Monday, April 25, 2016

Medieval Mystics

It's a long story, but sometimes one reads an assignment incorrectly.  In a nutshell, that's how this post was born.  Hope it's of some interest!

Between Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich definitely was my favorite.  Both her style and content were much more palatable for me than Margery Kempe’s writings.  I’m personally inclined to discount the latter writer’s work…but what do you think?  Was she playing with a full deck?

Here’s one passage from Julian of Norwhich that caught my attention, because it reminded me somewhat of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, which is included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  If interested, I’m copying Norwich’s passage first, followed by the ancient homily excerpt.

Also God shewed in part the wisdom and the truth of her soul: wherein I understood the reverent beholding in which she beheld her God and Maker, marvelling with great reverence that He would be born of her that was a simple creature of His making. And this wisdom and truth: knowing the greatness of her Maker and the littleness of herself that was made,— caused her to say full meekly to Gabriel: Lo me, God’s handmaid! In this sight I understood soothly that she is more than all that God made beneath her in worthiness and grace; for above her is nothing that is made but the blessed Manhood Of Christ, as to my sight.

Norwich, Julian of (2015-06-10).  The Showings of Divine Love (Kindle Locations 95-99). Wilder Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who ever slept ever since the world began.... He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him He who is both their God and the son of Eve.

(The Lord’s descent into hell from an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday.)

I’ve not led an academic discussion for a very long time, so forgive anything I’ve overlooked!  Please select one or two questions from the following six to start our week’s discussions.

1.  Do you have any thoughts on possible literary or religious influences with regards to Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe?

2.  How would you compare and contrast this week’s selections? In what ways are Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe different in their approaches?

3.  Which writer spoke to your heart the most eloquently, and why? 

4.  What did Margery Kempe mean by referring to Mary as the “Empress of Hell?” In Book 1.79? 

5.  Do you have any thoughts on the following quote from Chapter 3 of Julian of Norwich’s book?  Does she have a different concept of heaven than you may personally hold?

And being in youth as yet, I thought it great sorrow to die;— but for nothing that was in earth that meliked to live for, nor for no pain that I had fear of: for I trusted in God of His mercy. But it was to have lived that I might have loved God better, and longer time, that I might have the more knowing and loving of God in bliss of Heaven. For methought all the time that I had lived here so little and so short in regard of that endless bliss,— I thought [it was as] nothing. Wherefore I thought: Good Lord, may my living no longer be to Thy worship! And I understood by my reason and by my feeling of my pains that I should die; and I assented fully with all the will of my heart to be at God’s will. 

Norwich, Julian of (2015-06-10). The Showings of Divine Love (Kindle Locations 60-65). Wilder Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

6.  While this week’s texts are inherently religious in content and scope, is there perhaps a more secular message that can also be taken from one or both of these works?

     7.  What did Julian of Norwich mean by the vision of the hazelnut in Chapter 5?  What does this passage seem to mean to you?

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