One of my favorite saints is a woman whose name we do not even know. We know she lived in Norwich, England and was born about 1343. She eventually took the name of the parish church where she prayed which is St. Julian’s – probably Julian of Antioch who died a martyr sometime in the early 4th century. At any rate, Julian of Norwich, lived in the small cathedral city in the 14th century that was characterized by three rounds of bubonic plague. In 1373, when she was about 30, she became deathly ill. The parish priest came to her bedside and set a large crucifix in front of her. Staring at the crucifix in her fevered state, she experienced 16 visions of Jesus on the cross telling her all manner of things about her, God, and everything. She recovered from her sickness, became an “anchoress” living in the church and offering her constant prayers for the people of the parish. (We have many such anchors among us in our congregation and in our larger church today!) And she spent the rest of her life writing down and wrestling with the things Jesus had shown her from the cross in her sickness. Today we have her book where she grapples with all God showed her.
Sometimes it is in our darkest moments when we see the clearest. There is no doubt in my mind and soul that in the upheavals of these days, God has many new things to reveal to each of us with clarity and, of course, with divine love. Who knows how we may grapple with the life-giving things God shows us in this time for the rest of our lives! Pay attention these days to what you might see. Let the strange newness of these days be grounded in the unchangeable love of God. Look on Jesus and see what he says to you. Anchor yourself in our parish and know you are not only among people who love you but you are in the almighty heart of the one who gave everything to save you.
There are many wonderful images and ideas in Julian’s showings. But perhaps the most lovely image is memorialized in a stained glass window in the little parish church in Norwich. In the stained glass St. Julian looks to Jesus on the cross, suffering, and sees the painful nails and hard wood turn to spring flowers. Jesus smiles. Almost dances even on the cross. He mothers her through her life. And says “All shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well.” There will be difficult moments ahead. There will be moments of Grace and glory ahead. And perhaps some of the moments will be both. May we see with clarity, our savior, and know with faithful certainty that all shall be well.
The Very Rev. Gary Barker