By Roberta Felker, Sunday Assembly, Board of Directors
In 1373, reputedly around Good Friday, an Englishwoman lay stricken by what appeared to be a fatal illness, possibly related to the Black Death that had recently returned to Norwich. As it was, she did not die. Her birth name is unknown, but the name she assumed is familiar to us: Julian of Norwich, one of the greatest of the English mystics.
In her fevered haze, Julian experienced the first of a series of visions that she recorded in a book entitled, Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love. The Eighth Revelation is the heart of the book, and is focused on Jesus’ pain and suffering. “Is any pain like this?” she wondered. She reflected on Jesus’ mother Mary’s suffering, and then widened the circle to include “all His disciples and all His true lovers (who) suffer pains more than their own bodily dying.” In this community of pain, forged by Jesus’ suffering, Julian gave voice to a great theological insight: “Here I saw a great ONEING betwixt Christ and us: for when He was in pain, we were in pain.” To Julian, the cross was about ONEING: the complete unity of God with us and us with God – and not only humanity, but, as she relates from the vision, the ONEING of “all creatures that suffer pain, suffer with Him … (even) the firmament, the earth failed for sorrow in the time of Christ’s dying….” This cosmic circle of grief, emanating from Jesus’ passion, reveals that Jesus suffered not only for us but he suffered with us – with all that was, is and will be.
Especially in these days of social distance, “with” is complicated. Even frightening. Good Friday plunges us headlong into “with” – into a ONEING with all who suffer in this epidemic. John shows us Jesus with his mother and his friends. We feel Jesus dying with them, with us, with all creatures, with all our earth. Today, the world community is connected through fear and suffering. We are with Jesus on the cross, and Jesus is with us all on every frightened, broken-hearted, betrayal-laden, blood-soaked day of human history. In Jesus’ cross, we find the hope to endure, a love for others and for creation, and the power to pursue God’s dream of love and justice for the world. Today, ours is a ministry of presence. We are with Jesus. And He is with us. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52958/52958-h/52958-h.htm#THE_EIGHTH_REVELATION
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