One of the things that has changed for me, and probably for a lot of others, since we have been staying and working at home is the amount we need to use our diaries – and our watches! There are a lot of jokes circulating about the way in which we are losing track of time – is it Wednesday or Thursday? What exactly is a ‘Bank Holiday’? Has April been extended indefinitely?
It’s a reminder perhaps of what life would have been like in the days before ordinary folk wore watches or had diaries. These were the days when the high spots of the Church Year – the literal ‘Red Letter days’ the days that are marked in Red on the calendar would have been all the more important as landmarks in our lives. This month has several, including one of my favourites, on May 8th.
Julian of Norwich, a wise and holy woman from the 14th century, should (I feel) be regarded as the Patron Saint of Physical Isolation! Like us at this time, she was an expert in ‘staying at home’. She was an Anchorite, which meant that she took a solemn vow never to leave her small cell attached to St Julian’s Church in Norwich.
She was also the first known woman to write a book in English, its called ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ (its well worth a read). Her book is memorable for its gentle cheerfulness and calm trust in the goodness of God, despite the fact that she also lived in the time of a pandemic - the Black Death was rife and had hit Norwich particularly badly.
Probably her most famous words are these, in which she sees a vision of the whole of creation, held in safety by God’s love:
“And in this Our Lord showed me a little thing, the size of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand. And I thought, ‘What may this be?’ The answer came, ‘It is everything that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing, it was so small. And I was answered in my understanding: ‘It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.’ In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”
We are in a new time with the world so very different from the one we’re all used to. And yet, the basic premise of life hasn’t changed: we still must eat and sleep. The sun still rises and sets. The birds still sing (even more sweetly it sounds to me). Spring is well underway, as the blossom on the trees shows us. The people who love us still love us. The people who need us, need us even more than before. And the God who loves us is the same as ever: faithful and true. As we stand in the present and prepare to journey into the future let's hold onto the truth that God made us, and loves us, and keeps us – and our world. May we know that in our time and in our situation as clearly, and joyfully, as Julian did in hers.