Veronica Mary Rolf spoke this morning at the Virginia Festival of the Book on her new book Julian’s Gospel. Ms. Rolf is an engaging speaker, but her subject matter was — at least to me — equally astonishing. Julian of Norwich was a fourteenth-century Christian mystic who received a series of sixteen visions in 1373. Meditating upon her visions, she views Christ crucified and bloody as an act of motherhood. Julian translates familiar metaphorical language into mystical language. She saw that God wanted to be Mother — to have an intimate, corporeal relationship with human beings.
Rolf does a wonderful job heightening the drama of these visions. Even in plague-stricken England, where apocalyptic preachers saw the signs of God’s wrath, Julian of Norwich saw no “wroth” in God. At a time when Lollards were being suppressed (and the Cathars had been brutally quashed a century earlier with their well-known theology of the feminine), Julian was taking a great risk.
“Sin is behoovely…” that is the astonishing theodicy that T. S. Eliot left out when he quoted Julian in Four Quartets “…And all shall be well and / All manner of things shall be well.” We are accustomed to the Augustinian formula felix culpa — our happy fault. But could sin be even happier because the cross allowed God to love us as a Mother?
That is the provocation of Julian.
Rolf’s website, devoted to Julian, is here.