Sanctification | Falling for Julian

Sanctification | Falling for Julian June 7, 2023

Sanctification | Falling for Julian

Poliphio | statue of Dame Julian | 12.18.12 | creative commons

“For if we never fell, we should not know how feeble and how wretched we are of our self, and also we should not fully know that marvellous love of our maker.” Julian of Norwich, Showings, chapter LXI

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My first reaction to this quote is I’m not sure falling is the best way to get to know the love of God. In a way, it seems like we’re putting God to the test, or testing the limits of His grace.

falling for Julian

On second thought, I’m falling for Julian because she is very gentle in her treatment of sin and grace. She does not dismiss sin by any stretch of the imagination.

However, God takes our foibles into account and silences them with His all-encompassing love and grace. What the enemy means for evil, God merely uses as another means of expressing His love, grace, and forgiveness to us.

Aren’t we supposed to be on a bee-line for holiness and sanctification?

Aren’t we supposed to be striving for Godliness?

I don’t think Julian would disagree. Yes we are to be maturing in our Christian walk. She has much to say about considering the cross of Christ and his sufferings. In many ways, by considering the cross, we lose desires for our sins which placed Him on the tree.

However, there seems to be no pressure to conform to an outward standard in Julian’s writings. I say this against the backdrop of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, which holds to many outward standards. Julian is in an order of nuns, so of course she holds standards. However, rather than teaching outward conformity, she is teaching about the interior life, a personal relationship. In this way, Julian is very much in line with the quiet, gentle mystics.

For Julian then, sanctification is not a zero-sum game, the ultimate expression of Christ-likeness on earth.

Julian reflects on the Christ event and God’s goodness mystically overcomes her.

If I could sum up her approach to sanctification with one of Paul’s statements, I would say:

Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2.4.b, NRSV

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