During Women’s History Month and throughout the year, women deserve recognition for their important contributions to church and society. Too often, women leaders have been ignored in church history. In an effort to reclaim and draw inspiration from some of these women, I have written songs highlighting their prophetic ministries. The songs celebrate the power of the Female Divine proclaimed and embodied by these women leaders.
One of these songs features Julian of Norwich, a medieval Christian mystic and theologian. The song “Julian of Norwich Reveals Wisdom’s Way,” sung to the tune of “Be Thou My Vision,” draws from her visions of the Female Divine that continue to expand our spirituality.
Julian of Norwich Reveals Wisdom’s Way
Proverbs 3:13-18, 4:8-9
Julian of Norwich reveals Wisdom’s way,
showing us visions for our current day,
visions of love bringing all into one,
beauty from dawning to setting of sun.
Julian sees Wisdom, Great Mother of All,
sending us power to take down each wall,
changing the world with Her kindness and grace,
opening all doors for each gender and race.
Now Sister Julian inspires us to grow,
reaching our fullness of creative flow;
joined with Sophia, our Wisdom and Friend,
we claim our wholeness, our life without end.
Still Sister Julian reveals mystic dreams,
wellsprings of healing from Earth’s sacred streams.
All shall be well, and all things shall be well;
justice and peace shall forever prevail.
Words © 2017 Jann Aldredge-Clanton SLANE
Thomas Merton called Julian of Norwich “one of the most wonderful of all Christian voices” and the “greatest English theologian.” But there is still little known for certain about her life.
For centuries the church ignored Julian of Norwich (c.1342-c.1416) and her remarkable writings. She wrote theology in a time when the church did not recognize women as preachers or theologians. Also, church leaders may have disregarded Julian because she wrote about her revelations of the Female Divine. Sadly, many churches today still refuse to accept women leaders and discount revelations of the Female Divine in Scripture, Christian tradition, and Christian experience.
Rediscovered in the early 20th century, Julian of Norwich, an anchoress and mystic, proclaims a Christian feminine divinity. Her Revelations of Divine Love, based on a series of sixteen visions she received when she was thirty years old, is the first theological book in the English language known to be written by a woman.
Julian’s vision of the Trinity includes the Female Divine: “God, Almighty, is our kindly Father; and God, All-Wisdom, is our kindly Mother; with the Love and the Goodness of the Holy Ghost, which is all one God.” Julian explains her vision of the all-inclusiveness of the Divine: “As verily as God is our Father, so verily God is our Mother.” God is the “Goodness of the Fatherhood,” the “Wisdom of the Motherhood,” and the “Light and the Grace that is all blessed Love.”
Julian’s visions reveal a Deity who can be called “Mother” as well as “Father.” Julian sees the Motherhood of God as threefold: Creator, Sustainer, and Teacher. God gives birth to us; “our precious Mother, Jesus,” feeds us “with the Blessed Sacrament that is precious food of very life”; and “Our Gracious Mother” teaches us Her kindness and love. “Our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.”
Julian rejects the image of a wrathful God, instead inviting experience of the Divine as unconditional Love and Goodness. Indicated by the title of her book, Revelations of Divine Love, Julian’s visions reveal the Divine as Love. Her revelations include the message that compassionate Love is always given to everyone, and that in this all-gracious God there can be no wrath. She sees only the infinite benevolence and compassion of the Divine.
Though we may feel overwhelmed by all the injustices and violence in our world today, one of Julian’s best-known sayings brings hope: “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”