Hildegard von Bingen

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Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard Von Bingen was a 12th century Christian mystic who acknowledged a relationship with nature.  She saw the flow of the seasons as “sensible and beautiful,”  evidence of God’s presence in creation.  Hildegard believed that all parts of the whole had their appropriate path or cycle and none should trespass on the other.  Hildegard is quoted as writing: Everything that lives “on earth has a fundamental urge to embrace some other in love.  All nature is available to humanity and willingly offers people its benefits in loving service.”  

Hildegard recognized the relationship of the earth to the individual.  She wrote, “God has built the human form according to the structure of the world, of the cosmos, just as an artist creates his vessel according to certain patterns.”  Hildegard believed in the language of symbols and images that connect our ordinary awareness with the archetypal patterns of nature. The metaphor of the soul as the sap of the tree that is the body is one of the nature-based analogies that characterize Hildegard’s theology.

Hildegard von Bingen, painting in Eibingen Abbey

On May 10, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI formally recognized Hildegard von Bingen as a Saint. Hildegard is admired by many for her strength and the boldness with which she forced her way on the church patriarchy of her time. Alternative health advocates are drawn to her study of herbal medicine and botany and her insistence on recording this female wisdom in print. Mystics are moved by her visions, which she recorded in three volumes. Lovers of sacred choral music and liturgical drama are swept up by her compositions.

Painting of nuns at Eibingen Abbey near Rudesheim

Eibingen abbey is a community of Benedictine nuns established by Hildegard von Bingen near Rudesheim in Hesse Germany. The original community was founded in 1165 by Hildegard von Bingenwhich was the second community founded by her. This abbey has a long history of having been destroyed and rebuilt. The nuns being forced to leave during the time of Hilter.

Painting of Hildegard on building in Bingen, Germany

Mural of Hildegard in Bingen, Germany

A Feather on the Breath of God - A Gift from Hildegard

As part of my employment I went to Guantanamo Bay in 2004 to train soldiers stationed at the base. I spent my spare time visiting the island beaches. While out walking along a road that led to a rocky outcrop overlooking the bay I found a large feather. I picked it up, placed it in a safe place and continued my walk. Shortly after I returned home to San Antonio I received a phone call from a friend who is physic. She and I had visited Bingen together and  were both fascinated by Hildegard. She told me that she had seen me on a rocky road by the sea and Hildegard had handed me the feather. She said that it was a gift, “A feather on the breath of God.”

Gardens at the abbey

Herbal gardens at Eibingen Abbey,

Rose from Hildegard's Gardens in Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen received visions relating to the natural world.  She is quoted by Schipperges (1998) as having written, “All elements served human beings voluntarily because they saw that humans possessed life.  They cooperated with their enterprises and worked with them, as humans did with them.”  Hildegard saw the element fire as relating to heat and sight, the element earth relating to firm tissue and upright posture, the element water relating to blood and motion and the element air related to breath and hearing.  She believed a human was healthy when all elements were in balance in the earth and in the physical body.  

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