May 2018 WATERritual: Trusting Julian of Norwich

By Diann L. Neu and the WATER Staff

May 8 is the feast of Julian of Norwich, an English mystic who had a near death experience at age 30 when she received a series of visions known as Revelations of Divine Love or The Showings.

“All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich)

This liturgy invites the gathered to pray and live that “All Shall Be Well.”


Gather Hazelnuts, Ferrero Rocher candy, and a bell and place them on an altar table covered with a cloth.

Naming the Circle

Let us create our circle by speaking our names and saying, “All shall be well again.” (Naming)

Call to Gather

“All shall be well,” we pray desperately. We gather tonight at the convergence of three religious holidays: Ramadan, Shavuot, and Pentecost.

Last Tuesday was the first day of the sacred Muslim month of Ramadan, the month when the Prophet Mohammed began receiving the revelation of the Quran.

Sunday was the first day of the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which began in ancient Israel with the celebration of the spring wheat harvest and has become the time to celebrate a spiritual harvest — the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

And Sunday was the Christian feast of Pentecost, when followers of Jesus gathered to celebrate Shavuot and were imbued with the Holy Spirit opening them to speak in many languages they had not known — in some ways opening the path to a multinational Christianity known as the birth of the church.

During these holy times for three major religions, the government of the state of Israel, which claims to be a Jewish state, opened lethal gunfire on thousands of Palestinians at the Gaza border, killing more than 60 of them and injuring thousands more. A bloodbath! Name other world events.

“All shall be well again,” we pray desperately. 

Song: “Julian of Norwich” by Sidney Carter on All Shall Be Well Again by Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir, Ed Trickett, Folk-Legacy Records, Sharon, CT, ©1983.

(Ring the bell)

Loud are the bells of Norwich, as the people come and go.

Here by the tower of Julian I tell them what I know.

Chorus: (Ring the bell)

Ring out, bells of Norwich

And let the winter come and go.

All shall be well again I know.

Love, like the yellow daffodil, is coming through the snow.

Love, like the yellow daffodil, brings joy to all I know. (Chorus)

Ring for the yellow daffodil, the flower in the snow.

Ring for the yellow daffodil and tell them what I know. (Chorus)

All shall be well, I’m telling you, let the winter come and go.

All shall be well again I know.

The Story of Julian of Norwich  

Julian of Norwich (c.1342-c.1413) was a fourteenth century English mystic and theologian who lived as an anchoress outside the walls of St. Julian’s Church in Norwich. When she was 30, she suffered a severe illness and had a near death experience. At this time she received a series of visions on May 8, 1373, which she later wrote down as Revelations of Divine Love or The Showings. Her writings depict her understanding of God’s compassion for the world.

Julian witnessed three rounds of the bubonic plague, lost almost everyone she loved, and nearly died herself. She lived in a time of peasant revolts and the Great Schism. She experienced scandal and crisis in the church, with three claimants to the papacy each excommunicating the other.

With injustice all around, Julian was given a glimpse of Divine love assuring “all manner of things will be well.”

Her message for us today is simply this:

  • She reveals God’s hope and reminds us that God loves even the smallest creation.
  • She proclaims that God is Mother and reminds us that women image the Divine.
  • She affirms a God of unconditional love.
  • She believes, All Shall Be Well.

Song: (Ring the bell)

Ring out, bells of Norwich

And let the winter come and go.

All shall be well again I know.

Julian’s Words from Revelations of Divine Love

The Hazelnut

Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter V

God showed me a little thing,
The size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand,
And it was as round as a ball.
I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought:
‘What can this be?’

And it was generally answered thus: ‘It is all that is made.’

I marveled how it could continue, because it seemed to me it could suddenly have sunk into nothingness because of its littleness.

And I was answered in my understanding:
‘It continues and always shall,
because God loves it.’

And in this way everything has its being by the love of God.


Take a hazelnut in your hand. (This can be a real hazelnut or anything small and round like a marble, a small stone, or a balled-up piece of paper.)

Like Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed, Julian’s Hazelnut is a little thing. Yet, God shows it to Julian as a sign of God’s love for creation. The least of things can yield a mystical vision. God is totally here, now. The fullness of God bursts forth in a humble hazelnut.

Eat the Ferrero Rocher hazelnut candy and taste the fullness and sweetness of God.

The hazelnut is the revelation of God whether God presents herself (and Julian used “Mother” as well as “Father” to describe God) through a mustard seed, a tongue of fire, or our own daily experience.

For Julian, the hazelnut was a sign of hope, a sign of the love of God that sustains us. What things or events are signs of hope for you?

Pray with Julian

Think of why you are hopeful. Let us write a list of reasons for being hopeful. Start with “Because… and end with “I hope in you, O God, or the name you call the Divine.”

For example:

“Because of the flowers that bloom each spring, I hope in you, Loving Creator.” “Because of the love of my family and friends, I hope in you, Divine Love.”

“Because of the beautiful rising sun, I hope in you, O God.”

Let us pray with our hopes, in the form of a litany with the refrain, “I hope in you, O God.”

Ring the bell. 

