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Study Questions for Julian of Norwich's Book of Showings (aka Revelation of Divine Love)

Vocabulary: anchoress, anchorhold, imagery, mystics

Introduction: When did Julian experience her visions? (i.e, what year?) How old was she at the time?

Lecture or Handouts:

Explain the significance of the following images in Julian's writings:

The Hazelnut
Warm Clothing

Reading Questions:

  • Chapter 2:
  • What does Julian mean when she calls herself an "unlettered creature"?
  • When does Julian say her visions took place?
  • What three things does Julian pray for?
  • Chapter 3:
  • When did Julian experience her visions? (i.e, what year?) How old was she at the time?
  • How long does Julian lie sick before she sees the vision?
  • What image does the Vicar hold before Julian's face as she thinks she is dying?
  • What does Julian imagine is around the cross in the darkness that makes the cross ugly and terrifying?
  • Chapter 4:
  • What does Julian mean when she says she saw the crucifixion "without any intermediary"?
  • Chapter 5: What is the sign of god's familiar love? How does it relate to clothing?
  • What, according to Julian, is the round little object like a hazelnut that rests in her hand in the vision? What, according to Julian, prevents that little hazelnut-like object from falling into nothing?
  • Chapter 58: What unusual change does Julian make to the traditional trinitarian formula of "father, son and holy ghost" in her writing? What does she mean to suggest by this change?
  • Chapter 60: What contrast does Julian make between the way a mother feeds her child and how Christ feeds his [her?] children? How does Mother Christ lead lead humanity to his/her breast? (i.e. through what opening in his body?)
  • Chapter 61: Why does God allow people to "fall" according to Julian?
  • Chapter 86: According to Julian, what is the meaning of her visions?
  • What sort of people does Julian pray will come into possession of her book in future ages?

Passage Identifications: Be prepared to identify where these quotations come from, who wrote them, and comment briefly on their significance in the author's work.

A. This revelation was made to a simple, unlettered creature, living in this mortal flesh, the year of our Lord one thousand, three hundred and seventy-three, on the thirteenth of May, and before this the creature had desired three graces by the gift of God. The first was recollection of the Passion. The second was bodily sickness. The third was to have, of God's gift, three wounds.

B. And when I was thirty and a half years old, God sent me a bodily sickness in which I lay for three days and three nights, and the third night I received all the rites of Holy Church, and did not expect to live until day. . . . So I lasted until day, and by then my body was dead from the middle downwards, as it felt to me. Then I was helped to sit upright and supported. . . . My curate was sent for to be present at my end, and before he came my eyes were fixed upwards, and I could not speak. He set the cross before my face, and said: I have brought the image of your savior; look at it and take comfort from it.

C. And at this suddenly I saw the red blood running down from under the crown, hot and flowing freely and copiously, a living stream, just as it was at the time when the crown of thorns was pressed on his blessed head. I preceived, truly and powerfully, that it was he who just so, both God and man, himself suffered for me, who showed it to me without any intermediary.

D. At the same time as I saw this sight of the head bleeding, our good Lord showed a spiritual sight of his familiar love. I saw that he is to us everything that is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us.

E. And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eyes of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing.

F. When I was young, I desired to have this sickness when I would be thirty years old. As to the third [request], by the grace of God and the teachings of Holy Church I conceived a great desire to receive three wounds in my life, that is, the wound of true contrition, the wound of loving compassion, and the wound of longing with my will for God.

G. For [Christ] is our Mother, brother, and savior. . . . father, husband, lover.

H. Amen. Jesus. Amen. I pray almighty God that this book may not come except into the hands of those who wish to be his faithful lovers, and those who will submit themselves to the faith of Holy Church and the wholesome understanding and teaching of men who are of virtuous life, settled age and profound learning. . . . And beware that you do not accept one thing which is according to your pleasure and liking, and reject another, for that is the disposition of heretics.


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