For Hildegard of Bingen, creation was not secondary to spirituality. In fact, for her, all creation works together and glorifies God. “All creatures should see that God has neither beginning nor end, and for this reason they will never have enough of looking at God…there is no creature without some kind of radiance-whether it be greenness, seeds, buds, or another kind of beauty. Otherwise, it would not be a creature at all. But if God did not have the power to make all things, where would God’s creative power be?”* Everything has some of the Light of God in it. It is that very Light that makes the creature what it is. This is true of animate and inanimate creation.
Hildegard saw humans as somewhat superior to other creations, because the human mind has intellect and in that intelligence we are linked to the Creator. Madeline L’Engle, in her book Walking on Water, notes “unless we are creators we are not fully alive…Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.” For L’Engle, like Hildegard, it is our ability to create that sets us apart from the other creatures.
Recently I stumbled across a blog by Mark Altrogge that noted, we sometimes think creating isn’t what Christians should be doing. Aren’t we supposed to be praying and preaching, instead of ‘wasting our time’ on creative things? This blog author says “Christians should play banjo and decorate cakes, knit sweaters and make movies, do photography and write poems” Just like Hildegard and Madeline L’Engle, Mark Altrogge says “when we create we act as those the Creator made in his own image…God didn’t make a strictly utilitarian world. He decorated it with weeping willows and tiger lilies….arts are a way to bless others…[and] bring joy to us.” Altrogge notes that “when we see a cool painting or hear a moving symphony it points us to the author of all beauty. When I hear the theme from Jurassic Park I don’t simply think of John Williams’ talent, I think of God.” In using our gifts and talents as unto the Lord it “reminds us of the Giver of every good and perfect gift.”
Stop to think about whether you think that what you do on a day-to-day basis is creative. Why or why not?
Even if humanity had a special relationship with God because we are co-creators, Hildegard still saw that all of “Creation is allowed in intimate love, to speak to the Creator as if to a lover. Creation is allowed to ask for a pasture, a homeland. Out of the Creator’s fullness, this request is granted to creation.” (From Hildegard of Bingen by Gabriele Uhlein)
If all creation is alive with the Spirit and Light of God, and if we are co-creators with God in and through creation—then we must have a unique responsibility to honor creation as a part of God. This might mean that we begin to live more intentionally conscious of what our actions can do to the world around us. Does my buying pre-packaged dinners create extra trash? Do I really need another pair of shoes? What about global warming?
Stop and ask yourself if you see all creation as filled with God. What could you do to care for creation?
Even though Hildegard’s times were very different from ours, people had the same needs and wants and feelings. For her, it is our creative actions that link us to God. “From [God] human beings have the ability to be active in the world…human beings love the things they make because from their recognition they see that they gain reality.”* Madeline L’Engle notes that we should remember “the root word of humble and human is the same: humus: earth. We are dust. We are created; it is God who made us and not we ourselves. But we were made to be co-creators with our maker.” (Walking on Water)
Even though we are ‘dust and to dust shall return’ as the Ash Wednesday prayer reminds us, we are gifted to be, in fact we are required to be, co-creators in making the world and in re-making the world. Like little painted stones, we are unique in how that happens and it is an amazing responsibility that God has given to us. Wouldn't it be a fun activity to take a rock and paint on it what your creative image is?
Stop and think about how you create and co-create. Is it in art, music, writing, games, or something else entirely?
Next time we’ll take a look at what Hildegard says about the Earth itself.
*Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka