Cheer and Sighing

From The Revelations of Divine Love, 72 (ca. 1417)

God will not have perfect pleasure in us until we find our perfect pleasure in him, seeing his beautiful and blessed face in truth. This is why we have been born, and what we achieve by grace. This is how I saw that sin is only mortal for a short while in those who are blessed with eternal life.

The more clearly he soul sees the blessed face by grace and love, the more it longs to see it in its fullness. Notwithstanding that our Lord God lives in us, and is here with us; notwithstanding that he clasps and enfolds us in his tender love, never to leave us; notwithstanding that he is nearer to us than tongue and heart can think or tell, the fact remains that we shall never cease from sighs, complaints, or tears – or longing – till we see clearly his blessed face. In that precious, blessed sight, no grief can live, no blessing fail.

In this I saw reason for cheer and reason for sighing; cheer in that our Lord and Maker is so near to us; he is in us, and we are in him, completely safe through his great goodness; sighing in that we are so spiritually blind and weighed down by our mortal flesh and murky sin that we cannot clearly see our Lord’s blessed face. No, and because of this murkiness we have difficulty in believing and trusting his great love and our complete safety. And therefore, I say that we never cease from sighs of tears.

Tears do not mean physical tears of the eye only, but also the inner weeping of the spirit. For the natural desire of the soul is so vast and immeasurable that were it to be given for our comfort and solace all the finest that God has made in heaven and earth, but could not see the beautiful and blessed face of himself, our sighs and spiritual tears and painful longing would never cease until we saw the blessed countenance of our Maker. On the other hand, were we to be in the utmost pain that tongue and heart can think of tell, if then we could see his blessed face, none of this pain would distress us. So it is that the beatific vision is the end of every pain to the loving soul, and the fulfillment of every joy and blessing.

Julian of Norwich (1343-ca. 1417) is the name commonly given to an English anchoress attached for decades to Norwich’s Church of St. Julian, where many visited her for spiritual counsel. She experienced a series of visions of Christ’s Passion in 1373, and recounted them, with extensive theological commentary, in The Revelations of Divine Love, the first book written in English by a woman. She is commemorated on May 8 on the calendars of several Anglican churches.


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