Introductory Note:

First, and most obvious, Julian is a theological optimist. Standing over against the pessimism and sin-absorption of the popular theology of much of the Middle Ages and in spite of living in the midst of devastating cultural revolution and the collapse of centuries-old institutions and patterns of life on which whole cultures had been based—Julian stands forward astoundingly as a primary voice of hope.

When we think of the events during her life in England, the parallels with our own time present themselves with awesome clarity. She saw the assassination of a king and an archbishop, and the nationwide rioting of the poor in the Peasants’ Rebellion. She lived through three sieges of the Black Death, which struck Norwich with exceptional devastation and killed over half of the population there, saw the beginning of the Hundred Years War between England and France…

This was the mad, crumbling world in which this exceptional woman lived, and it was in this world that, astoundingly, she was able to accept and articulate those most famous words: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

—Fr John-Julian OJN, from the introduction to Revelations of Divine Love

And all this brought our Lord sud­den­ly to my mind and He showed these words and said:

I am the ground of thy pray­ing–
first, it is my will that thou have some­thing,
and next I make thee to want it,
and after­ward I cause thee to pray for it.
If thou prayest for it,
how, then, could it be that thou wouldst not get what thou ask­est for?”

And thus in the first propo­si­tion, with the three that fol­low, our good Lord shows a pow­er­ful encour­age­ment, as can be seen in the above words.

In that first state­ment, where He says: If thou prayest for it, etc.,“
there He shows the very great plea­sure and end­less reward that
He will give us because of our praying.

In the sec­ond state­ment, where He says: how then, could it be? etc,
this was said as an impos­si­ble thing,
because it is the most impos­si­ble thing that can be that we
should pray for mer­cy and grace and not get it.

Because every­thing that our good Lord caus­es us to pray for,
He him­self has already appoint­ed to us from with­out beginning.

Here can we see, then, that it is not our pray­ing that is the cause of the good­ness and grace that He does for us,
but God’s own char­ac­ter­is­tic good­ness.

And that He showed truth­ful­ly in all those sweet words when He says, I am the ground.”

And our good Lord wills that this be rec­og­nized by His lovers on earth
and the more that we rec­og­nize this,
the more we shall pray (if it is wise­ly accept­ed)
and this is our Lord’s intention.

Pray­ing is
a true, gra­cious, last­ing inten­tion of the soul
one-ed and made fast to the will of our Lord
by the sweet, secret work­ing of the Holy Spirit.


Our Lord God wish­es for us to have true under­stand­ing, and espe­cial­ly in three mat­ters that are relat­ed to our prayer.

The first is by whom and how our prayer orig­i­nates;
by whom,” He shows when He says, I am the ground. …”, and
how” is by His good­ness, for He says, First, it is my will.”

For the sec­ond, in what man­ner and how we should prac­tice our
prayers; and that is that our will be trans­formed into the will
of our Lord, rejoic­ing; and this He means when He says, I
make thee to will it…”

For the third, that we under­stand the fruit and the end of our
prayer: that is, to be one-ed to and like our Lord in everything.

And for this mean­ing and for this end was all this lov­ing les­son shown; and He wish­es to help us, if we will make our prayer just as He says Him­self — blessed may He be!

This is our Lord’s will:
that our prayer
and our trust
be both equal­ly great.

For if we do not trust as much as we pray,
we do incom­plete hon­or to our Lord in our prayer,
and also we delay and pain our­selves;
and the rea­son is, as I believe, because
we do not tru­ly acknowl­edge that our Lord is the ground on
which our prayer grows,
and also that we do not rec­og­nize that prayer is giv­en us by the
grace of His love.
For if we knew this, it would make us trust that we would
receive, by our Lord’s gift, all that we desire.


I per­ceived in me five kinds of oper­a­tions, which are these:

and cer­tain hope:

rejoic­ing” because God gave me under­stand­ing and knowl­edge that it was Him­self that I saw;

mourn­ing,” and that was because of failing;

desire,” and that was that I might see Him ever more and more, under­stand­ing and acknowl­edg­ing that we shall nev­er have full rest till we see Him tru­ly and clear­ly in heaven;

fear” was because it seemed to me in all that time that that vision would fail and I would be left to myself;

cer­tain hope” was in the end­less love, that I saw I would be pro­tect­ed by His mer­cy and brought to His bliss, and rejoic­ing in His sight with this cer­tain hope of His mer­ci­ful pro­tec­tion gave me under­stand­ing and com­fort so that mourn­ing and fear were not great­ly painful.

And yet in all this I beheld in the show­ing of God that this kind of vision of Him can­not be con­stant in this life — and that for His own hon­or and for increase of our end­less joy.

And there­fore we are fre­quent­ly with­out the sight of Him,
and at once we fall into our­selves,
and then we dis­cov­er no sense of right­ness — noth­ing but the
con­trari­ness that is with­in our­selves
(and that from the ancient root of our First Sin with all that
fol­lows after from our own con­trivance)
and in this we are trou­bled and tempt­ed with a sense of sins and
of pains in many dif­fer­ent ways, spir­i­tu­al­ly and bod­i­ly, as it is
famil­iar to us in this life.


But our good Lord, the Holy Spir­it
(who is end­less life dwelling in our soul),
full safe­ly keeps us,
and makes a peace in the soul,
and brings it to rest by grace,
and makes it sub­mis­sive,
and rec­on­ciles it to God.

And this is the mer­cy and the way in which our Lord con­stant­ly leads us as long as we are here in this change­able life.

Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich, introduced and translated by Fr. John-Julian, OJN. Copyright 2011 by The Order of Julian of Norwich. Used by permission of Paraclete Press.

Image: From Revelations of Divine Love Manuscript 37790, Digital collection of the British Library. Public Domain.

Text First Published December 2009 · Last Featured on October 2022

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

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