Mid-1300s: Stone walls
confine her. No power,
no plumbing. No hearth.
An anchoress, by choice,
she is bricked in
for life—gruel, heels of bread,
perhaps an apple, daily
passed over the sill.
Waste, handed out.
Door-less, she understands
fear. Isolation and boredom,
Famine. And persecution.
The Black Plague.
People line up
at her window, seeking
Her quiet listening heart.
She will become the world’s most famous anchoress—a woman voluntarily locked up to devote her life to prayer for others.
Julian of Norwich, they call her, noted for penning words that comfort me today:
“All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Julian: Medieval poster child for well-being.
The first woman to write a book in English, she titled it Revelations of the Divine Love. Seven-hundred-some years ago.
Talk about shelf life!
T.S. Eliot quoted her, in The Four Quartets. As have numerous others. To this day, her book ranks with the great spiritual classics.
How might a woman sealed in a stone cell help us today as we shelter in place?
Begin with her body prayer, comprised of four simple (yet pivotal) movements:
Await . . .
Allow . . .
Accept . . .
Attend . . .
Friends, Julian’s body prayer bookends my days in isolation. Sometimes I use it mid-day, as a calming reset between chores. It helps me lean back in my spirit, breathe slowly, inhabit deepening peace.
I could riff on the four words beginning with “A,” but I trust their shelf life. I believe they’ll speak to you if you need them—in their own way, their own time.
What simple thought or activity helps you in surreal times?
Read about a 21st century anchoress here.
Photo of hands: Milada Vigerova for Unsplash