The image of Julian gazing at the crucifix described in the second day of the Journey evoked conflicting emotions within me. In describing the blood running down Jesus’ face, she used the term:
…a living stream.40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill
It brought back memories of the River meditation I had done during the First Week of The Spiritual Exercises, when contemplating the sinfulness of the world. I had been in the process of planning my Positive Penance Retreat day when I was praying with Day 2, so perhaps it is not surprising that this meditation was in my mind, since I was using it on my retreat day.
During and since the Exercises, I have understood that my experience of this imaginative contemplation was a conversation with God about my work. It was as if He said:
We need to have a conversation about your work, but there are more pertinent things to deal with first.
As I notice the dates in my prayer journal now, my part one and part two of praying with Day 2 of the Journey straddle a meeting I had in my job which caused a shift in my perspective and from that moment, the writing on the wall was bright and clear, no longer invisible. Sure, it took a bit longer to make the actual decision, and then a bit longer for it to happen, but it did happen and I am living that decision now.
In the Quesions to Ponder section of the Journey, Lisa Dahil asks:
What images of Jesus’ crucifixion – scriptural, musical, or artistic – are most familiar to you? Do these images readily speak to you of love, as they do to Julian? Why or why not?40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill
I did not find that question so easy, and I am glad she introduced the possibility of it not speaking of love, because my experience of it was both. In thinking about the standard wooden crucifix with a metal Jesus on it, I have to acknowledge a sense of horror at the torture, oppression and martyrdom. Not just the horror of what was done to Jesus, but there is a sense of irredeemable guilt and sometimes a sense of looking at it and experiencing a feeling of emotional blackmail whenever I am not being as good as I “should” be:
Look at how I suffered for you, and you cannot even do this for me?
I recognise this voice as not being of God, of how it is used to exert power and control. It is fallacious reasoning that demands an account from us, which tells us we are not good enough and it cuts us off from the sense of God’s love that Julian is talking about. We spend time in the Principle and Foundation of The Exercises coming to recognise how we are loved by God, because without knowing God’s love for us deeply, facing the full reality of our sinfulness in the First Week might just be too much to cope with.
Another response I had to this image was of anger: anger at the injustice of what was done to Him. I also felt shame and confusion that sinfulness and hatred could have any small moment of triumph, and that people can be so fickle and can be turned so easily by lies. I find that frightening. Dahill states:
For Julian, Jesus’ death is not an appeasement of God’s wrath.40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill
I do not think I have ever seen it as God’s wrath, more the wrath of humanity. I mentioned shame and confusion, noticing that this is the grace of the First Week of The Spiritual Exercises.
Here it will be to ask for shame and confusion because I see how many have been lost on account of a single mortal sin, and how many times I have deserved eternal damnation, because of the many grievous sins that I have committed.The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Trans Louis J. Puhl
Julian’s response to this vision has none of the turmoil I experienced in contemplating Day 2 of the Journey. She recognises:
…suddenly the Trinity filled my heart full of the greatest joy…for where Jesus appears the blessed Trinity is Understood…40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill
Then there was the other side to my conflicting emotions on praying with the material for Day 2. I imagined myself stepping into Rublev’s icon of the Trinity. In the Divine Dance, Richard Rohr tells that in Rublev’s orignal artwork, there was a mirror, which invited us to join in, to take a place within God. Julian says:
…the Trinity is our endless joy and our bliss…40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill
It is here that I connected with the Love she is talking about. A sense of falling at His feet, of being Veronica and wiping the blood from His face. I am struck by Mel Gibson’s film of The Passion, and how, amidst the violence and the gore, there are moments of tenderness, where Jesus is seen, and those who see Him are seen by Him. It seems to me that He draws strength from those who love Him, and whom He loves. When I was praying with His passion in the Third Week of the Exercises, it was a feature of my imaginative contemplations that the moments of connection with those who loved Him and walked with Him as He made this journey, were significant in strengthening Him so that He could fulfill His task. It was in this sense of raw openness that I understood something of the love that Julian was conveying in her description. His response to my conflicting emotions:
I am Love. Never fear, I am always here, even there.
There was a movement in me through praying Day 2 of the Journey. I noticed the changes that were taking place in my life. They seemed such small changes, but in reflecting futher back I was able to recognise how far and by how much those small things had resulted in quite big shifts.
I know this is Your doing. You have answered me. Thank you.My response to Psalm 118:22
Sometimes in prayer, what we are talking about is not what we are talking about. While I was contemplating Julian’s image of the crucifix and experiencing conflicting emotions within me, I moved from fear to experiencing the Trinity as my bliss; an eternal moment of being lost in God, where everything disappeared and there was only God. Nothing else mattered. What I was left with afterwards was a clear sense of where and how God was with me constantly in my life, where growth was happening and my own gratitude for His presence and love.