It is fitting that I have been compelled to study the visions of Julian of Norwich at this time. A major paper is due this Friday on her life and work. What I did not consider when I chose this area of study for my project is that it would culminate just before the start of the Lenten season, and the bulk of her vision is centered on Christ’s Passion.
Simone Weil, in, Waiting For God reflects, “not only does the love God have attention for its substance”, that is, the meditation and consideration of the profound nature of Love; “the love of our neighbor, which we know to be the same love, is made of this same substance.” The act of such contemplation is not uncomplicated—approached naively—nor a simple gaze, but a “negative effort [that] . . . consists of suspending our thought, leaving it detached, empty, and ready to be penetrated by the object.” Turned toward one in pain, “[t]he soul empties itself of all its own contents in order to receive into itself the being it is looking at, just as he is, in all his truth.” (111-155)
Julian sees the wound in Jesus’ side as an opening to humanity, an encompassing of all into the eternal embrace of death and regeneration. And to understand that profound work on the cross is also to understand Compassion as a hollowing out of the self; it is “mynde of his blessyd passion,” in which one’s suffering is displaced by Christ, who is possessed of all of creation’s suffering.” And, so, my suffering is suffered by Jesus on the cross who suffers in solidarity with our pain while redeeming it so that we may see clearly – Love. But, Jesus suffers all of our suffering, so that when we identify (see) Christ’s pain for what it is (Love) we are free from attention—attachment—to self, free to have compassion on, know the pain of—love—the other.
So, this is my Lenten prayer: to gaze on Christ crucified, the wound that encompasses, embraces me, my pain, so I may see Love. Know love. Live love. Love.