Julian of Norwich: All shall be well

This extract from Revelations of Divine Love is chapter 27 from the thirteenth revelation. Here Julian discusses the idea that sin is necessary and that the pain it causes helps us to come closer to God. She doesn’t explain here what sin is, only that it’s okay because Jesus suffered for us (which as a non-Christian, I don’t really understand). But the message that ‘All shall be well’ is a powerful one and worth taking to heart.

“After this our Lord brought my mind back to the longing I had previously had for him. And I saw that only sin held me back. And, taking a wider view, I looked on the situation of us all and thought, ‘If only there had been no sin, we should all have been spotless and like our Lord, as he created us.’

And so, in the old days, I had been stupid enough to wonder why the powerful, foreseeing wisdom of God had not prevented sin from the start; for then, I thought, everything would have been all right. I really should not have indulged this line of thought as it made me depressed and sorrowful, without any reason or justification. But Jesus, who informed me in this vision of everything that I needed to know, gave me this answer:

It was necessary that there should be sin, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’

In this simple word sin, our Lord reminded me in a general way of all the things that are not good, and of the shame, contempt and utter humiliation he suffered for us in his life and death. And of the pain and suffering of all the creatures he has made, physical and spiritual. For we have all experienced something of this annihilation and if we follow Jesus, our Master, we must be totally annihilated until we are purified in our mortal flesh and in the depths of our being.

I saw all this and I saw too all the suffering that has ever been or ever can be and I understood that no pain was greater than the supreme suffering of Christ. This was all revealed in a flash and quickly turned into consolation, because our Lord would never want the soul to be frightened by this fearful sight.

But I did not see sin because I believe that it has no substance and no real existence. It can only be known by the pain which it causes. This pain does exist, in my view, but only for a limited time. It purifies us, gives us self-knowledge and makes us beg for mercy. The passion of our Lord is comforting to us and an antidote to this – for this is his blessed will.

It is because of this tender love for everybody who is going to be saved that our Lord immediately consoles us so sweetly, as though he said, ‘It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’

These words were spoken very tenderly with no hint of blame, either to me or to any of those who are saved. So it would be most perverse of me to blame or question God because of my sin, since he doesn’t blame me for it. In these words I saw a marvellous and sublime mystery, which is hidden in God and which he will fully disclose to us in heaven. When we know this we shall indeed see the reason why he allowed sin to exist. In this vision, we shall endlessly rejoice in our Lord God.”

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

Next extract: The problem of evil

Read the whole series here

Image: Awesome sky

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