Margery & Julian on the Holy Trinity

Some 600 years ago, two women met in Norwich and talked at length over several days. The two women were Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe of Lynn. The experience may have been more pleasurable for Margery than for Julian; Margery recorded the meeting, Julian did not. Margery sought out holy people to seek their spiritual counsel. Julian, as an anchoress confined to her cell, was a sitting target, she could not escape from those who came to her window. Margery did tend to annoy people: the townsfolk of Lynn were driven mad by her moaning and wailing during the Mass as she imagined the pain of Jesus on the Christ; pilgrims to the Holy Land wanted to tip her overboard; and she came close to being burnt at the stake as a heretic.

Margery does not record what exactly they spoke about. in her autobiography she simply says  ‘Much was the holy conversation that the anchoress and this creature had, communing in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ many days that they were together.’ I wonder whether they spoke about the Trinity, because it was clearly a subject that interested them both and which features prominently in their writings.

Margery uses a homely image to portray her understanding of the Trinity. She sees three cushions in her soul: one gold, on which sits God the Father, mighty and powerful; one red on which sits God the Son, who poured out his blood on the cross, and one white on which sits the Holy Spirit, all pure and chaste. And she is given to understand that what she believes is true of the Father, that he is all–powerful and all merciful, is also true of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. She believes the same of each. Each wills what the other wills, each knows what the other knows, each may do what the others may do. And all three of these equal persons of the Trinity are there within her soul sitting on three cushions. She heard the voice of Jesus say, furthermore, that if she allowed him to rest in her soul on earth, so she would rest with him in heaven without end. 

The Holy Trinity that we celebrate to today, is the fullness and completeness of God. He has no need of anything, he is all complete within himself, but of his generosity, which flows out from him, he gives of himself to us, and we are drawn into the life of love of the Trinity. God is love, but love needs an object. The Father, loves the Son, who loves the Spirit who loves the Father, in the one continuous circle of love that is the Trinity. Margery Kempe, through the intensity of her faith, was able to admit that divine love into her soul, and from her soul that love flowed out.

Julian also wrote in a similar vein on the subject of the Holy Trinity. She saw that the soul is the dwelling place of God, and that God is the dwelling place of the soul, which is cause for deep joy. She saw that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is enclosed within us, and we are enclosed within him, almighty, all wisdom, all goodness, one Lord. It is through God, that we are what we are. To Julian, our soul sits in God in complete rest, our soul stands in God in complete strength and our soul is naturally rooted in God in eternal love.

Julian therefore takes us beyond the meaning of Pentecost, that we are repositories of the Holy Spirit. In understanding the Trinity, we see that we are drawn into God. The barriers between us are down; we are part of his activity.  

Julian’s life as an anchoress, confined to her cell beside St Julian’s church, was one of permanent but voluntary lockdown. She was conscious that just as she fully occupied her cell God abided completely in her soul. Loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, should make us want to love our neighbor; loving our neighbor should increase the sense of our love for God. That too is a continuous, reciprocal cycle the one feeding the other. Love is received and love is given and so love grows.

This period of lockdown may have brought us closer to God, as we are less busy and have less distractions. Conversely this time may make us feel less loving. It is not so easy to show compassion and love from a distance. We need people to draw the love from us.  Otherwise some of us might easily become like hermit crabs, wearing our homes like a protective shell.

The love of God revealed in the teaching of Jesus has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. May the Holy Trinity, the force of love, take up home in each of our souls. May there be peace within us, that he may dwell within us, and we may rest in him.