Fallen and blind
How do I resolve the contradictions?
Julian wrestles with the difficulty that human beings have to comprehend God’s. What on earth is God up to? The presence of sin and suffering and a church that requires confession sits very uncomfortably with the God of love she has come to know.
Ellyn Sanna puts it like this: ‘This chapter reveals again how genuinely pained and confused Julian is by the seeming contradictions between the Church’s teachings and what she has seen in her vision.’ (Sanna, Introduction to Chapter 50, p192)
‘Ah, Lord Jesus, king of bliss, how shall I be comforted, who will tell me and teach me what I need to know if I cannot at this time see it in you?
On this Holy Saturday, having just yesterday contemplated Jesus’ crucifixion, you might have a similar prayer – where you need God’s help to find a way through the disturbance and confusion in your own mind and heart in living with a God of love, the crucified Jesus, and a humanity quick to use guilt to control or dominate others.
God’s response: A parable (Chapter 51)
‘The lord sits in state in rest and peace. The servant stands before his lord, respectfully, ready to do his lord’s will. The lord looks on his servant very lovingly and sweetly and mildly. He sends him to a certain place to do his will. Not only does the servant go, but he dashes off and runs at great speed, loving to do his lord’s will. (Chapter 51)
The relationship between the lord and the servant is more akin to a close friendship, where a friend is more than happy to serve the other in their need.
But this happiness, is short lived.
And soon he (the servant) falls into a dell and is greatly injured; and then he groans and moans and tosses about and writhes, but he cannot rise and help himself in any way. And of all of this, the greatest hurt which I saw him in, was lack of consolation, for he could not turn to face to look on his loving lord,… but like a man who was for the first time extremely feeble and foolish, he paid heed to his feelings, and his continuing distress’ (Chapter 51, Showings, page 267)
Julian describes the impact of this fall on the servant.
Physical – severely bruised, clumsy and weak, unable to rise from this condition.
Emotional – alone, feeling isolated, unhelped, with no comfort. Over and above this frustrated, disappointed and worried that their master is angry and will judge them harshly because they are unable to fulfil their mission
Blind – unable to see their lord, but also an inner blindness to the good within themselves: the positive motivation when they set out and that their frustration and fear of their lord’s anger show that their motivation still remains positive – they continue to have in their heart the desire to fulfil their mission.
It is a parable of the human condition, our condition. Today we sit in the aftermath of the destructiveness of fallen human behaviour revealed in the crucifixion.
So I invite self-reflection on this day to acknowledge where you experience these attributes of the servant’s fall
the sense of your own physical limitations and pain that you live with, the sense of your own inability to rise above your condition
your own sense of isolation, lack of comfort and help in your emotional needs
your own frustration at how you fail in fulfilling your positive intentions
your fears of harsh judgement of God, of others
your inability to turn to the goodness of God, or to notice the goodness of your motivations
When you have had time to let these things emerge for you, I invite you to sit, hands open, palms upwards, and acknowledge these aspects of yourself, on this day when we face the buried-ness of Jesus.