Monday, 14 September 2015

Julian of Norwich on Triumphs and Trinkets

All men and women who wish to lead the contemplative life . . . should choose to set at nothing everything that is made so as to have the love of God who is unmade. This is why those who choose to occupy themselves with earthly business and are always pursuing worldly success have nothing here of God in their hearts and souls: because they love and seek their rest in this little thing where there is no rest, and know nothing of God, who is almighty, all wise and all good, for he is true rest. God wishes to be known, and is pleased that we should rest in him; for all that is below him does nothing to satisfy us. And this is why, until all that is made seems as nothing, no soul can be at rest. When a soul sets all at nothing for love, to have him who is everything that is good, then it is able to receive spiritual rest.

Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love (Short Text and Long Text), short text chapter 4, translated by Elizabeth Spearing (London: Penguin Classics, 1998), p. 8

I would say there is nothing wrong at all with success or material possessions in and of themselves; achievement and personal belongings are to be enjoyed. But here’s the point: they are to be enjoyed, not to satisfy. Seeking ultimate fulfilment in these things cannot happen, and the erroneous belief that triumphs and trinkets will complete a person leads only to a meaningless chasing after wind (Ecc. 1:14).


  1. I do love Julian of Norwich - bit of girl power and wotnot. It strikes me as strange that we don't recognise her more, even in the secular world. She is, after all, the first person to write a book in English (not just the first woman to do so), and the fact that what she wrote was so stunning, so life-changing - well, you'd think her importance speaks for itself.

    1. Yes, you're right. I've been watching the BBC2 programme The Ascent of Woman, and I wonder if Julian will feature in future episodes. The presenter certainly celebrated female Oriental writers.

      This is the first time I've started to read the Revelations. My wife and I visited her cell in Norwich a few years ago, and I bought the book while I was there . . . but only now do I feel the time is right to read it.

    2. When I say 'her cell', I mean Julian's, not my wife's. ;)


    3. There's a lovely little guest house next door run by a convent. Wonderful place. Best communion I ever experienced was there - just the priest, the nun and the dog :-)