Eyes Have I That See by John Julian
A monk, priest and a scholar, poet John Julian has given us a breadth of wisdom here in a new collection of poems that gathers together old and new poems alike. Julian founded the Order of Julian Norwich in 1985 and his poems exude that same quite confidence. These poems span the time from his first ones, written in 1959 to the most contemporary, written in 2014. Yet, these poems have a strength to them that comes from someone who has long pondered the mysteries of life, suffering, and faith.
In the poem Incarnatus, Julian captures the profundity of Christ’s becoming flesh on the earth in a unique and forceful way. He writes, Suffer, he said, but never cause suffering / Give, while the rest of the world seeks to take; / Die, if its needed , but never cause dying; / Love, with the knowledge that friends may forsake (49).” The extending of grace, the giving of himself to and for others, and the love that he gave out completely to friends was part and parcel of the life and ministry of Jesus. Yet, this giving, this unhindered letting go of the clutches of vain glory and recognition were met with rejection, forsakenness, and self-promotion. Julian finishes the poems with the lines, “To celebrate life amidst deathly confusion, / To speak in your living the truth of my Birth (49).”
The veritable tension that a prophet’s calling and what he should do is displayed in the poem, A Prophet Should. Near the end of the poem, Father Julian endorses this tension, “A prophet should resolve, / facilitate, ease, answer, / and console. / Buts shoulds are alien to him and judgment echoes off his walls (55).” The tension exists between a steady and growing conscience of a prophet and his duty to bring judgment to the people. There is a sort of dissonance here that Julian calls to, the kind of tension between the prophet’s personality and feelings and what he must say from the Lord. The tenderness is lost on the prophet in the midst of his prophetic oracles that many times come in the form of thundering denouncements.
Thanks to Paraclete Press for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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