Sunday, 4 September 2011

Julian of Norwich Part 4: the hazel nut

In the Short Text, Julian describes a vision that she recieves of a hazel-nut in the palm of her hand. For someone from a scientific background, this  passage represents an interesting meditation on the idea of creation as sustaining in being. But the passage about the hazel nut is placed close to a passage about Our Lady, and it is difficult to read the two passages apart from each other. Together, they place Our Lady at the head of creation, and give to the doctrine of creation a Marian/Christological intent. There is also a hint in the passage of a teaching on union with God that might be more familiar from the writing of St John of the Cross.
And in this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazel-nut, lying in the palm of my hand, and to my mind's eye it was as round as any ball. I looked at it and thought, "What can this be?" And the answer came to me, "It is all that is made". I wondered how it could last, for it was so small I thought it might suddenly disappear. And the answer in my mind was, "It lasts and will last for ever because God loves it; and in the same way everything exists through the love of God". In this little thing I saw three attributes: the first is that God made it, the second is that he loves it, the third is that God cares for it. But what does this mean to me? Truly, the maker, the lover, the carer: for until I become one substance with him, I can never have love, rest or true bliss; that is to say, until I am bound to him that there may be no created thing between my God and me....

Then God brought our Lady into my mind. I saw her spiritually in bodily likeness, a meek and simple maid, young of age, in the same bodily form as when she conceived. God also showed me part of the wisdom and truth of her soul so that I understood with what reverence she beheld her God who is her maker, and how reverently she marvelled that he chose to be born of her, a simple creature of his own making. For what made her marvel was that he who was her Maker chose to be born of the creature he had made... With this sight I really understood that she is greater in worthiness and fullness of grace than all that God made below her; for nothing that is made is above her except the blessed Manhood of Christ. This little thing that is made that is below our Lady Saint Mary, God showed it to me as small as if it had been a hazel-nut. It was so small I thought it might have disappeared.

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