St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)
Canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church October 7, 2012
September 17 was the feast day of St. Hildegard of Bingen. I think, despite her recent canonization, she is a relatively unknown secret that deserves much more attention!
“Between the summer of 1098 and the autumn of 1179, a remarkable German woman lived eighty-one years at a time when half that long was considered a full life. The Uber-multitasking woman, this Benedictine nun, founded two convents; organized the first-ever public preaching tours conducted by a woman; authored nearly 400 bold letters to popes, emperors, abbesses, monks, nuns, and laypeople; worked as a healer, naturalist, botanist, dietary specialist, and exorcist; composed daring music; crafted poetry with staying power; wrote the first surviving sung morality play; and spent decades writing three compelling theological works. Her long resume is impressive in any age, but it pales when compared with her life, which she considered her best divine offering. A thorough knowledge of the way Hildegard lived is essential to understanding her other creations.” – St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church by Carmen Acevedo Butcher, pp.1-2
Hildegard experienced God as the source of all viriditas, a word that she created, which she saw as the “green” energy of agape love pulsing through the entire universe. Over and over in her writings, she chooses viriditas to express God’s vitality and the ways His goodness and love charge the whole world with life, beauty, and renewal, literally, with “greenness.”
In Hildegard’s mind, viriditas was first found in the green garden of Eden, but it is also the green of whatever twig you happen to be looking at in this present moment, whoever we are, and wherever we may be. Wherever Hildegard looked, she saw this “green” force animating every creature and plant on this planet with verdant divine love.
She also discerned that we all have viriditas, this creative life power, within us. It is God’s freshness that humans receive in their spiritual and physical life forces. This powerful life force is found in the non-human as well. Healing comes when we figure out what is blocking our viriditas.
Hildegard perceived that creativity came with humanity, that all of us are created to create and that creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God. She recognized that whatever God created was bound together in cosmic interdependence. She understood that intelligence – that is, reason informed by feeling through senses and emotions and feeling informed by reason – is God’s greatest gift to us. Through our intellect and the creative imagination that it inspires, we are co-creators with God, cooperating with God to build the Kingdom of God. She once stated, “Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly.” We are, then, to draw to ourselves all that is earthly, including our bodies and God-given gifts, to use co-creatively with God to proclaim and grow the kingdom of God in all its beauty. The whole of reality is creative, and we are part of the process.
Finally, Jesus himself, along with St. Francis, St. Hildegard, and so many others throughout the ages, affirmed that the fullness of our journey to God comes with our willingness to recognize and become as fully HUMAN as we can. It is in our very humanity that we experience the Spirit through our bodies with all their wonderful attributes. It is through the loving use of all that our bodies are, the development of all that our bodies can do, which includes all of these gifts – intellect, emotions, physicality, and senses, that we can most experience God, praise God, and be co-creators with God to build the Kingdom of God here and now!
“We are dressed in the scaffold of creation. And so, humankind, full of creative possibilities, is God’s work. Humankind alone is called to assist God. Humankind is called to co-create. God gave to humankind the talent to create with all the world.” – Hildegard of Bingen
“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside you’ve got heaven and earth and all of creation. You’re a world – everything is hidden in you.” – Hildegard of Bingen
Questions for further contemplation:
> How can you tune more deeply into viriditas, that greening power and energy of love pulsing through all of creation?
> How can you tap into your own viriditas to assist God as co-creator?
> What do you need to “take a good look at yourself” to continue to grow?
> How are you being invited to deepen your spiritual response?