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Dealing with the wrath issue

07 October 2016

David Wilbourne on applying the insights of Julian of Norwich

The Drawing of this Love: Growing in faith with Julian of Norwich
Robert Fruehwirth
Canterbury Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70



STEEPED in Mother Julian of Norwich’s Revelations, Robert Fruehwirth (Interview, 2 September) aims with the surest touch to enable people radically to apply her immense wisdom to their own situation. Each short chapter is a Julian exercise, including intensely personal meditations, such as on totally suspending the habit of judging anyone, or very hard-hitting questions, such as “Does your prayer life ever lead to action in the world?”

Fruehwirth seeks to move us from an angst-ridden state where everything is amiss to a hard-won Julian nirvana where nothing is amiss. In a turbulent 14th century and turbulent life, where a wrathful, judgemental God squatted hoof and mouth under every altar and pew, Julian proved a woman of many surprises. She had the nerve, sprung by intensely traumatic visions of the Passion, to see no wrath whatsoever in God. Watch Julian’s lips: no wrath because we have spoiled his creation, no wrath for wilfully wrecking our lives: no wrath whatsoever. The cross didn’t slake God’s wrath but ours, with a mother-like God, infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering, physically opening his heart to let his love, like a divine sea, flow into our arid stench-ridden creeks, and enable life, forgiveness, and acceptance to flourish.

Julian’s famous dictum, “All shall be well”, is carefully analysed to avoid her being cast as a 1960s hippy with a shameless spirituality. In an all-too-broken world, Julian unwaveringly champions a futuristic eschatology where all will be seen to have a purpose in God’s plan. That plan is not plain to us lesser mortals now, and we can actually damage our obsessive selves trying to figure out the unfathomable. Best to go with Sonny, a Julian reincarnate in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — “Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not yet the end!”

For Fruehwirth’s Julian, the tension between never falling in the sight of God and never standing in our own sight is resolved by the single fact that God is sovereign and trumps all, liberating us to be more generous with ourselves, and more courageous in our engagement with his creation. By the end of this marvellous book, remarkably, absolutely nothing seemed amiss.

Veronica Rolf, author of the excellent Julian’s Gospel (whose vast biographical detail complements Fruehwirth’s work), tells me Mother Julian is watching over me. If I and the Church could only inherit a tenth of her marvellous mantle, all truly would be well.


The Rt Revd David Wilbourne is the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff.

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