, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 433-447

Julian of Norwich: Problems of Evil and the Seriousness of Sin

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Abstract

Julian of Norwich emphasizes God’s eternal and unchanging love for humankind. Her visions show how God is not angry with our sins and so has no need to forgive us. God does not shame or blame us but excuses us and plans how to reward and compensate us for sin. In relation to Mother Jesus, we remain dear lovely children who need help, correction, and education. Although these remarks suggest to some that Julian must be “soft” on sin, that she has no adequate appreciation of the worthiness of God or the dignity of human nature, I argue that this is far from the case. On the contrary, she makes Divine worthiness axiomatic and urges readers to live into it. She relocates human dignity not in its intrinsic value but in our centrality to God’s plan. She measures the seriousness of sin in terms of the “real hard work” it takes to rear us up out of it: crucifixion for Christ, the hell of being a sinner and the crucifixion of life-long penance for us. Nevertheless, the brightness of her visions dominates with her assurance that despite the sin-produced sufferings of this present life, all will be well.