giving life to all life,
moving all creatures,
root of all things,
washing them clean,
wiping out their mistakes,
healing their wounds,
you are our true life:
awakening the heart
from its ancient sleep.
~ Hildegard of Bingen
Illumination above by Hildegard of Bingen: Cultivating the Cosmic Tree
Hildegard of Bingen was a Benedictine abbess, writer, musician and mystic. On May 10, 2012 the Vatican formally recognized Hildegard of Bingen by “inscribing her in the catalogue of saints.” Here at Holy Wisdom Monastery, she has been held in highest esteem for many years. Her sense of the “greening power,” the very life force of God in all beings, her knowledge and love of the natural world is a rich example and resource to us in our caring for the earth. Bingen House, one of the houses of the monastery, is named after her, and her poetry provides texts for some of the canticles in our Liturgy of the Hours.
We honor Hildegard of Bingen each year on the day of her death, September 17, with special prayers and readings at midday prayer. The following is an excerpt from one of those readings:
Certainly one of the major figures of her time, Hildegard left her mark on the 12th century with an extraordinary range of achievements. Had she been only a mystic and writer of spiritual literature, or only a theologian and scientist, or only an artist and musician, or only a prophet and reformer, her life would have been remarkable enough. But she was all of the above!
In overcoming the “handicap,” as Hildegard saw it, of being a woman in basically a man‘s world, she served as the conscience of the Church. In her mysticism she led the way as the first of the great Rhineland mystics. She left a legacy of music as well as inspired writings. In some ways—her concern for the environment as exemplified by a creation-centered theology—Hildegard is almost more 20th century than 12th. For what is more contemporary than her observation:
All nature is at the disposal of humankind.
We are to work with it.
Without it we cannot survive.
(from Women in Church History, by Joanne Turpin)