We are continuing to meditate on some of the works and words of Hildegard of Bingen. This mystic, abbess, writer, healer, and counselor of the 12th Century had a worldview similar to that of the Celtic monks and nuns. For her and for them, all of creation is filled with God’s creative Spirit, from the rocks to humanity. In Celtic spirituality, you will find prayers for every aspect of the day. There are Celtic prayers for rising, for lighting the fire, for doing each task, for new life and for death.
In our busy, modern world we often can forget the basic rhythms of life, much less remember to pray for each action. In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, Eucharistic Prayer C reminds us that God is in charge of everything. “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home….From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation.” This would be a familiar sort of prayer for Hildegard who stated, “no creature, whether visible or invisible, lacks a spiritual life…all creatures have something visible and invisible.”*
Interestingly, in her thoughts about creation, like in her dietary practices, Hildegard was ahead of the science of her time. She understood that there were parts of creation too small to be seen and included them in having a spiritual life. Scientists now know that there is much matter that is to minute even for the most powerful microscopes and galaxies so far away that we cannot see them. All of that is imbued with God, just as Hildegard stated. She saw all of creation as glowing with God’s presence and wrote down a vision in which God told her “I am the supreme and fiery force who kindled every living spark…the air is alive in the verdure and the flowers, the waters flow as if they lived; the sun too lives in its light..”*
Her mandala shows all of life flowing from and surrounded by God.
Stop. Do you see God as alive in all creation-even the rocks and water?
Psalm 24 is a hymn to all of creation, beginning with “The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas And established it upon the rivers…” There is no doubt that we have, and continue to, damage the earth. Even if you doubt global warming, there are islands of trash in our oceans, pollutants ruining our rivers, hazy skies from smog in many places. This impacts us whether we realize it or not. Our relationships with one another are stressful and strained, perhaps because we are less connected to the cycles of the living earth than we used to be. Eucharistic Prayer C continues, “We turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.”
The technology that is supposed to make our lives easier sometimes seems instead to be taking over our lives and all our time. We can laugh at videos of texting people walking into fountains or even running into bears (!), but the truth is most of us do, at least from time to time, use our phones while walking somewhere-or worse yet, driving. If we are so immersed in the next posting on Facebook that we miss the splendid sunrise or the blooming of a rose, we are separating ourselves from the source of life. If we think we have to be ‘on call’ every second so that we cannot even put our phones down to eat, are we are alienating ourselves from our families, friends, nature, and God?
Stop and think about how the stresses of modern life are different than a generation or 2 ago. How can you become more literally grounded in the cycles of the earth?
Ephesians 1: 22-23 reminds us that “[God] put all things in subjection under Christ’s feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Hildegard would not have doubted the truth of this citation. The God she knew intimately was intimately entwined with all of life, both natural and human and in relationships.
Eucharistic Prayer C concludes by affirming, “Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace…And so, Father, we who have been redeemed by him, and made a new people by water and the Spirit, now bring before you these gifts. Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Hildegard believed, like Isaiah, “[God] will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law. Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, ‘I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations’…” (Isaiah 42:5-6) For her, the greening power of God’s Spirit was filling and renewing all life. The “supreme and fiery force” Hildegard spoke of is “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him…” (John 1:9-10)
Stop to ask if your appreciation of God’s work in salvation would change if you fully believed God was working in and through all creation all the time?
Next week we’ll conclude this series with a look at Hildegard’s words about compassion and beauty.
*Praying with Hildegard of Bingen by Gloria Durka