We know little about the life of Lady Julian of Norwich (c. 1342-c.1416). She was an anchoress, living in a small dwelling (an anchorhold) attached to St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England. Her companions were a cat and two women to help her with daily needs. Her time was spent in prayer and study. The anchorhold had two windows, one facing the church so she could join in the Eucharist (some women mystics lived on nothing but!), the other the street so she could receive visitors who had come for spiritual guidance.
In May 1373, on the verge of death (she recovered), God gave her 16 showings, revelations of His divine love for the world. She wrote down a short version then and a longer one 20 year later, having meditated on this gift, given her to help the wider world. Today we’ll read from the longer version.
Julian of Norwich. Revelations of Divine Love. Clifton Wolters, trans. and intro. London: Penguin, 1966. A modern English translation of the longer version of Lady Julian’s Showings with introduction.
—. Revelations of Divine Love. Elizabeth Spearing, trans. London: Penguin, 1998. A modern English translation of both the shorter and longer version of the Showings with introduction and notes.
—. The Showings of Julian of Norwich. Denise N. Baker, ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. Norton Critical Editions. A Middle English edition of the longer text with introduction, contexts, criticism, and a selected bibliography.
Other Resources & Studies Concerning Julian
Humphrey, Edith M. Ecstasy and Intimacy, When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2006. An introduction to Christian spirituality with a chapter on the mystics devoting a portion to Lady Julian alongside The Imitation of Christ. (She also discusses St. Gregory of Nyssa.)
McEntire, Sandra J., ed. Julian of Norwich, A Book of Essays. New York: Garland, 1998.
Moye, Jerry. Praying with the Saints: Julian of Norwich & Francis of Assisi. Smyth & Helwys, Pub, 1996. If you find a copy, let me know!
The Anthology of Middle English Literature: Julian of Norwich. This website contains loads of information regarding Lady Julian, as well as links to other useful websites about her.
The Christian Classics Ethereal Library. The longer version, translated in 1901 from Middle to Elizabethan English, oddly enough.
Liturgies of the Order of Julian of Norwich.
The Shrine and Cell of the Lady Julian of Norwich. A website from the church of St. Julian, giving information about Julian, her visions, and parish life.
The Order of Julian of Norwich. An order of contemplative monks and nuns trying to live in the spirit of Lady Julian in The Episcopal Church USA.
The Middle Ages saw the flourishing of the Christian mystical tradition, including many female mystics. The goal of the mystic, through prayer, meditation, and contemplation, is to come near to God, experience His touch, become united to Him through grace.
The Cloud of Unknowing. New York: Dell, 1983.
Dupré, Louis, and James A. Wiseman. Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1988. Edith Humphrey: “Helpful introductory essays and selections from spiritual theologians”.
Egan, Harvey D. An Anthology of Christian Mysticism. Second edition. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1996. Humphrey: “Another helpful introduction, with extensive selections, to spiritual theologians”.
Hildegard von Bingen. Selected Writings. London: Penguin Books, 2001.
Meister Eckhart. Selected Writings. London: Penguin Books, 1994.
Petry, Ray C. Late Medieval Mysticism. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1957. From The Library of Christian Classics, includes 13 late mediaeval mystics.
Knowles, David. The English Mystical Tradition. New York: Harper, 1961.
McGinn, Bernard. The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism vols. 2-4: The Growth of Mysticism, The Flowering of Mysticism, & The Harvest of Mysticism in Medieval Germany. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1995.
Walsh, James. Pre-Reformation English Spirituality. London: Burns & Oates, 1966.