“All Will Be Well”
An Analysis of Julian of Norwich’s “Showings”
In a near-death vision filled with violent and bloody images of suffering, the mystic Julian of Norwich heard God’s assuring words that “all will be well in the end.” In her book, Showings, Julian describes her visions, offering them for the comfort and instruction of God’s people.
As a young woman, Julian prayed for three graces from God: (1) a greater comprehension of Christ’s Passion to increase her knowledge of Jesus; (2) an experience of bodily sickness to the point of death in order to remove her reliance on earthly creatures or comfort, and (3) three wounds to lead her to deeper union with God. (Ch. 1)
God answered her prayers at age 30 when she suffered a bodily illness that brought her to the very brink of death. In this feeble state, she asked to have her upper body elevated so she could contemplate God in her final moments. At this time, the Parson came, accompanied by a boy with a crucifix. As Julian focused on the crucifix, everything around it grew dark. Julian’s pain became so great that she believed she was going to die, when suddenly, all her pain disappeared. Taking advantage of this new turn of events, Julian prayed that God would fill her body with the pains of Christ’s Passion. At this point, her visions began. (Ch. 2 – 3)
In her first revelation, she sees six things: (1) blood trickling down from the crown of thorns on the crucifix before her; (2) a vision of the Virgin Mary; (3) a “spiritual sight” of Christ’s all-embracive love and goodness; (4) a small ball in the palm of Christ’s hand, representing creation, demonstrating its goodness and yet its “smallness” in relation to Christ; (5) three properties in the ball which reveal to her that God is her Creator, lover, and protector; and (6) three “nothings” demonstrating that God is the source of all good and should be sought above all created things. (Ch. 3 – 5)
Next, she has a vision of Christ’s face being battered and bruised. This leads to a revelation that God is present in all things, wisely and providentially working out his purpose. As the body of Christ spews forth blood, Julian sees God’s bountiful provision of forgiveness through Christ’s blood. It is this blood that overcomes the devil and his fiends. Because of God’s overarching providence in all things and Christ’s conquering blood, the devil stands completely defeated in everything he does. This leads Julian to laugh over the devil’s miserable predicament (Ch. 7 – 8).
The laughter leads to a vision of three degrees of bliss in heaven resulting from the joy one experiences upon hearing God’s praise announced publicly in the hearing of all — a joy that once received is everlasting. The vision of bliss is immediately followed by an experience of sorrow and despair. This pattern of bliss and sorrow is repeated again and again, teaching Julian that God loves us and keeps us safe at all times. (Ch. 9)
In the final vision, Julian sees Christ shrivel up in thirst. She cannot imagine a greater pain. The love of Christ demonstrated in his willingness to endure immense pain for the sake of his beloved fills Julian with great joy, so that Jesus becomes “her heaven.” (Ch. 10 – 11)
Suddenly Christ’s appearance becomes joyful and he reveals three heavens to Julian — the joy of the Father, the bliss of the Son, and the endless delight of the Holy Spirit. The three heavens demonstrate God’s infinite delight in his work of salvation. (Ch. 12)
Christ then gives Julian a vision of St. Mary, and in contemplating her bliss and God’s love, Julian realizes that the only thing that hinders her desire for Christ is her own sin, causing her to wonder why God would allow sin in the first place. Jesus replies that “sin is necessary” but that in the end “all will be well.” (Ch. 13)
Julian is disturbed by this revelation. How can all things be well in light of the great harm sin brings? Christ replies that Adam’s sin brought the greatest harm to the world, but now, this harm has been overcome by Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Our lot in life is to embrace the Lord while humbly admitting that some aspects of the Lord’s counsel are closed and hidden to us. (Ch. 14)
Christ concludes by assuring Julian he can and will make all things well in the end. This truth will one day satisfy Christ’s spiritual thirst, when he possesses us wholly as his own. Even though we can’t comprehend this fully now, it is God’s will that we should be confident that “all will be well.” (Ch. 15 – 16)