Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julian: Seeing Christ Love for Us Through Mary

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 -- Week of Proper 14, Year Two
Saint Mary the Virgin, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

EITHER, the readings for Wednesday of Proper 14, p. 979
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning)       119:121-144 (evening)
Judges 13:15-24
Acts 6:1-15
John 4:1-26

OR, the readings for St. Mary the Virgin, p. 999
Morning Prayer: 
    Psalms 113, 115 
    1 Samuel 2:1-10 
    John 2:1-12
Evening Prayer: 
    Psalms 45 or 138, 149; 
    Jeremiah 31:1-14 or Zechariah 2:10-13 
    John 19:23-27 or Acts 1:6-14

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Dame Julian of Norwich (died c.1416) has a lovely revelation of the experience of God's love for all humanity revealed through Christ's particular love for Mary.  Christ asks Julian, "Can you see in her how greatly you are loved?"  In Mary, Julian can see the virtues that she can learn for herself. 

Julian has three spiritual sights of Mary, the first "when she was big with child, the second sorrowing under the cross, and the third as she is now, delightful, glorious, and rejoicing."  Since Mary serves as a symbol for the church and for all humanity under God's love, one might see these three visions as three states of the human situation and experience -- our blessed potential for bearing God's incarnation into the world; our sorrow and suffering; our joyful exaltation within the love and presence of God.

Here is a portion of Julian's delightful "Revelation":
With the same cheerful joy our good Lord looked down to his right and thereby brought to mind the place where our Lady was standing during his passion.  "Do you want to see her?" he said, saying in effect, "I know quite well you want to see my blessed Mother, for, after myself, she is the greatest joy I can show you, and most like me and worthy of me.  Of all my creation, she is the most desirable sight."  And because of his great, wonderful, unique love for this sweet maiden, his blessed Mother our Lady Saint Mary, he showed her to be rejoicing greatly.  This is the meaning of the sweet words.  It was as if he were saying, "Do you want to see how I love her, so that you can rejoice with me in my love for her, and hers for me?"

Here -- to understand this word further -- our Lord God is speaking to all who are going to be saved, as it were to all humankind in the person of one individual.  He is saying, "Can you see in her how greatly you are loved?  For love of you made her so exalted, so noble, so worthy.  This pleases me, and I want it to please you too."  For after himself she is the most blessed of all sights.

But, for all that, I am not expected to want to see her physically present here on earth, but rather to see the virtues of her blessed soul, her truth, her wisdom, her charity, so that I can learn to know myself, and reverently fear my God. 

When our good Lord had showed me this and said, "Do you want to see her?" I answered, "Yes, good Lord, thank you very much.  Yes, good Lord, if it is your will."  I prayed this often, and I thought I was going to see her in person.  But I did not see her in this way.  Jesus, in that word, gave me a spiritual sight of her.  Just as I had seen her before, lowly and unaffected, so now he showed her, exalted, noble, glorious, and pleasing to him above all creation.

He wills it to be known that all who delight in him should delight in her too, with the same pleasure he has in her, and she in him.  To help understand it better he gave this example.  If you love one particular thing above everything else, you will try to make everyone else love and like what it is you love so greatly.  When Jesus said, "Do you want to see her?" I thought is was the nicest word about her that he could possibly have said, together with the spiritual revelation that he gave me of her.  Except in the case of our Lady, Saint Mary, our Lord showed me no one specially -- and her he showed three times.  The first occasion was when she was big with child, the second sorrowing under the cross, and the third as she is now, delightful, glorious, and rejoicing." 

(Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, 25; ET by Clifton Walters, London, 1966, pp. 101-2; quoted by Robert Atwell, Celebrating the Saints, Canterbury, 2010, p. 472)


Question:  Can you let Jesus' love for Mary be an experience of Jesus' love for you?  Let Mary be a symbol for your humanity, and participate in the exchange of love between Jesus and Mary.  What does it feel like to be loved and to love so deeply?  How can your experience of bearing Christ, experiencing sorrow, and anticipating glory connect with her?

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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church

is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:20 AM, Blogger Rebecca Harrison said...

Well, in response to knowing we are loved in today's reading, I am in great need to feel that love for another person who died very unfortunately and tragically and who suffered. I am having trouble bearing the fact that he died this way. I need to feel that God was with him at that time. And that is what I want to feel and know as I read the lesson today. Rebecca Newth Harrison

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rebecca, I feel very moved to reply to your comment--that you need to feel that God was with Him (Christ) at that time (his death). When Christ said--Father forgive them, for they know not what they do"--could we have done that--it was only because God was with Him; when Christ forgave the thief who was on the cross next to him--how selfless He was in the midst of His suffering--only because God was with Him; even when He cried out--Why have you forsaken me?--to me this was His most human moment. I have never thought that God was actually forsaking His Son, but that in this way--we could see that He was indeed man through His suffering. Can you imagine how much it must have hurt God (the Father) to see His only Son suffering in such a manner?! What love He has for us that His Son suffered so for us! If only we could show just a tiny amount of that love to each other--what a better world this would be! Rebecca Atwood

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Chris Lynch said...

Interestingly, I woke this morning thinking about how much love, how difficult it would be to give (plan, and see through) one of my son's life -- the way God gave Jesus to the world. Beyond my comprehension, yet I could just get a glimpse of that sort of pain/fear. Then to read the morning reflection and try to grasp that Jesus sees, wants to see us the way he saw Mary. In that communion -- what a gift.

I'm praying for you RNH. Praying that you find comfort and can feel/live that kind of love.

Chris Lynch

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

There are times when I think of someone who has died that they seem so present to me, and other times when the absence is so total. When I've been with others as they died I've always felt a profound sense of God's presence. I've come to trust that.

I'm wondering about remembering another in the way that Julian speaks of her three sightings of Mary -- one, a remembrance of that person so alive and transparent to the divine presence in their particularity; another, in their suffering or maybe their death, connecting that with Christ's death on the cross; and third, as they are now, "delightful, glorious, and rejoicing."


At 2:55 PM, Blogger Elaine said...

I liked your reference to Julian's first sighting, "our potential for bearing God's incarnation into the world." Perhaps we most bear that witness when we die. I have been with a few people when they have passed, and they were all at peace. I felt the same for weeks afterward--vulnerable and close to God.

At 1:18 AM, Blogger Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!


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