Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas are not alone in insisting on Compassion and Justice as integral to our being human.
We find deep teachings on Compassion in Francis of Assisi, Mechtild of Magdeburg, and Julian of Norwich. Consider the teachings from Hildegard of Bingen: We have seen that compassion is based on interdependence. She teaches:
Everything that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.
Compassion and justice are about right relationships and Hildegard believes “creation blooms and flourishes when it remains in right relationship and keeps to its assigned tasks.” Speaking of justice, she declares:
When you lack the verdancy of justice, your soul is dry, totally without tender goodness, totally without illuminating virtue.
A dry person, one who is without caring or is in denial about injustice, is “totally lacking” in virtue and “totally without goodness.”
She recognizes creation to be in a love relationship with the Creator. “Creation is allowed in intimate love to speak to the Creator as if to a lover.” She elaborates:
I compare the great love of Creator and creation to the same love and fidelity with which God binds woman and man together. This is so that together they might be creatively fruitful.
Thomas Berry comments on Hildegard’s teaching, saying that because of this “erotic” bond Hildegard is speaking of, “the earth becomes luxuriant in its every aspect.”
Hildegard seems to be speaking to our times of climate change and raging fires in a prescient way when she declares:
Now in the people who were meant to green there is no more life of any kind, there is only shrived barrenness. The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish going-on….the air belches out the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples. There pours forth an unnatural, loathsome darkness that withers the green, wizens the fruit that was to serve as food for the people. Sometimes this layer of air is full of fog which is the source of any destructive and barren creatures that destroy and damage the earth, rendering it incapable of sustaining humanity….God desires that all the world be pure in his sight. The earth should not be injured, the earth should not be destroyed.
She warns that if humans damage the “web of creation” by our greed and indifference to other creatures in that web, the following will happen.
As often as the elements of the world are violated by ill treatment, so God will cleanse them through the sufferings, through the hardships of humankind.
We are seeing these hardships occur daily where hundreds of thousands of people are having to abandon their homes to escape wildfires; and those who stay have to deal with poisonous air which seems to be more smoke than air. Warns Hildegard:
The high, the low, all of creation God gives to humankind to use. But if this privilege is misused, God’s justice permits creation to punish humanity.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, pp. 95-98.
And from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, a Saint For Our Times, pp. 33, 39-42.
See also Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen
Banner Image: “Sunset.” Photo by Adam Bautz on Flickr.
Do you think humanity has learned or is learning the “privilege” of being a part of the “web of creation”? What is holding us back? What is missing in our culture, its education and its religions and its media, that interferes with learning this lesson?
Wrestling with the Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life
In one of his foundational works, Fox engages with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets in profound and hard-hitting essays on such varied topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism and more.
Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen
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.