My third Julian

julian3My third Julian is my favourite so far. After I finished the older Penguin Classic version (translated by Clifton Wolters) just before Easter, I decided that I wanted to continue reading Julian aloud, and this translation was my next choice. This is the current Penguin Classic version, translated by Elizabeth Spearing; it’s easy to find in the UK, but seems less readily available in the US (according to Amazon).

Like the Clfton Wolters translation, this one also has a very good introduction. I was interested to read that analysis of Julian’s dialect can suggest that she could have moved to Norwich but have been originally from further north. Since I grew up in Sheffield, I wonder if something in Julian’s cadences reminds me of the dialect I grew up hearing. This book also has a translator’s note, which I found useful. I was fascinated to read how the translator had approached the task, particularly regarding Julian’s very long sentences. She also mentions wanting to ‘keep the sound of a woman’s speaking voice’, and I feel she achieves this very well. As a text to read aloud it is accessible and flows naturally.

This translation contains both the short and long texts, which is another reason to choose this version, and retains the chapter headings, although there is no consensus on whether these were written by Julian herself or not. They have been part of the text for a very long time, and personally I find them helpful. For the most part the translation is from the manuscript known as S1, held at the British Library, although sometimes for clarification the translator has referred to the manuscript known as the Paris manuscript, held at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Unlike the Clifton Wolters translation, Spearing’s work retains the traditional wording of ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well,’ which is satisfying to find. While understanding that Wolters’ translation truly updated the words while keeping the sense of what Julian meant, I felt disappointed to not find the traditional words there.

As I already mentioned, this is my favourite of the translations I have read so far. I am reading my fifth at the moment, but am a little behind on my blogging. Since I read Julian’s writings aloud, and read to hear her voice and connect with her, this works very well for me. I have already given it as a gift to several people. It’s a wonderful book. If you want to dip your toe into Julian, then the Enfolded In Love book is a lovely way to get an idea of her writing, but if you want to read the Revelations in their entirety this is the book to read.


July 7th 2013

CJN2Last Sunday, I became a Companion of Julian of Norwich. After twenty years as a member of the Friends of Julian, it was a new step, a new commitment.

The Companions started in 2009, as a more committed group within the Friends. I remember receiving the quarterly newsletter and reading about the Companions, how my initial feeling was, how lovely . . . but it’s too much for me. It seemed too much of a stretch. Regretfully, I concluded that it wasn’t for me.

At the beginning of 2011, our previous rector left and we began an interim period at church with a temporary priest. I am sad to say, I feel like I pressed ‘pause’ on my faith in some ways. I don’t mean to suggest I had doubts, if anything I knew very clearly how I felt, but the priest and the services in that two-year period left me feeling isolated, out-of-sync with the church. A year ago, that priest left, and we had another interim priest, this one only for a few months, but I started to feel better; she was someone I felt comfortable with, I enjoyed her sermons, and started to feel like I could feel at home again at church. Autumn brought two candidates to visit, and by November our new rector had arrived, and I felt fully home at church. Amazingly, I discovered that he was an oblate in the Order of Julian of Norwich.

As Lent approached, I decided that this year I would spend the year re-reading Julian, but this time I would read her aloud. As I read, I felt a connection with Julian, with her voice, in a way I had never felt before. Something else started to grow, too. I started to feel that I could become a Companion, that the stretch was still a stretch, but not an impossible one.

And so began a process to start to live the rule, to make an application, and finally, last Sunday, to be received as a Companion. I had expected the process to take much longer, and I think in my mind I had imagined that maybe by the end of the year I would know if my application was successful. In the end it all happened so quickly; I first discussed my desire to become a Companion with the rector only three months ago, and now, here I am.

I had also imagined that, if I was received as a Companion, that it would happen at the Julian Shrine, but last Sunday’s short ceremony took place at church in Tokyo. Of course, I’m going to visit Norwich when I’m back in the UK over the summer, but it felt right to have the ceremony at my home church, in the space where I worship every week, in the city where my life is, where my friends, my job and all the other parts of my life are focused.

So I was received as a Companion at the end of Evening Prayer. There were only a few people there, but three dear friends who had prayed with me about this step and who had supported and encouraged me were there. There were no Companions there to take part, but there was our rector, ObJN, my Tokyo part of the wider Julian family. The quote I chose from Julian’s Revelations was this:

“Let us fly to our Lord and we shall be comforted, touch him and we shall be made clean, cling to him and we shall be safe and secure from all manner of peril; for our courteous Lord wants us to be as friendly with him as the heart may conceive or the soul may desire.”
(Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 77)

I am feeling very blessed, and I am feeling that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have created another page detailing the Companions’ commitment, which you can find if you click on ‘CJN’ at the top of the page. It may seem like a big commitment when you read it; alternatively, you may wonder why I thought it was a stretch. I suppose it depends on the circumstances of your own life and the commitments you have made yourself.

I am feeling very connected, even though all the other Companions are many miles away. To know that I have joined them, I have joined my prayers to theirs, is a wonderful and powerful feeling. I am making a short retreat at All Hallows in Norwich next month and am looking forward to meeting the people there, at the Julian Centre and the Shrine.

I spent two years feeling a little numb, feeling a little cut off from the other people at church. I see now that it was a necessary step to spend time thinking and praying about how I felt and why. In that time, my father died and in Tokyo we lived through the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. It wasn’t easy but having come through it I can say I am glad it all happened. Just like Lent before Easter, I needed a time in my own little wilderness to prepare for the technicolour delight of where I find myself today.

I am a Companion of Julian of Norwich. I am blessed. I am right where I’m supposed to be.


My second Julian

Julian2I don’t remember when I bought this book, but it was my second Julian, and my first full translation. Now I have a number of different translations, but for many years it was the only one I had. Today it seems a little battered and worn, but considering it has accompanied me for what must be over twenty years it doesn’t look too bad.

I don’t know how many times I had read it, but when I was thinking about a text for my Lenten meditation this year it struck me that it would be a good idea to read Julian again, but this time to read her aloud. To lend her my voice during Lent. What a wonderful idea that turned out to be, one I do not take credit for, simply because it seemed so right and worked so well.

This Penguin Classics translation by Clifton Walters was published in 1966. Clifton Wolters was Provost of Newcastle Cathedral and translated not only Julian’s Revelations but also The Cloud of Unknowing and The Fire of Love by Richard Rolle. It has since been replaced in the Penguin Classics series by a more recent translation by Elizabeth Spearing, but it is still easy to find a second-hand copy.

The first thing I liked about this translation was the introduction. Only thirty-four pages long, it is a wonderful overview of the church and society Julian knew, the little information known about Julian herself, and the main themes of the Revelations.

The translation itself is modern, it flows naturally and is easy to read aloud. This book contains only the long version of Julian’s writing, and each chapter is headed with an analysis of the contents, which it is noted at the beginning of the book was compiled by ‘a later scribe’ and was ‘not part of the original book’. I find these headings useful and miss them when they are omitted. The short text does not have them, and other translations sometimes omit them or use other forms.

Reading this text aloud I found it spoke to my heart. I could hear Julian’s voice and to my surprise sometimes found her funny and always down-to-earth. The great let-down for me was the translation of Julian’s most famous words: ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’. In this translation it becomes, ‘it is all going to be all right; it is all going to be all right; everything is going to be all right’.

It was rather shocking to realise that ‘all shall be well . . . ‘ was nowhere to be found in this translation, since this is Julian’s best-known quote, but at the same time I felt that this is truly what we would say, and therefore it does fit. You miss out on ‘all shall be well . . . ‘ and if you know Julian from anywhere you are expecting to find it, but wouldn’t we reassure someone with ‘everything is going to be all right’? I understand why the writer of a modern translation would use these words. And yet, and yet . . . I missed the quote. For me, it is the weakness of this translation.

Having said that, this is a wonderful translation, and one I know I will read again and again. I am still trying to find the one that best suits my way of reading Julian, and my third Julian is my favourite so far, but Clifton Wolters’ translation is definitely worth reading.