A Prayer for Our Time
By Rev. Dr. Daniel Cochran
“All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.” So ends a famous prayer penned by Julian of Norwich, a medieval English mystic who spent much of her life meditating on visions of Christ that she received in 1373, when she was 30 years old. She recorded these visions in her journal and, later, in a book that survives to this day: Showings or Revelations of Divine Love. As far as we know, this is the very first book written by a woman in the English language.
In Showings, Julian reflects beautifully on the cosmic power of God’s divine love and on our human desire to receive that love—our longing for salvation. While we moderns tend to portray the medieval Church as somewhat dark and primitive, Julian’s theology emerges as a radiant light. She celebrates the gracious and loving heart of God that inspires us to live optimistic or hopeful lives, even in the face of uncertainty and suffering.
And Julian knew a thing or two about suffering! She was just 5 years old when the Black Death, or bubonic plague, swept through her country, killing anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of the population; the plague would return to England in waves throughout her life. In 1373, when she received her famous visions, she was so ill that many thought she might die. She recovered and wrote Showings in the midst of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, a popular uprising spurred on by the plague’s economic impact. The rebels stormed London, setting fire to centers of law and government, before they were dispersed by King Richard II.
Julian emerged in the midst of all of this suffering and unrest to share her vision of God’s grace and mercy. There’s no sentimentality or naivete in her writing; her faith in God’s loving presence was experienced and affirmed in both the mundane routines of daily life and the hard realities of our world. She is a saint for our time, showing us how to live with a compassion and hope rooted in the Gospels, reminding us that it is in God alone that we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
In our own pandemic age, when economic hardship and social unrest is a daily experience, we enter a Lenten season unlike any other in our lifetime. Lent is a season for repentance, but we reflect on our sins and those of the world always in light of our faith in God’s forgiveness and abiding love. This year, we invite you to participate in our Lenten journey beginning with a socially-distanced imposition of ashes at Grace on Wednesday, February 17 (more details to come at www.peopleofgrace.org). Walk this journey with us through the pages of our daily devotional, compiled by Barb Ceruti and dedicated to our own Merrill Litchfield. Join us for a Lenten study of the book and video series, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and stay tuned for more information on our Holy Week activities and worship services. As we enter this Lenten season together, let us keep before us the entirety of Julian’s hopeful prayer:
"In you, God all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and Savior. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen"