Hildegard of Bingen, 12th Century abbess, mystic, writer, healer, and counselor to the rich and famous, used many images when writing about God. She saw, felt, and knew God in the world around her, esp. in nature. Two of her commonly used images were God as Light and God as Breath.
Stop for a minute and think about your own images of God. Are they physical and natural like Light or Breath, or more abstract like ‘a man with a white beard in the sky’?
For Hildegard, God’s Light radiated through the entire universe, and through each person. Hildegard says “God created us in the Light of divine power…Therefore, we remain a light that gives off light through God.”* Of course we know that Jesus said, “You are the Light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) and goes on to compare that light to a city on a hill or a light in a dark house.
Stop and think about what the image of Light means to you as a metaphor for God. What words come to mind?
I have found that watching the flame of a candle can bring me into a quiet and holy place. The flickering flame is 3D when you look at it closely. In a dark room, a candle gives an amazing amount of light and that light provides reassurance and comfort. So too, allowing God to be a Light in our lives, gives us strength and shows us the way forward.
When God is the Light in our life, we become lights to those around us. We can be like this stained glass window (of Hildegard) that is lit by the Light of God, giving light to those nearby. Or like a candle or old fashioned lantern lit by the flame of God's love.
One thing any fire needs is air. We probably all did experiments in school where you extinguished a candle by putting a glass over it to cut off the air. Out God-light needs God-breath, to burn brightly.
Hildegard used the image of God’s Breath regularly. Sometimes she combined both Light and Breath in one revelation. “O sacred breath, O blazing love, O savor in the breast and balm flooding the heart with good…O current of power permeating all…you bind and gather all people together.” One of her prayers includes the words “I raise my hands aloft to God, that I might be held by God, just like a feather which has no weight from its own strength and lets itself be carried by the wind.”*
A prayer that many use to center and focus on God is to consciously “Breathe in God, Breathe out stress [or whatever is bothering you like worry or fear…]”. Repeat this as many times as necessary until you are willing to let God be in control of whatever the situation is.
Relax into the Light and Breath that is God’s presence all around and in each of us. Then radiate and exhale that into the world. The Christian artist Plumb has a song entitled Exhale that captures this reality. Two of the verses, esp., could have been written by Hildegard:
“Just let go let His love wrap around you and hold you close. Get lost in the surrender. Breathe it in until your heart breaks then exhale. Exhale. Oh God, we breathe in your grace, and exhale. Oh God we do not exist for us but to share Your grace and love and exhale…”
Stop and consider God as wind or breath. Have you ever felt yourself carried along on the wind of God’s Breath?
Next time, we’ll explore some of Hildegard’s thoughts about Friendship.
*Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka