If you know anything about Christian mystics, you have probably heard of Julian of Norwich, famous for the words Jesus told her in a vision, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and absolutely everything shall be well.” I have felt an awe for her ever since learning about her serving as a spiritual director from her reclusive cell as a Anchoress, giving counsel to people who traveled from far and wide. She devoted her life to meditation and even lived through the plagues, probably losing several family members (some even think a husband and children). She prayed for visions and she received them. Her writings helped, and are still helping, to transform some of the Catholic Church’s teachings. Her book is believed to be the oldest surviving copy of a book written in English by a woman. She was a survivor, a visionary, a trendsetter. When the anxiety of COVID-19 struck, I felt called to finally read her writings for myself. And this version specifically called out to me. I have poured over the layered chunks of texts for days, gaining new insights with each reading.
Ellyn Sanna translates the medieval text of Julian’s 16 Showings (revelations) into modern day English, beginning each chapter with a an explanation of why she she chose the words that she did or explaining something about the context of the language of that time period. She takes the liberty of using female pronouns or non gender specific language in order to bring the inclusivity that she believes Julian would write today. She shares what Julian wrote about her 16 visions and what Julian believed about them. Julian’s original writing is more than just her direct experience of the visions but also about what years of meditating on them have revealed to her.
What I like about this book:
- The way that Sanna gives the history behind the language and the thinking of the time, not only in the introduction but at the beginning of each chapter. This quick description about what I would find in the writing ahead hooked me in as a reader. The modern language and Sanna’s interpretation made Julian’s writings easier to understand.
- Julian’s description of God as maternal and the story telling quality of some of her visions.
- The comfort of the underlying theme that all is well. It may not always feel that way, but underneath it all we are safe.
- The way that bits and pieces, like Lucky Charm marshmallows in a bowl of milk, would surface again, tasting even better later on. These repetitive bits of wisdom would linger or arise in my daily life. It was in a way like meditation. The simple act of reading a little of this book each day gave me a greater sense of peace that I carried throughout the week.
- This is not a book that is to be read straight through, but rather to be digested in small chunks and revisited to gain new insight.
- You may want to read other translations of the text if you want the literal translation of Julian’s words. (Which may include old English like thee and thou.)
About the Author: Julie Glaser is a healer who creates sacred spaces for people to share, release, and grow. She’s in the habit of being in awe and wonder and writes to share her own experiences with other inquisitive souls in the process of transforming.