I have experienced a sense of unity with exhausted nurses weeping when I lay hands on them half way through a gruelling shift of dying Covid patients, or put on prayer meetings for nurses facing the anxiety of caring. I’ve seen those broken up by nervous staff for being gatherings of more than two.
I have felt seen and heard the palpable anxiety of the pandemic alongside the dying and their relatives refused permission to be with them, and those who are with them called heroes. I have wondered if heroes really means they can be expected to die in service, rather than do a job protected by adequate PPE.
I have felt the anxiety of coming home and showering and hanging my clothes on the line and going for a three-hour walk so as not to infect my family. I have not been allowed to visit parishioners or conduct full funerals. You will have your own stories of alienation anxiety isolation and strangeness. And it is not over.
Christ said "Come unto me all who carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest, for my yoke is gentle and my burden is light." Yoke means union. A yoke makes two things one, it connects a strong cow to a plough, or a nervous human to God. Yoke is related to Yoga, an experience of unity, realising there are not two but one, breaking the boundaries you draw between yourself and God, experiencing the immensity that you are, in any experience, any. To become an inclusive intelligence, that does not distort the intelligence which is the source of creation within you and in everything else.
Mother Julian knew this. She was an English anchoress, like a hermit or a female monk who shut herself away near St Julian’s Church in Norwich to contemplate, to be silent, to meditate, and to be one with the One. She wrote the earliest surviving English book by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.
Julian lived from 1342 to 1416; surviving the bubonic plague which arrived in Europe in 1347 on ships and ravaged England from 1348 to1350. It was known as the Black Death, the most fatal pandemic in history. It killed up to 200 million, covering them in black boils that oozed blood and pus, and Julian became gravely ill and felt she was about to die. She was passed a crucifix and given last rites, but began to see wonderful things.
“God is our clothing, that wraps, clasps and encloses us so as to never leave us,” she wrote. She saw something very small, about the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of her hand. “What can this be?” she asked. “It is all that is made,” was the answer God gave to her.
Julian worried that because it was so small, might the hazelnut, like the creation, disappear or be obliterated? Again came an answer: “It lasts, and ever shall last, because God loves it.” Her sense of smallness in sickness became a sense of wholeness in God. She reports Jesus say, “I may take all things well; I can make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you shall see for yourself that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Julian used the phrase one’ing a lot. A contemplative, she thought one’ing was the purpose of life, one’ing with God, the one in whom we live move and have our Being, as the book of Acts says, or as our gospel says, take my yoke on you, my union, my yoga, my one’ing.
So, remember her words. Julian wrote this; “Faith is nothing else but a right understanding of our being… trusting and allowing things to be. We are in God and God who we do not see is in us. Just as every ray of the sun is the sun, every child of God is God.”
The poster on my hospital office wall says; "Contemplation. If today was perfect there would be no need for tomorrow." And they say it will all be alright in the end, so if it not alright, it’s not the end. It’s not over yet. But that’s OK. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. fshs +