Today is the day in our church calendar when we remember Julian of Norwich, a woman who could be the patron saint of our current circumstances. Julian was born in 1343, and lived in the English city of Norwich during a time of plague and the social unrest that followed. People were sick and dying. Religious dissent met with violent ends. Demands for justice went unheard, or were immediately and brutally suppressed. And while all suffered, those who were poor bore the worst of the economic fallout at that time.
Julian’s faithful response to what was happening around her was voluntary seclusion. She spent much of her life as an anchoress: someone who committed to living in a small room attached to a church. The room had no doors, but one window opened into the worship space and another window opened out to the community. She spent her days in prayer and contemplation, and also found time to talk with community members who came to her for counsel. She was a writer as well: her book Revelations of Divine Love is the earliest surviving book in the English language written by a woman.
Julian’s most often quoted line is, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” It seems audacious (if not outright delusional!) to say these words out loud now, as it probably seemed then. And still…even though we may need to radically redefine what “well” means to us in our own unsettling time, Julian speaks these words to us across the centuries. She reminds us that any darkness we experience is not all-encompassing. In her words and in her life, Julian insists that faith stands firm against fear, that we can connect with one another even in extreme isolation, and that even in chaos we can access the hope that magnifies the insistent blessing of God’s love.