The "Short Text" and "Long Text" that Bozon
refers to are versions of Julian's "Showings" - her account of her sufferings
and the revelations
that she brought from them. Her understanding
of suffering is very different from how we in the modern
world would perceive of such an experience
, and as such her written documentation
is incredibly important for a comprehensive understanding
of a medieval
Julian responds directly to what she perceives in Christ: suffering, pain, cheer, joy and bliss. In requesting “recollection” of the Passion Julian desired not merely a visionary experience but a communication with the physical suffering and emotional turmoil of Christ as witnessed at the crucifixion. The desire for bodily suffering was also the desire for inner sight; she sought the “knowledge of our savior’s bodily pains, and of the compassion of our Lady and of all his true lovers who were living at the time and saw his pains, for I would have been on of them and have suffered with them.” Her purpose was to suffer alongside the observers: to experience their vision vicariously in order to partake of the mood of the Passion. Suffering, the physical result of her sickness, acts as a locus from which her vision erupts. Her recollection is tied directly to that physical state, for when she suffered to the brink of death the recollection she speaks of reaches its most profound state.
For Julian, suffering becomes an expectation of being human. Human existence in the world's present state would not be possible without sin, and so suffering goes hand in hand with it. Troubled with this revelation, Julian composes the age-old question: "Ah, good Lord, how could all things be well, because of the great harm which has come through sin to your creatures?"
To comprehend her final revelation in this matter it is necessary to grasp that the language of physicality plays a large role in her understanding of the interplay between sin and suffering. Sin itself has no substance and as such lacks physical dimensions. Suffering on the other hand is entrenched within the physical realm – to Julian it is the effect of sin’s presence on earth. The causal nature of suffering from sin exists without the dualistic interpretation we might be tempted to place upon it. In her schema sin is enclosed within negative connotations, but she affirms the necessity or rather its implicitness in the role of humanity. Were we free from sin and thus free from suffering we would be as “pure and as like our Lord as he created us.” Whereas prior to her revelations she grieved the existence of sin it is within her revelations that she observes sin’s necessity. Without such the presence of Christ within the physical sphere would be both unnecessary and unappreciated. The joy of God comes from his compassion for humanity, his willingness to accept and give love to imperfect servants. Her own comprehension of divine compassion comes to her through the vision of Christ at his moment of crucifixion: glorious and suffering. Her longing for Christ’s compassion is her longing for union with Christ. The physical parallel to this seeming abstraction is her empathic and vicarious rendering of Christ’s thirst, one which is both physical and spiritual. Julian explicates the physical right away, and as such it affords us the opportunity to comprehend the depth of her communion with Christ. Her perception of his dryness, of his physical thirst, is moving and harrowing but when combined with the spiritual thirst, his "longing in love" the physicality of thirst becomes a method to describe the desire, or actual need, of Christ to fulfill his Passion and "gather us all here into him, to our endless joy."
In order to reach the point of Christ's thirst and it's location as rooted in the Trinitarian concept Julian is forced to question her life and surroundings – to search for answers. This leads her on and draws out of her a potential that is only fully realized after struggling with a vicarious perception rooted in physicality and the suffering that results from such. The longing and thirst she discovers within Christ is one that surpasses the boundaries of time. By being at once both human and divine Christ straddles the line between the eternal and the mortal. His Passion has not yet become fulfilled, and so his thirst remains even through the physical constraints of his body have expired. His eternal nature is bound up in this sense of longing and love. It will "persist in him so long as we are in need, and will draw us up into his bliss." This description of eternal nature within the context of a physical form of suffering allow Julian to express the nature of Christ's longing in human and accessible terms, they are brought down from the point of extreme abstraction to level of human comprehension.
The Lord's solution, that he will make all things well, does not alleviate the then present suffering of mankind. Nor does it invalidate such suffering. Rather it proposes a direction for humanity to quest that provides the answer of salvation. That direction is through pain and suffering because pain and suffering is the outcome of humanity's original fall from the garden. Pain and suffering allow a vehicle for comprehending on a physical level the effect of sin on humanity. God's desire is not for us to experience pain, rather it is Julian's desire to experience pain in order to fully appreciate the sacrifice of Christ for humanity. God "wants us to be at ease in our souls and at peace in love, disregarding every disturbance which could hinder our true rejoicing in him." Suffering in this sense is not a disturbance that hinders us but rather a vehicle that allows us to vicariously experience the importance of Christ. His physicality on earth, his presence in our lives, is a point of departure from sin – one that can be envisioned as Julian did so, and one that can be anticipated as being one day fulfilled. Because God decides to keep the blessed deed secret from Julian yet her location to suffering at this point becomes altered. Within Julian's construction, up until the moment of fulfillment we all suffer as an aspect of continued humanity. Yet it is God's assurance that peace will be found and disturbance will be ridden that allows Julian to surpass an interpretation that merely calls for a reliance on suffering. By stressing the importance of Christ's suffering as a past action, as already accomplished and one that has to be "recollected", a term with the connotation of memory as opposed to imagination or mental construction, Julian imparts a sense that God's final intervention will be one that demonstrates his great love and compassion.
Suffering for Julian is connected directly to her notion of a "recollection" of a past event. The language of the term seems to imply that the action of unifying with Christ would necessitate a bridging of actual time, yet that is unnecessary. The effect of Christ's life, death and subsequent rebirth into eternal life is one that surpasses typically understood human boundaries. Saying that suffering on the human level or the divine level is behind us by the past action of Christ's redemption is inaccurate, but the recollection of the past event allows Julian the opportunity to envision Christ's sacrifice as not yet fulfilled. Suffering in that sense retains its purpose but with the promise of eventual salvation.