Living in paradox

Daily Reading for May 7

In her own discomfort with an apparently oversimplified view of the place of sin, Julian faced the terrible paradox of God’s goodness, the horrific evidence of the world’s evil, and the knowledge of damnation. Uniquely, she is led to a way of living in that paradox.

How in the face of God’s apparent total goodness and God’s apparent total power, could there continue to be sin and damnation? This was a contradiction which Julian longed to resolve—and which she finally brought to resolution in her own mystical and absolutely unique way, once again, in Merton’s words, “This is, for her, the heart of theology: not solving the contradiction, but remaining in the midst of it, in peace, knowing that it is fully solved, but that the solution is secret [in God], and will never be guessed until it is revealed [emphasis added].” . . .

To those of us who blanch at the too-evident sin of human beings and who can find no comfort or hope in a hateful, vengeful, and punishing God, Julian introduces the power of faith. “Look,” she would say, “you have faith in the immeasurable goodness and power of God, but in the face of that you can’t understand the existence and power of sin and its resulting pain—forget trying to ‘understand’ it. Trust that faith of yours, and leave the understanding of the paradox to God’s own revelation in His own time. He knows all that you know, and He has it all under control.”

From the introduction to A Lesson of Love: The Revelations of Julian of Norwich, edited and translated for devotional use by Father John-Julian, OJN (Walker and Company, 1988).

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