In the corner of my study in the Vicarage is a small statue of a woman in medieval garb kneeling down and in hands of her crossed arms she is holding what is taken to be a hazelnut. Her gaze is heavenward and her face is sublime and serene. It is an image of Lady Julian of Norwich that Bridget Park, our most esteemed Reader Emeritus, gave to me as a gift following one of sojourns down to Norfolk. I really enjoy its place in my window and look at it every day.
The symbolism and meaning of the lady holding a hazelnut is clear. The small fruit represents the whole universe that to God is so easily fitted into his hand. It begs us to ask the question, “How big is our God?” It suggests that we too are held in the palm of his hand and never outside of his touch. We appear so small and yet to God the Father we are of infinite value and significance. In reflecting upon this simple image through the lenses of faith we cannot but be struck by the wonder and majesty of the Almighty.
Her writings and insights are mostly found in her book entitled Revelations of Divine Love which was the first book ever to be written by a woman in English. It is the product of her spending 20 years as an anchoress or hermit trying to interpret revelations that she experienced.
Her prayer that is included might on the face of it seem a little trite. “It will be okay” in the face of human suffering may seem unhelpful. But her words are born of her own painful experience; she is not gazing in on life from some beautiful nirvana! What she saw was the love of God in everything. She looks at life in a beautiful way because it is born of God the Creator and that great God is intimate and personal.
She is a great realist about the Faith as well. So often I seem to come across people that make the most extraordinary assumptions about the Faith and Christians who attempt to live it out. Just because we profess the Faith does not result in a Teflon coating against life for all baptised Christians. But in her words it does mean that we shall never be overcome. And why? Quite simply because God, the Holy Trinity, is always with us. And He is a very great God indeed.