Today the church commemorates the life and witness of Julian of Norwich.
Click here for an Evening Prayer liturgy with texts from Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich lived as a contemplative; that is to say she spent a good deal of time pondering the big picture. One day Julian had a vision. It was a vision of Jesus and in that vision Jesus was holding a ball; that ball was all of creation and instantly Julian understood that contained in the vision was the gift of knowledge and that knowledge is that all of creation was created by God, held by God and loved by God. Suddenly, there was in Julian’s hand a hazel nut. A tiny little hazel nut and staring down and that hazel nut, Julian knew that that beautiful, wondrous little nut was created by God, held by God and loved by God. The gift of that knowledge led to an even greater gift of knowledge because suddenly Julian knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she Julian was created by God, held by God, and loved by God and that very knowledge led her to have the faith she needed to believe that “all will be well; all things will be exceedingly well.”
I see Julian’s insight as a beautiful definition of what faith is: knowing beyond belief that you are created by God, you are held by God, you are loved by God. There’s no need to sweat the details, because “All will be well; all things will be exceedingly well.” That’s the gift of faith, the knowledge that we are created held and loved by God and that all will be well; all things will be exceedingly well. That gift of faith, the knowing beyond belief that you are created, loved and held, gives you the freedom to live and the freedom to die: to die secure in the knowledge that all will be well; all things will be exceedingly well. As for the details, the gift of faith means you don’t need to worry about the details. It’s enough to know that when a seed falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. We don’t have the details. I can’t give you a list of details and say, “hey here you go just believe these answers and all will be well.” All I can tell you is the same thing that I declare loudly and clearly at every graveside I’ve ever presided over: in the words of the Apostle Paul I declare: “Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is they victory? O death, where is thy sting?’”
Trusting that we need not fear death is a powerful freedom that liberates us to live fully here and now, knowing beyond belief that all will be well!