November 22, 2015

Christ is Compassion

Today we conclude our study of Hildegard of Bingen’s words and spirituality. Hildegard was a woman ahead of her time in her vision of health and science. Her theology, like that of her medieval contemporaries, saw God at the center of the universe. She taught that humanity, in cooperation with God’s love and creativity, could become fully alive and whole in union with God. This expressed itself most fully in a life of compassion.
In a letter to some monks, she wrote, “Love streams down with the outpouring water of the Holy Spirit, and in this love is the peace of God’s goodness…compassion…drips balsam for all the needs that adhere to the human condition. This sound of love rings in harmony with every hymn…this love calls out in compassion with a pleading yet lovely voice.”*
The word ‘compassion’ means ‘to suffer with’. When we truly have compassion for someone’s need, we are more than sympathetic, more than sorry for them. We enter into their grief or homelessness or hunger or other need. This makes us very vulnerable and often we don’t want to be that open to one another.
Stop. When was the last time you last truly ‘suffered with’ or had compassion for someone’s problem?
For Hildegard, the act of entering into another’s suffering was a way of becoming closer to God. In the acts of justice, virtue, and compassion we are God’s hands and feet. Teresa of Avila, writing 400 years after Hildegard agreed:
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices. Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people
Stop. Look at your hands. What does it mean to see them as the hands of Christ? Look at your feet. What does it mean to be Christ’s feet?
Hildegard noted

We are dressed in the scaffold of creation:
in seeing—to recognize all the world,
in hearing—to understand,
in smelling—to discern,
in tasting—to nurture,
in touching—to govern.
In this way humankind comes to know God,
for God is the author of all 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
Hildegard herself believed that in creating as the hands and feet of God in the world she was in partnership with God to bring beauty into the world. By creating justice and compassion, whether through her art, music, cooking, gardening, or writing, she felt that she was in union with God. By living as the hands and feet of God we too are bringing God’s beauty, love, and healing into the world.
Ephesians 2:7-10 tells us, “God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (the Message translation)
Stop. Ask yourself if you are willing to be a co-creator for good and compassion and beauty in the world.
Next week is Advent I. During Advent, I’ll have daily posts with an image and brief meditation, which can be used to create an Advent chain or collage.
*Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka

1 comment:

  1. This post has been a blessing to me ...Thanks !