Song: “Holy as the Day Is Spent,” Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer captured the spirit of the hazelnut in her song, “Holy as a Day is Spent.” In Newcomer’s song, she invites us to experience the holiness of whizzing cars, dogs running in their sleep, a simple breakfast, and doing our daily tasks.

Holy is the dish and drain
The soap and sink, and the cup and plate
And the warm wool socks, the cold white tile
Showerheads and good dry towels

And frying eggs sound like psalms
With bits of salt measured in my palm
It’s all a part of a sacrament
As holy as a day is spent

Holy is the busy street
And cars that boom with passion’s beat
And the check out girl, counting change
And hands that shook my hands today

And hymns of geese fly overhead
And spread their wings like their parents did
Blessed be the dog that runs in her sleep
To chase some wild and elusive thing

Holy is the familiar room
And the quiet moments in the afternoon
And folding sheets like folding hands
To pray as only laundry can

I’m letting go of all my fear
Like autumn leaves of Earth and air
For summer came and summer went
As holy as a day is spent

Holy is the place I stand
To give whatever small good I can
The empty page, and the open book
Redemption everywhere I look

Unknowingly we slow our pace
In the shade of unexpected grace
With grateful smiles and sad lament
As holy as a day is spent

And morning light sings “providence”
As holy as a day is spent

The Maker, Lover, and Keeper

Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter V

In this little thing (the hazelnut) I saw three characteristics:
the first is that God made it,
the second is that God loves it,
the third is that God keeps it.

But what did I observe in it?
Truly that God is the Maker, the Lover, and the Keeper.
For, until I am in essence united to God,
I can never have full rest or true joy,
until, that is, I am so attached to God
that there is absolutely nothing that is created separating my God and myself.

Song: (Ring the bell)

Ring out, bells of Norwich

And let the winter come and go.

All shall be well again I know.


Julian affirms a God of unconditional love — the maker, lover, and keeper of all — who delights in holding each created thing and being, and whose love works to make all things well.

What do you think of Julian’s idea of the Trinity: God as Maker, Lover, and Keeper?

Pray with Julian

Look at your list of reasons for being hopeful and create an affirmation, a message of self-love or love for others that reminds you that God is Maker, Lover, and Keeper. Start your affirmation with “I …”

For example: “I see God in flowers that bloom each spring.”

“I am the expression of God’s love for my family and my friends.”

“I am strong like the beautiful rising sun.”

Ring the bell.

God as Mother

And so in our creation God almighty is our loving Father,
and God all wisdom is our loving Mother,
with the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit,
which is all one God

As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother.

To the property of motherhood belong nature, love, wisdom and knowledge, and this is God.

Song: (Ring the bell)

Ring out, bells of Norwich

And let the winter come and go.

All shall be well again I know.


The image of God as mother is ancient. Isaiah sings of God who comforts us as a mothers comforts her child (66.13). Luke’s gospel offers the image of God as a mother hen gathering her young (13.34). The 13th century mystic Mechtilde of Magdeburg uses the image of God as a great mother who bends and takes the child from the floor to her bosom. In our time, feminist theologians and ministers alike challenge us to think, as Mary Daly did, beyond God the Father to embrace God the Mother, and beyond God the Mother to more.

How does Julian’s understanding of God as Mother broaden your understanding of the Divine?

Pray with Julian

From Bridget Mary Meehan, Praying with Visionary Women, p. 52

“O Nurturing, Nourishing, Mothering God,
with you and through you I journey back to the womb that gave me birth…
May you continue to delight in me…
Heal the hurts that come from the difference between the love I needed and the love I received…

Reach deep within me as I rest in your womb…

You, who loved me into existence and soothe away any pain or fear from my past, fill me with your life-giving force and creativity in my relationships with my parents, children, and all those I am called to nurture…

I belong to you… I love you…

I celebrate your birthing power within me that accepts me… that forgives me… that liberates me… in peace and joy forever…”

Ring the bell.

Take Action

  • This month, begin every day with a short meditation or affirmation on what gives you hope, what symbolizes God’s love, and what reminds you that all shall be well.
  • Write a letter to someone you love, someone you have nurtured, or someone who has nurtured you and tell them why they are special to you.
  • Spend time in nature as a reminder that God loves all creation.
  • Keep the hope alive that all shall be well while you continue to work for justice!
    • Get out and vote this primary season!
    • Join a local community action group that helps women and marginalized people run for local office.
    • Attend the next Black Lives Matter march in your area.
    • Donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians’ Gaza Emergency Appeal. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is responding to the large number of casualties in Gaza amidst the current violence there.
    • Learn more about or get involved in the Sanctuary Movement to see how your neighborhood or congregation can support immigrants, refugees, and families being broken apart by deportation.

Sending Forth

Let us go forth remembering Julian’s message:

As Julian reveals the hazelnut story as a sign of hope,

let us go forth and be hopeful.

As Julian proclaims that God is Mother,

let us go forth and call God Mother.

As Julian affirms a God of unconditional love,

let us go forth and show God’s love and compassion.

As Julian believes All Shall Be Well,

let us go forth praying desperately, All Shall Be Well Again.

© 2018 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). Planned by Diann L. Neu, Hannah Dorfman, Janaya Sachs,