grace because they are righteous too. There is nothing missing.

On another occasion when God gave me a revelation, I saw sin as it really is. I will describe this later as well as how God employs his mercy and grace. This revelation made me understand that our Lord wants the soul to turn wholly to him and gaze at him and generally on all his works. For they are entirely good. His actions are consoling and sweet and bring great comfort to the soul who rejects a human and blind way of judging things in favour of the beautiful and delightful judgement of God.

A man regards some things as well done and others as evil, but our Lord does not regard them like that. For as all natural things have really been performed by God, so everything that has been done has somehow been done by God. For it is easy to understand that the best deed has been performed well and as the best and the highest deed has been done, so the least deed has been done just as well. All this is due to the plan that God ordained from all eternity. He is the only one who acts.

I saw this with complete certainty that God never changes his purpose in anything and that he never will. Everything has been known to him from the start, according to his plan. Before anything was created, everything was set in its proper place, as it was to remain forever. Nothing was to fail of its purpose. He made everything in his overflowing benevolence and thus the Trinity is forever entirely satisfied with everything he has done. And he revealed all this to me and filled me with happiness. It was as though he were saying:

Look! I am God! Look! I am in all things. Look! I do everything! I hold my work always in my hands and I will never let them fall. Look! I am guiding everything to the end I ordained for it from before the beginning of time, with the same power, wisdom and love with which I created it! So how can anything be amiss?’”


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

Next extract: All shall be well

Read the whole series here

Image: Amazon river

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