True Courtesy & Friendliness

Throughout her Revelations Julian speaks of Our Lord as both awesome and intimate; in Chapter 77 she zeroes in on this dialectic in a reflection on his “homeliness and courtesy”—homely for being familiar with us in love and courteous for his profound respect for us. God wants to be “at home” with us and wants us to be “at home” with him. An inadequate, if close analogy is the relationship enjoyed by the partners of the healthiest, most ideal marriage, and how respect and intimacy are neatly balanced.

The caution Julian makes about a familiarity on our part that fails in courtesy is addressed particularly to that in us which is still unconverted, that wants to seize everything for itself, that is out of touch with itself and so cannot have empathy for others. In human relationships this kind of “overfamiliarity” that does not respect boundaries leads to disrespect and makes for a sloppy, unfulfilling relationship. We are not yet as unchangeable as God is, and so need this caution; in our relationship with him, any failure in courtesy will always be on our side. Yet God will still treat us with respect and courtesy no matter how disregarding we might be of courtesy toward him; moreover because of this courtesy he will never force us to a greater intimacy (homeliness, friendliness) than we are actually ready for. He simply waits, and teaches us as we are able.

When Julian writes that “our soul is so especially beloved by Him that is Highest that it surpasses the knowledge of all creatures—that there is no creature that is made that can know how much and how sweetly and how tenderly our Creator loves us” she is trying to communicate how nothing we may have imagined of God’s love for us can come anywhere near the reality, as much as we try. This is a friendliness, and a respect, beyond anything we can grasp.

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