Revelations of Divine Love (Oxford World's Classics) by Julian of Norwich and Barry Windeatt (Translator)
|Revelations of Divine Love (Oxford World's Classics) by Julian of Norwich and Barry Windeatt (Translator)|
|Category: Spirituality and Religion|
|Reviewer: Rev Michael Johnson|
|Summary: A fascinating set of meditations on Christianity that, although written in the 14th century, have modern day relevance. This excellent new translation ensures they remain easy to read and understand, whether an existing Julian of Norwich enthusiast or encountering her writings for the first time.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: May 2015|
|Publisher: UOP Oxford|
Julian of Norwich was a 14th century anchoress; a nun whose life existed around her small bricked-off cell within a church, dispensing counsel to those who sought it, contemplating God and digging her own grave. Not the most cheery existence but a devout and peaceful one for those who felt they were called to it.
Julian of Norwich would probably have remained as anonymous as other anchoresses of her time if it wasn't for a serious illness that hit her in 1373. During this illness she felt she experienced or received a series of visions. Her interpretation and meditations based on these visions have assured Julian's place in history as a profound thinker and theological philosopher. Now, Barry Windeatt brings us a new translation and set of accompanying notes, bringing Julian to a new audience as well as satisfying those who regularly dip into her works.
Barry is a Cambridge academic but not in an off-putting way. His background is useful for the level of skill and insight with which it endows him. However this isn't a high-falluting book that only the degree-awarded will find value. On the contrary, not only is Julian of Norwich's unique voice captured, the translator's deft touch ensures it's engaging and understandable. In fact over and over again Julian (and by extension, Professor Windeatt) prove that the simplest statements hold the deepest truths.
For instance When we do not see Gold, then we need to pray because of what we are lacking… But no kind of prayer makes God compliant to the soul, because God's love is always the same.
Or, what has become one of Julian's greatest hits that many people quote without realising its origin:
All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
There are also some wonderful metaphors as when, during a vision, Julian sees God liken the world's fragility to an unshelled walnut and goes on to turn this observation into an assurance of love.
The book has three elements: the short descriptions of the visions written on what Julian thought was her deathbed, Julian's longer interpretations when she recovered and the translator's excellent notes in which any medieval concepts and phrases that have changed meaning over the centuries are explained.
How we respond to this book and the ideas within it will depend on our religious viewpoint. The European 14th century church was almost entirely Roman Catholic, therefore Julian's writings encompass such concepts as purgatory which may be a barrier to some faiths and denominations today. However, this can be useful as looking at others' beliefs allows us to confirm or expand our own belief systems. Also in addition to the more RC-specific thoughts there are universal truths and moments that resonate in modern day theology. For instance Julian talks of God and Jesus as mothers as well as the more traditional fatherly role, making us realise that the theology of the recent Evangelical best seller The Shack is actually rooted in Medieval Roman Catholic Mysticism.
The gift of Julian of Norwich is that in a post-modern, Enlightenment-influenced modern world, she reminds us that the Christian faith is about God loving us in a living relationship. Even if we don't give a jot about post-modernism or the Enlightenment, Julian of Norwich still has some interesting messages that definitely give us something a little different to mull over.
(Thank you, OUP Oxford for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoy the challenge of others' ideas, we also recommend Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, if you would rather see what the author of The Shack did next, then it's Cross Roads by Wm Paul Young. On the other hand, if you're an atheist, try An Atheist's History of Belief by Matthew Kneale.
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