"Thus it fares with our lord Jesus and with us; for truly it is the most joy that may be, as I see it, that he that is highest and mightiest, noblest and worthiest, is lowest and meekest, homeliest and most courteous." (Chapter Seven)

This quote from Julian of Norwich sums up the main of Chapter Seven. She begins by describing a vision of St Mary, who, overwhelmed by the "greatness and the nobleness of the beholding of God" was filled with dread and meekness. Through this humility, she is "fulfilled with grace and with all manner of virtues." Julian then returns to a previous vision of the image of the "bodily sight...of the plenteous bleeding of [Christ's] head. This showing was both "hideous and dreadful, sweet and lovely. And of all the sights it was the greatest comfort to me that our God and our lord, that is so reverent and to be feared, is so homely and courteous. And this most greatly fulfilled me with liking and sureness of soul."

In the beginning notes to the text I am using, edited by Elisabeth Dutton, there is a glossary of key words common to Julian's writings. "Homely", we are told, has connotations of intimacy or familiarity.  "Courteous", on the other hand, implies being courtly or refined as well as having behavior which is respectful and meek. When Julian pairs these words she is bringing together the court and the cottage. To further understand how Jesus is both homely and courteous, she is given this example: 'It is the greatest honor that a solemn king or a great lord may do a poor servant if he will be homely with him."
As an American, I find it difficult to live in this metaphor, given our democratic and egalitarian society. Reading Jane Austen's Emma, however, I can inhabit a world where different stations are part of the warp and woof of the social order. Emma, a member of the landed gentry, is aware of her responsibility to visit those beneath her. This she does with varying amounts of grace. Making a "charitable visit" to a sick family she finds easy to accomplish, and it brings her pleasure. The lines are clear, her position as gracious benefactress gratifying. "She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance and their temptations, had no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those, for thom education had done so little. entered into their troubles with ready sympathy, and always gave her assistance with as much intelligence as good-will."
(more after the break)