Recently I was gifted with a wonderful recording of Hildegard of Bingen’s song, “O Fire of Comforting Spirit.” The singer is Jess Dandy and she had the ingenuity to record not in a church but in a tunnel in the UK countryside. She also generously allowed me to share her work (see the video below).
Following are the lyrics and a short commentary from myself.
O Fire of comforting Spirit, the life of every life created.
Holy are you–giving life to every form
Holy are you—anointing the critically broken
Holy are you—cleansing the festering wounds.
O breath of holiness, O fire of love,
O taste so sweet within the breast
that floods the heart with virtues’ fragrant good.
O clearest fountain, in which is seen the mirrored work of God:
To gather the estranged and seek again the lost.
O living armour, hope that binds every limb,
O belt of honour, save the blessed.
Guard those enchained in evil’s prison
and loose the bonds of those
whose saving freedom is the forceful will of God.
O mighty course that runs within all and through the all
up in the heights, upon the earth, and in every depth
you bind and gather all together.
From you the clouds flow forth, the wind takes flight
the stones hold their moisture,
the waters rivers spring,
and earth exudes viridity.
You are the teacher of the truly learned,
whose joy you grant through
And so may you be praised, who are the sound of praise,
the joy of life, the hope and potent honour,
and the giver of the gifts of light.
Notice how for Hildegard, Fire and Spirit are companions; and Spirit is “the life of every life,” the life within life. Spirit is holy in three ways: giving life to every form; anointing the broken; cleansing wounds.
Spirit is the breath of holiness and the fire of love that floods the heart with the goodness and fragrance the virtues bring. The works of God are reflected, mirrored, in Spirit, and they are works of compassion, healing the estranged and lost and offering defense of armour that brings hope alive. It guards those enchained in prison and it loosens bonds.
Spirit runs everywhere—within and through all, in Father Sky and Mother Earth and wherever there is depth. It “binds and gathers all together.” A wonderful way of talking about interconnectivity and interbeing.
Spirit is the source of clouds, winds, stones, waters, rivers —and the green earth that exudes viridity. Greening power is everywhere the presence of Spirit.
Spirit teaches “the truly learned,” who are about wisdom and the joy that wisdom brings.
Spirit is also the Sound of praise, the joy of life, hope and the “giver of the gifts of light.”
See jessdandycontralto.com and songpath.co.uk
See Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, a Saint for Our Times.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “Sunrise, Waihi Beach, New Zealand.” Photo by Cameron Witney on Unsplash.
Queries for Contemplation
What moves you in the lyrics and/or the music of this piece by Hildegard? How does the fact that it was recorded in a tunnel affect her poetry and music for you?
Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
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.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.
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.
Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs
Today there are many websites and Hildegard groups that celebrate and honor Hildegard’s teachings, philosophy, art, and music. 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. A sixteenth century follower of Martin Luther called her “the first Protestant” because of her appeals to reform the church. As a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, healer, artist, feminist, and student of science, Hildegard was a pioneer in many fields in her day.