The Writings of Julian of Norwich as Accomodation and Subversion

The Writings of Julian of Norwich as Accomodation and Subversion

By Cherie Bova

Canadian Women’s Studies, Vol.17:1 (1997)

Introduction: As she appears in her work Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich was both product of, yet unique to, her times. Her interpretation of her mystical experience was clearly circumscribed by official church teachings, by conventions about the representations of Christ, and by the Neoplatonic thought circulating during the period. However, her depiction of Jesus as the “Working Mother” of the Trinity both accommodated and extended Church teaching while at the same time it subverted the Church’s conventional emphasis upon “the wrath [and retribution] of a just God” in her understanding of God’s “homely loving” as “our very Mother”.

Theologically, the depiction of God as Mother had occurred previously in the Old Testament, the Apocryphal Acts of St. Peter, the Acriwne Rule, the “Oratio 65” of St. Anselm (Molinari) and the work of “male Cistercian theology in the twelfth century, especially in Bernard of Clairvaux. Traditionally, however, Julian’s distinctiveness resides in the manner in which she “developed this conception into a doctrine not found before in such fullness”. Recently,

Julian has . . . enjoyed special attention from feminists attracted by her ability to elaborate with considerable theological sophistication the idea of Christ as mother as a way of expressing the nurturing function of God.

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