“The Resurrection, Cookham”, in its presentation of an eschatology which begins in the here and now, embeds a message which speaks of our world and our present as intimately bound with God for eternity. This conception of an eternal, connecting relationship between Creator and creation begins in Spencer’s vision of the world, which leads him to a view of God, which in turn brings him back to himself. What emerges as of ultimate significance is God’s giving of God’s self.
Truth sees God, wisdom beholds God,
and from these two comes a third,
a holy wondering delight in God,
which is love
It seems that Julian of Norwich’s words speak prophetically of Spencer’s artistic journey - a journey which moves from seeing, to beholding, to joy. Both express love as the essential message of their work. Julian understood her visions as making clear that for God ‘love was his meaning’. Spencer, meanwhile, described his artistic endeavour as invigorated by love, as art’s ‘essential power’. This love, for both, informs the whole of life. God, in light of the power of love, cannot be angry. Julian conceived of sin as something for which God would not blame us. Likewise, Spencer’s Day of Judgement is lacking in judgement. Humanity, in light of the power of love, should not despise itself, not even the bodily self so frequently derided. This love of self finds expression in Julian’s language – she uses ‘sensuality’ when referring to the body. Rather than compartmentalising flesh in disregard for it, she describes it as ‘always grounded in God’. Spencer’s work similarly conveys a sense of the self as whole, thus as wholly loveable. He sees himself not as consisting of fragmented components, but one: his body is as much himself as his soul, his sexuality is as crucial as his intellect. This love of Julian and Spencer’s, which overwhelms the sight of God and of the self, makes for a distinctive character in their theologies. Neither is defensive. Both are experimental, uninhibited by convention and even playful. This simple power of love, evident within the work of both, makes Julian’s written words an insightful framework for reading Spencer’s visual image.
Beginning with truth seeing God, I will examine Spencer’s distinctive seeing of the sacred within the ordinary, his being attuned to a unified world in which God is not separated from humanity. From the presence of God that Spencer’s truth sees, I will turn to his wisdom in beholding God. In wisdome God’s ubiquity and hence God’s intimate closeness is held simultaneously with the grace facilitating that closeness, a grace so abundant that its giver is rendered infinitely beyond our understanding. Wisdom beholds immanence together with transcendence. Following this, I will turn to observe Julian’s sense of a holy wondering delight as expressed in Spencer’s piece: the joy which ensues from finding oneself resting in the perfect unity of nearness and otherness - a joy evident in the exultancy of this Cookham scene. Finally, I will assert the essential power which is love, as encountered in each movement where God and humanity are unified -- seeing, beholding, and wondering delight.
Jessica studied Theology at King’s College, Cambridge, before moving to East London to live in a lay community attached to a Church of England parish, and to research theology for the international development agency Christian Aid.
 Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 44. (Ed.) Glasscoe, M. (1981), (Exeter, University of Exeter Press).
 Noted by Jantzen, A. M.(2000),‘Julian of Norwich’ in Hastings, A. The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, (Oxford,Oxford University Press), 358.
 It is striking, for instance, that both allow themselves to conceive of God as female: they are creative and unreserved.