I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Keren Dibbens–Wyatt’s reflection, “Hidden Treasures.”
I have long been nurtured and consoled by the life and writings of the 14th Century English Saint, Julian of Norwich. On what she thought was her deathbed, Julian, aged thirty, received a series of visions. They came whilst gazing on the crucifix brought along by a boy attending the priest who gave her the last rites. She survived her illness and spent the rest of her life meditating on the feast of revelations God had given her, even going so far as to become an anchoress. She took a solemn vow to remain in one small room attached to St Julian’s church from about 1392 to her death some time after 1416. She had a maid bringing her food and taking her laundry and so on through a small window, and also had one tiny window facing into the church through which to receive the eucharist, and one more, covered, window facing the street where she would give spiritual advice to those who asked. But for the most part she was alone with her God and her thoughts.
She spent those long years praying about and thinking on the things God had shown her, and wrote them down, along with her prayerful thoughts. She had most likely already written her first text, but hidden away from the world she wrote a longer one, having had time to dig deeper into her “shewings.” Somehow, a few precious copies of these books survived the Reformation, and give us the earliest book written in English by a woman, The Revelations of Divine Love.
Julian is special to me for many reasons. One is because, like her, I have been called to a life of contemplation. Another is that I have a chronic illness which not only seriously affects everything I do, but which has left me largely unable to leave my home over the last decade and not at all for the last three years. I have felt, many times, like an anchoress myself, stuck indoors, yet given the privilege of mulling over the wonders God has been so gracious as to give me in prayer.
Like Julian, I do not want to keep these things to myself, but want to share them with others, my “evencristens” (fellow Christians) and this desire has led to my own writing of books, one of which, called Recital of Love (releases Sept 8th) partly due to my affection and respect for this woman who died six hundred years ago, is about to enter the world.
In some ways of course, I do not dare compare myself to such a saint. The visions and understandings I have been given are small and yet still overwhelming for an ordinary disabled woman like me. But when God first began showing me things in prayer, it was finding Julian’s writings and those of St Teresa of Avila, that helped me understand what was happening. The word “mystic” is currently having a revival, but twenty years ago when my journey began, no-one I spoke to seemed to know what I was about. When I found these women and this word, everything began to make sense, and I knew in my heart that this powerful tradition of Christian mysticism was flowing through my life.
We are all, of course, capable of learning to attune ourselves to God’s voice, and it is deeply affirming to know that what all the mystics come back with from their sojourns into the heart of God is one sure and certain hope, which is that God is love, and love is God. We always encounter a loving personhood extending mercy and grace. There is no sense of condemnation or of a being who needs appeasement.
This is my own experience too, and out of it have come many wonderful pieces which I believe God has placed on my heart. I receive some of them through the filter of my imagination as pieces of poetic prose. When I began to write them out during my prayer times, and then started collating them, I had no idea that they would become a book. There are journals full of more seeings, shewings and understandings, and my hope is to weave them all into various books and tales. I hope that this work, mostly done shut away from the world, will be a blessing, and help people see that they are indescribably and wonderfully loved by the Three-In-One God who created them.
Here is one of the shorter pieces of the seventy from Recital of Love:
If you pluck a rose and place it in a vase of daisies, it will be ashamed of its thorns and diminished by its height, so aware of its own differences and overwhelmed by the longing to be the same as those around it, that it will shrink before your very eyes.
For it to bloom and open fully, letting light and colour into every dark fissure of its petals, it must be planted in good soil. For my sunshine-love-light to find its way round every petalled corner and into the hidden crevices that frame beauty in curves of darker hue, it must have love whispered to it daily.
It must be taught to open to the dew, to the rain and the sun alike, to become tender to cheek, snail, and aphid, as well as to shining droplets and warm rays.
Open then, to everything, for all things hold a lesson and all wisdom is precious, and there is no full bloom without the courage to face worms. Each rose must find its true form and colour, its own dear shape and vibrant translucency.
And I will shine here and bloom in your blooming. My rose garden spreads fragrance throughout the world, and nothing else smells so sweetly of heaven.
Keren Dibbens–Wyatt is a chronically ill writer and artist with a passion for poetry, mysticism, story and colour. Her writing features regularly on spiritual blogs and in literary journals. Her new book, Recital of Love, published by Paraclete Press, is out on September 8, 2020. Keren lives in South East England and is mainly housebound by her illness.