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Remembering Julian of Norwich

On this day in our Great Cloud of Witnesses in the Episcopal Church, we remember Julian of Norwich, and English mystic who lived as an anchorite in Norwich. She is especially remembered for a series of mystical visions and conversations she had with Jesus at the age of 30 which led her to devote the rest of her life to prayer and contemplation ultimately moving into what is called an anchorage where she lived in permanent seclusion for the rest of her life. (See the previous book review of I, Julian.)

I recently came across this lovely poem by Rosie Jackson which ponders, as I have pondered, what it was like to be an anchorite!

When I Wonder What It Was Like to Be an Anchorite

the nearest I can get is that day I locked myself

in the house, in one room, huddled in darkness.

It was January cold, I wore gloves and a beanie hat,

lay hunched on a makeshift mattress in what would one day be the lounge. I was newly moved into

a ruin of a place, all stone and draughts. For days I'd made builders' tea, talked builders' talk, and now they were fixing the roof, but I was weary of the world,

craved peace and silence. I couldn't put on the light,

in case they saw, or listen to the radio, in case they heard,

or have a fire, for smoke would travel to them up

the chimney. All day I lay in darkness while shouts

and sounds of hammering came from another world,

as an anchorite would listen to men mending

the church roof. It felt miraculous, like being

at the bottom of the sea. In their lunch break,

suspecting I was there, for my car was in the drive,

they came close to the window, made smutty jokes,

wondered where I peed, mocked single women

who don't, after all, have much of a handle

on the world. And perhaps an anchorite knew

the same relief I felt that day, when the sweetness

of dusk finally fell, the hammering stopped,

the men packed up their tongues and clatter

and darkness was once again mine, all mine.

I could breathe, pray, praise and curse out loud

without anyone, except God perhaps, listening.

1 Comment

May 10

I think this is so intriguing,, and this introduction to a poet I will follow now!! Thank you for always leading us farther than we go on our own ,, Cant wait to read I Julian as well as your next blog... Your review made me want to spend time with St Julian

Owene you always choose subjects and people and places that resonate with the unfailing presence of Grace in our lives .. this time to the silence of a cell,, where He dwells also

" darkness was once again mine, all mine.

I could breathe, pray, praise and curse out loud

without anyone, except God perhaps, listening."

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