The soul that wants to be at peace must flee from thoughts of other people's sins as though from the pains of hell, begging God for a remedy and for help against it; for the consideration of other people's sins makes a sort of thick mist before the eyes of the soul, and during such times we cannot see the beauty of God unless we regard the sins with sorrow for those who commit them, with compassion and with a holy wish for God to help them; for if we do not do this the consideration of sins harms and distresses and hinders the soul...
In this blessed showing of our Lord's I understood two contrary things: one, the wisest thing that anyone can do in this life; the other, the most foolish. The wisdom is for people to behave according to the wishes and advice of their greatest and most supreme friend. This blessed friend is Jesus, and it is his will and his advice that we should bind ourselves to him and direct ourselves toward him, familiarly, for evermore, in whatever state we may be, for whether we are sinful or pure his love for us is the same. In weal or woe, he never wants us to flee from him, but because of our own changeability we often fall into sin. When this happens, it comes to us by the provocation of our Enemy, though our own folly and blindness, which say, "You know very well that you are a wretch, a sinner, and also, faithless, for you do not obey God's commands; you often promise our Lord that you will do better, and immediately afterwards you fall back into the same sin, especially sloth and time-wasting" -- for these are the beginning of sin, it seems to me, especially for people who have vowed to serve our Lord with inward contemplation of his blessed goodness. And this makes us afraid of appearing before our courteous Lord. So it is our enemy the Devil who sets us back with false fear of our sinfulness and the punishment with which he threatens us; for with these he intends to make us so unhappy and so weary that we shall forget the fair, blessed considerations of our everlasting Friend.
-- Julian of Norwich, Revelation of Divine Love, LT 76A specter is haunting my head -- the specter of sinuses. Like Julian, who would suddenly be stripped of consolations so that she could remember that she was not to rely on her own strength, I find that the presence of this (minor) physical suffering clogs up all memory and understanding, so that I forget all that the Lord has done for me, and move through my day in a heavy, stupid haze. I think that one of reasons that the Church prays the psalms so often is that they are reminders, constant reminders that of God's goodness, because we are so apt to forget. Holiness isn't in the highs, but in conquering the present moment through Christ, no matter how petty that moment may be.
I'd never found the book of Romans to be all that compelling, but reading it through the commentary of Julian is suddenly opening it up in ways I'd never thought about.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This is something that Julian keeps saying, that sin is nothing, that it has no power, which didn't really settle into my head until Romans 6:11. I am dead to sin. Dead to sin! Something that is dead has no power. Sin's power is illusory, but I am dead to it. It has no hold on me unless I forget that I am alive to God through Christ Jesus. When I forget this, which is most of the day, I imagine that I live by myself, and my existence dwindles down to the one petty point in time and space that I occupy right now, and the weight of sinful nothingness oppresses me like my sinus headache. But I do not live by myself. I am alive to God through Christ Jesus. I do not have to carry any of this weight because he will carry it if I stop clinging to it and let him take it.
Did that which is good, then bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self. but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:13-25I considered typing up all of chapter 8 as well, but really, you should just go read it. Right now.
Julian is insistent that sin is something separate from us, because our souls are not created from matter but simply made it, made it of himself.
... I saw and understood very clearly that in every soul that will be saved there is a godly will which never agreed to sin, nor ever shall; this will is so good that it can never intend evil, but always and constantly it intends good and does good in the sight of God. Therefore our Lord wants us to know this as a matter of faith and belief, and most especially to know that we all have this blessed will kept safe and whole in our Lord Jesus Christ; for beings of the kind that will people heaven must needs, by God's justice, be so bound and united to him that there would always remain a higher nature in them which never could nor should be separated from God; and this is through his own good will in his eternal foreseeing purpose. And in spite of this just binding and this everlasting union, the redemption and the buying back of humankind is necessary and useful in all things... (LT 53)
We ought to rejoice greatly that God dwells in our soul, and we ought to rejoice much more greatly that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is made to be God's dwelling place, and the dwelling place of the soul is God, who is not made. It shows deep understanding to see and know inwardly that God, who is our maker, dwells in our soul; and deeper understanding to see and know that our soul, which is made, dwells in God's being; through this essential being -- God -- we are what we are.
And I saw no difference between God and our essential being, it seemed to be all God, and yet my understanding took it that our essential being is in God: that is to say that God is God, and our essential being is a creation within God; for the almighty truth of the Trinity is our father, he who made us and keeps us within him; and the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our mother, in whom we are all enclosed; and the great goodness of the Trinity is our lord and in him we are enclosed and he in us. We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed int he Holy Ghost; and the Father is enclosed in us, and the Son in enclosed in us, and the Holy Ghost is enclosed in us: almighty all wisdom, all goodness, one God, one Lord. (LT 54)We are being of the kind that will people heaven -- an amazing, comforting thought. And we are dead to sin because it is no part of our essential being, which is God created in his own image and enclosed within himself.
And I forget this every day. O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.