In Matthew Fox, we have a friend of Hildegard, a friend of mystics, prophets, and thinkers. This newest book on Hildegard offers a creative view of the woman from 1000 years ago. Imagine a conversation between Hildegard and Einstein, Hildegard and poet Mary Oliver, Hildegard and Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Hildegard and the Curia. While reading this lively and clear description of the woman, her philosophy, her interests and her achievements, I wondered whether and how she might help me to enrich my own feminist spirituality. I have to say that calling Hildegard a “Wild Woman” in the style of Clarissa Pinkola Estes was a direct arrow shot to my heart. That’s it! I thought.
A prophet is one who interferes. A mystic is one who lives the mysteries. A fully-developed person is like a mosaic –an elegant interaction among music, art, thought, leadership, dance, discourse, preaching, letter-writing, in-your-face directives, gentle “as a feather on the breath of God.”
Kings, popes, abbots, and bishops sought Hildegard for advice, and she went ahead and confronted them whether they asked for help or not. A follower of Martin Luther called her “the first Protestant” because she knew the church needed reform. As a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, abbess, healer, artist, feminist, and student of science, Hildegard seemed to be ahead of her time. So did Galileo.
In 2006, former Pope Benedict XVI used Hildegard von Bingen to explain his view of women’s role in the church not as priests but as bearers of a “spiritual power” that enables them to, yes, even “criticize the bishops.” http://www.hildegard.org/BenedictXVI/BenedictXVI.html. Of course, Hildegard did nearly everything a priest did, except for the consecration of the bread and wine in Holy Communion. She did, after all, consecrate her life to the Cosmic Christ and bless the world with her gifts.
So I knew I would like Hildegard, recently recognized as a saint and as the fourth female doctor of the church, joining Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux. I am Italian-American; I love opera, but Puccini, not Wagner. I am a former Catholic; I love Gregorian chant, but until I heard Hildegard’s angelic chants, I had not associated chant with heartbeat.
Hildegard was a wounded woman as well. She alluded to her suffering, which is, after all, the lot of humanity, but did not dwell on it. It appears that she put the painful experiences into the mix of her life … something else to ponder, to sing about, to build up her courage, to keep her focus.
Finally, I love that Hildegard had “greening power.” The Holy Spirit is green and “we are like trees, she says, and the Holy Spirit is the capacity for juiciness, greenness, and moistness. The only sin is drying up.”(Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, Namaste: Vancouver, 2012). I highly recommend this book to all, and particularly to people like me, who still seek to sing and dance and shout out and reflect silently about Creation and our Spiritual Oneness.
Matthew Fox , Namaste: Vancouver. 2012