Today is the feast day of one of my personal patron saints: St. Hildgard of Bingen. I first met Hildegard in college when I discovered her and a host of other medieval women theologians who were ignored in academia because they were nuns and mystics and not teachers and theologians like the big-named men were. Matthew Fox correctly observed that if Hildegard had been a man she would be famous and everyone would know who she was just as everyone knows who Thomas Aquinas is. I had been hoping to write my own reflection on Hildegard, but between The Novel and classwork, that is not going to happen. But that is OK because the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (my presiding bishop) Katharine Jefferts Schori has written an incredible sermon on Hildegard:
Hildegard lived from 1098 to 1179, in what is now Germany. When she was a small child, her parents sent her to be educated in the Benedictine convent, and she stayed and joined the order when she was 15. If she had lived a few centuries later, we would call her a Renaissance woman. Matthew Fox noted that if she had been a man, Hildegard would be one of the most famous figures in history. She was a mystic, poet, theologian, prophet, preacher, scientist, physician, composer, dramatist, abbess, ecclesiastical politician, as well as correspondent and advisor to popes, archbishops, and royalty.
Hildegard helped to expand the church’s vision – as a theologian, woman, mystic, scientist and healer. She reminds us that we may see God intimately in the myriad and seemingly mundane works of creation – the heavens, clouds, and the signs of abundant greenness that surround us. She and her spiritual siblings remind us that God is never bound up in traditional images or names, and that God is known as mother as much as father. Perhaps most importantly, Hildegard and other mystics open a window into the blazing fire of creativity at the heart of God. Their experience is never the fuel of private contemplation, but rather it is given for love of all God’s body, for all seekers of the sacred, and for right relationship among the parts of creation – that each might show forth the goodness of its own creation. Those visions propel their seers into the world with creative wonder, joy, and divine possibility.
Let us pray: “Creator God, your whole creation, in all its varied and related parts, shows forth your verdant and life-giving power: Grant that we your people, illumined by the visions recorded by your servant Hildegard, may know, and make known, the joy and jubilation of being part of this cycle of creation, and may manifest your glory in all virtuous and godly living; through Jesus Christ whom you sent, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Forward Day by Day).
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