Today the Lutheran Church commemorates Hildegaard of Bingen. One of the brightest stars of the church of the middle ages, she wrote music, poetry, natural history, a study of the ailments of the body and other things. Though her own body was frail throughout her life, she received spiritual visions and counseled leaders. She must have been an odd and exceedingly brilliant child of God.
From our historical vantage point it is hard to assess a person like Hildegaard, and to give her the recognition she deserves. We can hardly imagine the faith-drenched, superstition-saturated middle ages she lived in. However, in recent years, feminist theologians, musicians and artists have found inspiration in Hildegaard’s words and visions. She has developed a minor cult following, and it helps all of us that her voice is heard.
There is a single text in our hymnal based on a poem by Hildegaard, #399. Take a moment to read the verses of her hymn to the Holy Spirit. Note that it is directed to the Holy Spirit, and is not a hymn about the Holy Spirit. Here a hymn of praise becomes a prayer.
O Holy Spirit, root of life,
creator, cleanser of all things;
anoint our wounds, awaken us
with lustrous movement of your wings.
Eternal vigor, Saving One,
you free us by your living Word,
becoming flesh to wear our pain,
and all creation is restored.
O holy Wisdom, soaring power,
encompass us with wings unfurled,
and carry us, encircling all,
above, below and through the world.