Hildegard on the Power of Remembering the Via Positiva and Divine Goodness

The other day we saw two visions from Hildegard of the Via Positiva.  We ended that meditation with her naming the struggle to keep the “golden tent” alive through the struggles life puts in our way.  She continues her lament, sounding a lot like Job: “I send forth huge lamentations and I say: ‘O God, you created me, did you not?  Behold the vile world oppresses me.’”  She can “rejoice neither in man nor in God.”  She is tasting deeply the via negativa, the dark night of the soul.  What to do?

“Fidelity in Temptation” Illumination by HIldegard of Bingen, in Scivias.

She calls on the Via Positiva for her healing.  It is remembering that heals her, remembering goodness, divine origin, original blessing.  “When I remember through a gift of God that I was created by God, then amid these trials I have a response to the temptations of the devil in this way: ‘I will not yield.’” 

Remembering the goodness of God heals and makes her strong.  “When anger wished to burn my tent, I depend upon the goodness of God whom anger never touches….I will have spiritual joy and the virtues will begin to show their greenness in me.  And thus I know the goodness of God.”  The goodness of God is not an abstraction.  It heals.  It restores power and healing, delight and beauty.  But we need to remember it.

“Anointed with the Holy Spirit” Illumination by Hildegard of Bingen, from Scivias.

Hildegard cites Ezekiel: “Throw away from you all your collusions in which you have walked crookedly and make a new heart and a new spirit for yourself.”  (Ez 18:31)  What is this new heart and new spirit?  It is, in Hildegard’s words, to return to “original wisdom.”  We learn original blessing as we learn trust.  We begin to trust in creation and in its maker and in that particular creation which is ourselves. 

She tells us that the goodness of God is our goodness too.  “I say to you: Since God is good, why do you despise to know his goodness?  For you have eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, a heart for reflecting, hands for working, feet for walking.  Though all these gifts you are capable of lifting yourself up or casting yourself down, of being asleep or awake, of eating or of fasting.  Thus God created you.”  Here Hildegard calls us to responsibility.  We can be strong, we can carry on the fight.  “For when you oppose the devil like a strong warrior against his enemies then God is delighted in your struggle.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, pp. 80f.
Banner image: “Sunrise Breaking into the Forest” Photo by Kristine Weilert on Unsplash

For Deeper Contemplation

Do you have stories to tell similar to Hildegard’s about how in the midst of the darkest moments remembering the Via Positiva experiences of our lives healed or sustained you?  Be with those times.  What are they teaching you today?

Notice that the “goodness of God’ is not a theory or a doctrine.  It is a way of seeing the world—even when times are fierce and difficult.

Recommended Reading

An introduction to the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, Illuminations reveals the life and teachings of one of the greatest female artists and intellectuals of the Western Mystical Tradition.  At the age of 42, she began to have visions; these were captured as 36 illuminations–24 of which are recorded in this book along with her commentaries on them. “If one person deserves credit for the great Hildegard renaissance in our time, it is Matthew Fox.”  – Dr Mary Ford-Grabowsky, author of Sacred Voices.

Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century

Author Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.

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4 thoughts on “Hildegard on the Power of Remembering the Via Positiva and Divine Goodness”

  1. Avatar

    Thanks Matthew. This reading was especially helpful as I am still struggling with a lot of head and body tension since I was in Effurt with you. I am so glad that that I was able to be there with you. But these readings really help. Remembering divine goodness saves me from despair. I am doing this daily through your daily meditations and books. I hope you are well. Ed

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Ed,
      Thank you for writing. WE hope that your body tension will release and you will sense the divine goodness around you yearning to help you heal.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditations team.

  2. Avatar

    Thanks so much for these daily meditations. You have and continue to transform my view of life as I reflect on God’s goodness and my origial goodness/blessing. I cannot thank you enough for being an instrument of lifting me out of shame and guilt and darkness into the light of goodness and joy and love and peace.

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