Our utmost bliss

In Chapter 77 Julian makes what might be the most challenging sentence of the Showings:

“to be perfectly like our Lord is our true salvation and our utmost bliss.”

To be like our Lord perfectly already demands that we be aware what our Lord is like. What is this likeness we are aiming for? Do we think it looks like an earthly ideal—like something we can measure by doing certain things or not? Do we think it looks like a certain kind of relationship, perhaps based on one we idealize? How do these ideas change how we approach the question of likeness or of salvation?

This particular statement about salvation comes immediately after Julian has described the balance of utmost courtesy and utmost friendliness God has toward us. Julian is not describing someone who is going to throw us out if we somehow don’t dot all our i’s or cross all our t’s, or worse. As she writes in chapter 51, when beginning to understand how God “regards us in our own sin,” she sees that “only suffering blames and punishes, and our courteous Lord comforts and succors; he is always gladly regarding the soul, loving and longing to bring us to bliss.”  As she repeats in chapter 77, this is a presence that always wants to heal, comfort, make safe, and restore.

This degree of kindness and respect can be hard to match, especially if we are convinced that other people have to shape up before they can have any courtesy from us. But Julian never indicates that God withholds either courtesy or friendliness, only that our own condition or our fixation on others’ sins, prevents us from perceiving it in fullness. Might being like our Lord mean, at the very least, that just as God has chosen to stand in solidarity with us in Christ, we who are sinners then also stand in solidarity with other sinners—and not as an undifferentiated mass of humanity, but as individuals we encounter each day?

“If we do not know how we shall do all this,” Julian writes, “let us ask our Lord and he will teach us; for it is his own delight and his glory.”

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