Enveloped in love

"My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely." Song of Solomon 2.14


Drawing on imagery from the Song of Solomon, Julian of Norwich engages with God as father, mother and spouse. The threefold nature of her conception is suggestive of the Trinity, while the inclusiveness of the language may be surprising, even shocking. Medievalist Eleanor McCulloch insists that her insights fit comfortably with a stream of theological reflection which was contemporary with Julian, practised by the likes of Anselm and Bernard, celebrating the maternal impulse of God in creation and redemption.


This is no effete escape from the hard knocks of real life, for what Julian would have us appreciate is the lengths to which God will go to nurture and heal those he loves. For example, the wounds Jesus suffered on the cross are no longer simply badges of honour, rather they are refuges into which battered and bruised creatures are invited to seek solace and find healing from their own suffering. And why not? Surely God transcends all creaturely boundaries, while at the same time enjoying free reign within all the categories he has created...


From the limitations of her own situation, Julian speaks with growing confidence, words of reassurance and liberation. For long enough she was ignored as pre-, post- and counter- Reformation theologians found more immediate concerns. But more recently TS Eliot and others have rediscovered Julian, whose quietly iconoclastic voice may in fact be whispering messages from God into our own generation, challenging our lazy assumptions and narrow prejudices with her more transcendent and inclusive insights.

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