Gender Construction in "Book of Showings" Essay

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"As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother, and he revealed that in everything, and especially in these sweet words where he says:... I am he, the power and goodness of fatherhood; I am he, the wisdom and the lovingness of motherhood"(Damarosch,478). In today's society it is commonplace, even routine to think of Christian divinity in terms of male gender. How amazing it seems then, to be presented with medieval language which portrays God as a female gendered divinity. Where did the idea arise to portray God as feminine? And what purpose does it serve? This essay seeks to examine whether Julian of Norwich's gender construction of the divine is subversive and radical in light of the reduced power of women in medieval…show more content…
Validated by church scholars such as St. Augustine, who pushed for more masculine representation in the divine and divine offices, women are edged out of influence, God is seen as distant (hence the need for mediators), and of course the masculine representations of God as father, brother, Lord, and protector are generally used over female representations.

Considering the historical background, it seems rather amazing and refreshing to witness Julian of Norwich's take on the gender of the divine. Julian's image of Jesus as Mother, though expanded upon in specific chapters (58-61), is found throughout the text. "Throughout, Julian presents a divinity whose chief characteristics are protecting, nurturing, and sustaining" (Long,1). These characteristics, as mentioned by Long are those which are ascribed to motherhood.

Beginning in chapter 58, Julian portrays God as a powerful father, wise mother, and loving husband. "I contemplated the work of all the blessed Trinity, in which contemplation I saw and understood these three properties: the property of the fatherhood, and the property of the motherhood, and the property of the lordship in one God" (Damrosch,477). Yet, after having just stated the three properties of the Trinity, leading readers to suppose all three properties are equal, Julian spends considerably more time expounding on "the second person, who is our

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