It may be the most well-known mystical vision in the western world: the entire universe, round as a ball and the size of a hazelnut, being held in the palm of the hand. Julian of Norwich was born in 1342 and lived as an anchoress–sort of like an extreme nun. On what seemed to be her deathbed she had a series of 16 visions. She was miraculously healed and spent the years afterward reflecting upon the meaning of the visions. She eventually composed them into a book, Revelations of Divine Love, written in the simple English of the day, not Latin.
That was Middle English, the language of Chaucer. I have used the public domain translation by Grace Warrack and updated the language for modern ears, with the help of Clifton Wolters’ 1966 translation.
When I was thirty-one, God sent me a bodily sickness, in which I lay three days and three nights. On the fourth night the priest gave me the Last Rites, because those with me were certain that I would not to live till day. But after this I lingered for two more days and nights, and on the third night I was sure I was dying, and those with me were certain too…
My parish priest was sent for to be at my death. By the time he arrived, my eyes were fixed and could not move. I could not speak. He held the Cross before my face and said “I have brought thee the Image of thy Maker and Saviour: look upon it and be strengthened.”….
After this my sight began to fail, and room became dark about me, as if it were night, except in the Image of the Cross which somehow was giving off light; and I could not understand how that was happening. Except for the Cross everything else in the room was horror, as if it were filled with demons. After this the upper part of my body began to die, and I could hardly feel anything, and my breath became shorter and shorter. I was certain I was dying. And in this moment suddenly all my pain was taken from me, and I felt as fit and strong as ever…..
[The visions begin. She has a vision of Jesus dying on the cross, and she receives insight about the Trinity and then Mary, the mother of Jesus. Then this.]
….At this moment our Lord showed me a spiritual sight of how intimately he loves us. I saw that He is everything that we know to be good and helpful. In his love he clothes us, hugs us, holds us tight, because of his tender love, never to leave us. As I saw it he is everything that is good.
And He showed me more, a little thing, the size of a hazel-nut, on the palm of my hand; it was as round as a ball. I looked thoughtfully and wondered, “What could this be?” And the answer came: “It is all that is made.” I marveled that it continued to exist and did not disintegrate, because it was so small. And I was answered in my understanding: “It exists, both now and forever, because God loves it.” That is, everything owes its very existence to the love of God.