Christ had been showing Julian the bleeding wounds of his passion, revealing the enormity of suffering that was needed to repair the evil that Satan unleashed upon the world. The power of the devil was greatly feared in the Middle Ages, as it had been from ancient times. Sin had long been considered a state of bondage to devils, a spiritual captivity from which humankind had no power to free itself. In addition to the debt that must be paid to God, souls had to be ransomed from the grip of evil by the payment of a debt to Satan: “For you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20) . . .
By showing Julian the abundance of his “dearworthy blood,” Christ also demonstrated to her “a part of the fiend’s malice, and fully his unmight [lack of power] for he shewed that his passion is the overcoming of the fiend” (italics added). Satan is understood to be utterly impotent against Christ’s total sacrifice of love and his example of perfect obedience to the Father’s will. Thus, in his perfect obedience to death on the cross, Christ robbed Satan of any illusory power he might have had over humankind. Notice that Julian does not quote Christ as saying the fiend “will be overcome” but “is overcome.” Christ’s victory is already complete. Humanity is already ransomed by his blood. And in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass, Christ, the great High Priest, unceasingly offers his suffering and death to the Father so that every person of every generation may be incorporated into the salvific act.
Julian is fully aware, however, that human beings have yet to experience Christ’s victory completed on earth. The Lord reveals to her that the fiend still has the same malice and evil intentions that he had before the incarnation. And he works as hard as ever to ensnare souls, especially when he sees that those souls that are saved “escape him honorably by virtue of Christ’s precious passion.” But Julian reassures us that Satan “may never do as ill as he would, for his might is all locked in God’s hand.” Julian does not mean to imply that Satan is literally locked in God’s hand, or that God is in any way complicit in the devil’s evil, only that ultimately the “hand” of God destroys the might of evil. Christ spoke of himself as the Good Shepherd whose sheep hear his voice and follow him: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand” (Jn 10:28).
As we continue to mourn the daily tragedies of suffering and death in Ukraine and Israel/Gaza, let us not be cast down by the apparent power of evil to triumph. Let us never forget that we are all – all – God’s children: loved, cherished, and held in the palm of his hand. God will never abandon us. The mystery of suffering that we must endure because of sin – personal, communal, global, environmental -- is beyond our ability to comprehend. But suffering can humble us and bring us to our knees, begging for divine help. And then we are purified, transformed in the very depths of our being, and inspired to unite our sufferings with those of Christ on the cross. Thus our physical pain, our weeping and mourning, all our tragic losses can become truly salvific. And this is because, as Christians, we believe that Christ has taken on all our sufferings and deaths in his own passion and death on the cross and has already brought us into his own resurrection.
Whenever fear, doubt, or even despair threaten to overwhelm us, may we hear Christ reassuring us, even as he did Julian, that by his sacrifice, “herewith is the fiend [evil] overcome.” Every day, may we reaffirm our conviction that “whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and the victory that overcomes the world is our faith” (1 John 5:4). May we take refuge in the reality of Christ’s resurrection – and ours to come – by which all suffering is eviscerated in eternal glory. May we become true images of divine life, love, and light in the world. And may we never forget the promise made to those who persevere: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death. Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). As Christ revealed to Julian: “Sin is behovely [necessary, inevitable] but alle shalle be wele, and alle shalle be wele, and alle manner of thing shalle be wele.”
Please Note: Excerpts above and my translations from the Middle English are from my book: Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books), copyright © by Veronica Mary Rolf.