On a Saturday midway through Lent, CTC staff boarded the 9.00 from Liverpool Street station bound for Norwich: home of Julian, Anchoress, writer and mystic.
Led by our Chaplain, Sr Josephine Canny, we sat in a cell-like chapel and learned about this remarkable 14th century plague survivor famous for her “Revelations of Divine Love.” This is indeed a prayerful, peaceful, ‘thin’ place. Unlike Nuns, Anchoresses remained in the world – their cells were designed with a window into the main church, where Mass was said, another window to communicate with a maid who saw to their practical needs and, most importantly, a window to the outside world. It was here that people came with their anxieties and requests for prayer.
Although from her thirties until her death at eighty seven Julian lived a solitary life of prayer, she did not withdraw from the needs of the world. Rather her prayer led to compassion for her ‘even-Christians’ as she referred to the laity. During a time of social injustice and political upheaval, Julian dispensed spiritual guidance for the social activists of her day, from her cell.
Her vision of the vulnerability of the wounded Christ led to a profound understanding of the necessity, not inevitability of sin which is transformed by the grace of God. I don’t doubt that she would endorse the idea that for all manner of things to be well, prayer as well as action are required.
We also visited Norwich Cathedral where rehearsals were underway for the St Matthew Passion. We found a commemorative plaque to one of our ancestors Thomas Buxton, after whom our Buxton Leadership programme is named) and the Icon ‘Descent into Hades’ by Patricia Fostiropoulos – an image that had been spoken of in the morning. (Not to mention some naughty misericords.)
For those in London, a train from London is not an ardous journey – you should try it. “Where next?” we ask our chaplain.