The Well and the Woe, and Everlasting Joy

bushblossoms01 450It is four months now since we began these weekly reflections as a means to keep in touch during the first Covid-19 lockdown. On behalf of the retreat team, I thank you for your support and encouragement during this difficult time. Next week, we are hoping to begin a staged re-opening of the retreat centre. Please keep an eye on the website calendar to check on activities. From August, we will continue the reflections as a monthly item, and members of the team will continue to pray daily for you and your intentions, and our world, at midday in the Trinity Prayer Room.

So as our country and our world wake up each day to an everchanging pandemic situation, our need for some positive encouragement no doubt deepens. I have found the writings of Julian of Norwich most helpful over the past four months, as you know from my previous reflections. Today I’d like to highlight the seventh showing of Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love. It is about the well and the woe of life. Julian shares with us her experience of going back and forth from a state of bliss - exquisite pleasure and everlasting certainty of God’s presence in her soul, to a sense of abandonment - the depths of despair and great suffering. She says this happened some twenty times!! I’m sure if we are honest with ourselves, we know what she is talking about.

Julian describes these states and her experiences vividly, so that we, her “even-Christians or fellow spiritual seekers”, might not feel alone in our own experiences. Her real gift to us however is her many years of reflection  and prayer. She doesn’t keep us caught up in our experiences but shares with us what these showings mean. We let Julian speak:

Our Beloved freely gives us joy, and sometimes allows us to suffer. Both are one Love. It is God’s will that we do everything in our power to find that inner consolation and rest in it. Pain passes, but that divine bliss is eternal. The suffering of this life will dissolve into nothing. For those who love God the reward is everlasting joy. It is not God’s will that we wallow in our pain and collapse in despair. Instead, we should pass through these states as lightly as possible, sustaining ourselves in the endless delight that is God.

(Mirabai Starr, Julian of Norwich: The Showings, A Contemporary Translation, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2014, p39)

Perhaps she was encouraged by these words in John’s gospel:

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see my glory which you have given me because you loved me from the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you sent me. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them. Jn 17:24-26

Or simply,

Abide in me, and I in you.  Jn 15:4

The love with which Jesus was loved is meant to live and grow in us all. In these difficult times, it can be too easy to close up shop and get mired in the woe of others or ourselves. I take great heart from Julian’s writings like this one today because they come from someone who lived through three waves of the plague in her lifetime. Hers is an expansive God, a Love that will not be contained even by pandemics. Maybe our experience of four short months (thought they feel like much longer!) is giving us just a glimpse of the steadfastness of those who lived in her time, and a taste of what it really means to know faith, hope and love. This poem, “Big”, by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, might encourage us in this big Love of God.


This is, perhaps, the year to learn to be big.
Spruce tree big. Cliffside big. Big as mesa,
as mountain lake. Big as in cosmos, as in love.
Being small has never served me—constricting,
contorting, trying to fit into a room, into shoes,
into a name. Let this be the year to escape all those little
rules with those little shoulds, all those little
cages with their little locks. Time to make of myself
a key, time to lean into immensity. Time to supersize
communion, time to grow beyond self. Time to
open, to unwall, to do as the universe does,
accelerating as it expands, not rushing toward
something else, but changing the scale of space itself.
This is the year to be big.

(January 4, 2020 by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer,

May we hold fast to the Word.
May we believe that Love is with us in our joys and sorrows.
May we be sustained in the endless delight that is the God of Love,
And know that this year is the time for BIG LOVE.



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