On Visions

by Charlotte Long, Youth Ministries

When the English anchoress Julian of Norwich was 30 and living at home in the late 1300s, she suffered from a serious illness that led her to near death. As part of the ritual of last rites, a priest held a crucifix in the air above the foot of her bed. Julian reported that she was losing her sight and felt physically numb, but as she gazed on the crucifix she saw the figure of Jesus begin to bleed. Over the next several hours, she had a series of sixteen visions of Jesus Christ, which ended by the time she recovered from her illness. Julian wrote about her visions immediately after they had happened (although the text may not have been finished for some years), in a version of the Revelations of Divine Love now known as the Short Text at 25 chapters. It is believed to be the earliest surviving book written in the English language by a woman.

Julian called her visions "showings." As in: God showed her something in that moment that perhaps could not have been seen so clearly otherwise. As in: God leans in and whispers, "It is possible for anyone to see this as they like; but you need to see it now."

Visions get a heavy reputation. We want them, we fear them, we don't really believe in them, but in any case we like to hear stories about them. They seem to fit more in the Old Testament world. They belong to the prophets, perhaps. And maybe the occasional TV psychic. Bonfire Night at Youth Group in the Cloister

But this alternative word of "showings" feels more tangible. How often have you felt clarity suddenly and beautifully? Or even had a thought that hadn't occurred to you in quite that light? Or even a topic that keeps calling to you, demanding your attention, without you even knowing why? I get them all the time in Youth Group as the kids are chatting or asking surprising questions; and I tell the teens (and myself!), "As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Pay Attention!'" Or on the ASP trip - it seems we are barraged by them. The air is clearer there, maybe - or our purpose more svelte; and God it seems has less crud to sift through in order to talk to us. I am convinced that these are Divine showings; and for that matter, we might as well call them visions.

The only answer to these little pulls is to open oneself to the Impossible, to the Yes, to the Anything, to the Quiet Voice. The showing comes, in whatever form, and we must perk up our little animal ears and focus on it. We don't know what is important about these pulls, but we won't know until we listen with an open heart.