This week we are beginning our prayer with some encouragement from Hildegarde of Bingen. Her most famous work: Scivias (short for the Latin phrase  Scito vias Domini: Know the Ways of the Lord) written between 1141-51, contains her reflections on 26 visions she received. She included pictures of the visions, seven of which will illuminate our daily prayer. Book One is all about the Creator and creation.

Today’s Bible reading

one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. — Ephesian 4:6

while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, — Titus 2:13

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?  Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” — Acts 5:3-4

More thoughts for meditation

Hildegard felt commanded to share her visions as part of her responsibility as a prophet.  She saw into the mystery beyond our usual vision and calls us to stretch ourselves to receive what she was given. The first part of Scivias includes six visions dealing with themes of creation and the fall.

The first picture that accompanies her interpretations is a very feminine depiction of the universe. It introduces us to some sacred geometry and reflects the mandala seen in many spiritual practices. This allegorical picture is full of symbolic features. Depending on how you look at it, they can mean different things. If you stay grounded in Christ, you are moving with Hildegard. Here is a brief tour:

The vision of a “cosmic egg,” depicted in loving detail, represents the universe as a symbolic, layered structure in which God sustains powerfully contesting forces in a delicate balance — just as God’s nature, in itself, is in loving, trinitarian balance.  Moving from the outermost layer inward, Hildegard sees zones of luminous and shadowy fire, representing the purifying and judging reality of God, the consuming fire. Hildegard compared God to an egg that surges flames into the universe, emptying and filling itself like a womb—creative, beneficial, and nurturing to all life within. The piles of hailstones surrounding the the earthly sphere provide the threat God’s creativity includes.

The inner layer is earth, wind, fire and water. For Hildegard the sun/moon disc is the church reflecting Jesus. The stars are more than heavenly bodies, they are disciples shining.  The almond shape of the vision foreshadows the scared geometry that can be seen in many of Hildegard’s drawings. It is the place of unity between separate movements, like overlapping ripples in a still lake.

Going inward, we find ten light-green humps surrounding a violet layer of nested lines, as well as a blue-white layer that may correspond to the moist atmosphere. At the very center of this mandala we see what Hildegard called the “sandy globe of great magnitude,” which is the Earth itself, with a river streaming through the center. Each layer has its corresponding source of air (“whirlwinds”), depicted by a tri-faced forms. The top of the picture is oriented to the East, the bottom to the West, the right to the South, and the left to the North.

The overall shape resembles female genitalia, which may or may not have been the unconscious impulse for this particular vision. Her language often reflects that feminine outlook. Divine Love is the essence of the universe—the highest fiery power that shines in water, burns in the sun, moon, and stars, stirring everything into existence, and causing all life to glisten with this light.

The balance she reveals reflects all the musing about the Trinity that has preceded her. The universe is composed of three structures: space, matter, and time. Of these three, only matter is visible. Space requires length, height, and width to constitute space. Each dimension is separate and distinct in itself, yet the three form space—if you remove height, you no longer have space. Time is also a tri-unity of past, present, and future. Two are invisible (past and future), and one visible (present). Each is separate and distinct, as well as essential for time to exist. Man is also a “tri-unity,” having physical, mental, and spiritual components. Again, two are invisible (mental and spiritual) and one visible (physical). Cells compose the fundamental structural unit of all living organisms. All organic life is made up from cells that consist of three primary parts: the outer wall, the cytoplasm, and the nucleus (like the shell, white, and yoke of an egg). If any one is removed, the cell dies. In each of these examples, the removal of any one component results in the demise of the whole. In like manner,  God contains three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is God (as in today’s Bible readings), yet there is one God. The removal of one person destroys the unity of the whole. Hildegard sees this central reality revealed in everything.

Suggestions for action

Hildegard is a philosopher with the best of them, yet manages to stay very personal and grounded as she reveals her prophecy.  As a woman she did not have great societal power, so she had to rely on the substance of the visions themselves. But she also had to trust them to present them with such boldness.

Consider what you have to give; in the silence, let God reveal it.  Enjoy being part of God’s big picture: a much-loved creature. Appreciate how the universe is so “feminine” and enjoy feeling the generativity of that.