Author: Merriman, Brigid O'Shea
Date published: March 1, 2010
LOVE'S TRINITY: A COMPANION TO JULIAN OF NORWICH. The Long Text by Julian of Norwich. Translated by JohnJulian Swanson, O.J.N. Commentary by Frederick S. Roden, A.O.J.N. CoIlegeville, Minn.: Liturgical, 2009. Pp. xii + 336. $39.95.
Featuring the Long Text of Julian of Norwich's Revelations, this companion was translated by John-Julian Swanson, who also provides the foreword. S. is the Episcopal founder of the Order of Julian of Norwich (O.J.N.) and has pondered the mystic's message for almost three decades. His translation is lucid, elegant, and remarkably faithful to Julian's Middle English. In chapter 51, for example, he wrestled successfully with the subtleties of Julian's lord and servant parable. More than other translators, he has grasped what Julian writes of her early and later, much richer, appropriation of the parable's meaning (189).
Frederick Roden's succinct commentary follows each chapter of S.'s translation, and provides pregnant pauses for meditation. Whether or not intentional, the arrangement invites a lectio divina, a pondering of the word that it may take flesh within one's mind and heart. The translator's and commentator's collaboration has much to recommend this rendering. R. is well versed in English literature, yet his commentary is intentionally devotional and homiletic. He keeps Julian's basic message alive, while addressing the spiritual hungers of 21st-century readers. Overall, the commentary reveals R.'s careful reflection on the late-medieval mystic's message. As with Julian, R. has drunk deeply of Scripture's wellsprings. Here lies the commentary's great strength.
I find only occasional difficulties with R.'s theological interpretation. For example, he overlooks Julian's rich trinitarian perspective in chapter 56, which S. rightly translates: "From this essential nature of God, mercy and grace spring" (220). Here, we have a reference to Father (essential nature), Son (mercy), and Holy Spirit (grace). Yet R. applies this only to a human trinity (222); his interpretation then appears to occasion a loose use of terms such as nature and grace in later chapters (e.g., 246). Nonetheless, the commentary is as challenging and uplifting as the translation, and merits a careful reading.
BRIGID O'SHEA MERRIMAN, O. S. F.
Lourdes College, Sylvania, Ohio