This week we are beginning our prayer with some encouragement from Hildegard 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 Two is all about the Redeemer and redemption.
Today’s Bible reading
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe. — Proverbs 18:10
More thoughts for meditation
This picture that accompanies Hildegard’s interpretation of her vision is dominated by an imposing female figure in front of a large white tower made of stone. She is Ecclesia, the Church, occupied by Jesus followers. The white tower symbolizes the Holy Spirit, in its luminous clarity, encircling all living creatures. Bright lights emerge from three windows in the tower. Just as the Church is guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, so too shall the baptized be fulfilled.
The vision depicts the power of the Spirit as a lofty tower that upholds and strengthens the woman Ecclesia. The faithful are cleansed in baptism and receive the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of anointing with holy oil by the bishop’s hand. Her children appear in varying guises to indicate their spiritual and ecclesiastical status; thus, contemplatives are distinguished from lay Christians by the more glorious light on which they fix their gaze. But in each category some are more zealous in devotion, others more vigorous in justice. Hildegard teaches that while connecting to the Spirit through the ministry of the church (as in the sacraments and priestly authority), these are not sufficient; they must be accompanied by repentance and good works.
Suggestions for action
Hildegard’s vision gives her the freedom to tell the truth like a woman might not normally have. After she has written her books, she even goes on speaking tours to tell people what she has seen. The authorities investigate her thoroughly, but do not find fault. She is allowed her unusual freedom and power. The domination of the authoritative, male-centered church is unraveled by her depiction of a feminine God in her own feminine way.
It is tempting to be one’s own “fortified tower” or to run to places fortified by the power of men. In Acts 19 Paul discovers some Jesus followers who have merely received the baptism of John the Baptist. He asks them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They had never heard of such a thing. He baptized them again and laid his hands on them and they were filled just as he had been. Have you heard of such a thing? Pray for that filling. Ask someone you know who obviously has been filled to lay hands on you. Why not? Hildegard would.