Today, let us ponder these illuminating words of Julian of Norwich:
For I saw that God never began to love mankind. For just as mankind will be in endless bliss, fulfilling the joy of God (with respect to his works), just so has that same mankind, in the foresight of God, been known and loved from without beginning in his righteous intent. And by the endless intent and assent and the full accord of all the trinity, the mid-person [Christ] would become the ground and head of this fair nature out of whom we are all come, in whom we are all enclosed, into whom we shall go, finding in him our full heaven in everlasting joy, by the foreseeing purpose of all the blessed trinity from without beginning.
Julian’s ecstatic summary of salvation history echoes through the ages. God is Love. He never “began” to love us. He has always loved all human beings, “from without beginning,” for they are his own creation. And love is the only answer to why anything exists at all. And so, by the will of the Father, the assent of the Son, and the full agreement of the Holy Spirit, the “mid-person” (Julian’s particular name for Jesus Christ) was ordained to become the ground of human nature “from without beginning.” In due course, he would be born as a human being in every respect except sin. And it would be out of Christ that we, in turn, would be born anew, in whom we would be enclosed, and into whom we would go.
Likewise, St. Paul had written of Christ:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1:15–17)
It would be in Christ that we would find our heaven (just as Julian chose Christ to be her heaven during the vision of his Passion). And by rebirth through Christ, all humankind would arise out of the “foreseeing purpose” of the Blessed Trinity. Julian does not issue any caveats here about who shall or shall not be saved. On the contrary, she cites God’s prescient love that came to earth in the form of the Savior as the most compelling reason to believe that “mankind will be in endless bliss.”
For before he made us he loved us, and when we were made we loved him. And this is a love made of the natural and essential goodness of the holy ghost, mighty by reason of the might of the father, wise in mind by the wisdom of the son. And thus is man’s soul made of God, and in the same point knit to God.
Jeremiah wrote: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jer 31:3). Love creates us to be trinitarian, in its own image and likeness, filled with the potential to be strong in the Father’s might, wise in the Son’s wisdom, good in the love of the Holy Spirit. Even more daringly, Julian states that our souls are “made of God,” who is unmade. In this sense, we are truly made of love, and at the moment the soul is created, in that same moment Divine Love “knits it to God” forever.
And thus I understood that man’s soul is made of nothing. That is to say, it is created, but of nothing that is made, as thus: when God would make man’s body, he took the slime of the earth, which is a matter mixed and gathered from all bodily things, and thereof he made man’s body. But to the making of man’s soul he would take nothing at all, but made it. And thus is the [created] nature rightfully made united to the maker who is essential nature uncreated, that is God. And therefore it is that there may nor shall be truly nothing at all between God and man’s soul.
What is the soul that God creates? According to the Genesis story of creation, God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Gn 1:26). Since God has no body, the image and the likeness must be a spiritual reality created out of nothing. The idea of a soul connects the human inseparably to the divine, since it is precisely the soul that is made in the image and likeness of God. Since nothing at all can exist between God and the soul, Julian sees that, in the boundless love of God, the human soul is led and protected, from the moment of its creation, “and never shall be lost.” And this is the essential meaning of the extended Fourteenth Revelation.
“For he wills that we know that our soul is a life; which life, of his goodness and his grace, shall last in heaven without end, loving him, thanking him, praising him.” And just as the soul will live forever, so “we were treasured in God and hidden, known and loved from without beginning.” The scriptural parable of the treasure hidden in a field for which a man will sell everything he owns in order to buy that field is suddenly reversed. We are the “treasure” hidden in the ground of God’s love from all eternity. We are the food the Lord desires above all things. We are the reason God will sacrifice his only begotten Son to “buy back” our souls from the grip of evil. We are God’s most precious children.
In spite of our current sufferings, fears, and frustrations – and yes, even in spite of our faults and misdeeds – we are eternally loved and protected by God. In this we have reason always to rejoice and give thanks!
NOTE: Excerpt above and translations from the Middle English are from my book, Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books. 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf