My first Julian

Enfolded In LoveWhen I was confirmed, on Advent Sunday in 1987, I received this little book. Each of us who was confirmed that day received a different book; my friend was given The Great Divorce by C S Lewis. Our vicar was from East Anglia so that may be why he had chosen this as one of the books presented that day.

Enfolded In Love was first published in 1980, and was the beginning of a series of the same name. There is another book of Julian readings, called In Love Enclosed, in addition to a number of others, including the Cloud of Unknowing, Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila. So many things are referred to as ‘pocket-sized’ when in fact no one has pockets big enough for the items described so, but these books really are: 15cm x 10cm and less than 100 pages.

The series was edited by Fr Robert Llewelyn, who more than anyone else has been responsible for introducing people to Julian and her writing. The royalties from Enfolded In Love and In Love Enclosed were donated to the Julian Centre. I had the honour of meeting him in 1998, but I will write more about him later. He deserves a post devoted solely to him.

This little book is what drew my heart to Julian, and even now I still dip into it when I want to find a quote easily. The translation, credited only to ‘Members of The Julian Shrine’, is beautiful. It uses modern language, but keeps ‘All shall be well’ in its familiar form. The pronoun ‘he’ is not capitalised, as it is in some translations. It is the perfect introduction to Julian’s writing. Unfortunately it seems to be out of print now.

Recently I have been trying out different translations of the Revelations. I’m hoping to find the one which connects me to Julian’s voice the most. There are two I’ve already read which I’ll blog about soon, and another I’ve just started. I’m surprised by how different each one is, how much I may like one or find another difficult. But for the Julian newbie, or for something truly pocket-sized, Enfolded In Love is a great start.

Seek, suffer and trust

Seek, suffer and trust

I have two blogs. I started the first one last year because I wanted to archive the e-mails I had sent to family and friends after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and also to continue writing about Japan. I started this blog recently, because I wanted to explore different topics, and specifically to write about Julian of Norwich. Her Revelations Of Divine Love have been part of my life for many years and are always close to my heart.

I have just spent some time writing about suicide in Japan, and posted it on my other blog; now I find myself pulled here, to bring some light to the darkness I have explored this evening.

I was clinically depressed at university for two years. It was a dark time in my life, and I remember very little from that time, but what I do know is, the person I am, the person I was meant to be, came out of that time. It was during that time that my faith finally struggled through. Somehow I managed to attend confirmation classes through the autumn on 1987 and was confirmed on Advent Sunday that year.

I wanted to find a quote from Julian as the title of this post, and when I opened the edition of Revelations Of Divine Love that I’m reading at the moment (Penguin Classic, translated by Elizabeth Spearing) I saw on page 57, ‘the soul can do no more than seek, suffer and trust’. Although I am over twenty years free of depression, and am incredibly thankful that it has never come back, I can still remember more clearly than I care to just how hard that period of my life was. For those two years I really did ‘seek, suffer and trust’. I had no energy for anything else. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

There are many things that make me thankful that God didn’t give up on me, that He kept trying to get through until I finally listened. Looking back on my teenage years I can see now that my faith was trying to get through, but that the depression  was also on its way. There was only one way through and it was tough, but I needed to go through it. It opened my heart to the concerns of the world, it taught me empathy, it showed me how to live.

There have been times in my life since then that have left me praying only for resilience to keep going until God’s plan reveals itself. Times when I have been unable to imagine how everything could possibly be sorted out. Of course, when I saw how everything fell into place I could look back and think, yes of course, I see why that had to happen. The seeking, the suffering can be a challenge, the trust is sometimes the only thing left, but as a formula to keep going through difficult times it speaks to me.

Seek. Suffer. Trust. Then be thankful that there is light.