Hildegard of Bingen on Fire & Spirit, Joy & Wisdom

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).

“O Fire of Comforting Spirit” by Hildegard of Bingen Jess Dandy, contralto. Recorded live at dawn in Nannypie Lane Tunnel under the A591, Cumbria. Video by Jess Dandy

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.

Stream and bird song recorded in the tropical rainforest of Guatemala. Extended-play video by Relaxing Soundzzz.

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
Wisdom’s inspiration.
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.

“Healing.” Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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?

Recommended Reading

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.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

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8 thoughts on “Hildegard of Bingen on Fire & Spirit, Joy & Wisdom”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you bring me to the first mystic you introduced me too back in 1997–and who I studied one-on-one with Mary Ford-Grabowsky, in my first class at the University of Creation Spirituality. That aside, your questions for today are: “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?” First of all I feel that Hildegard’s songs are written in such a way, that when they are sung a cappella–and especially with the acoustics having a bit of an echo (like you would have in a tunnel)–they sound so melodic, that the only way I can describe them is, that they are like some kind of bird that gracefully is able to dip and dive and float and ascend in and through the air–the bird in the air, and the fish in the water, and we in God = “Panentheism.” Her name should be among the greatest composers in history! And she was a polymath ta’ boot!

  2. Avatar

    This poetic song speaks forth the spiritual reality of the living essence and presence of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit… echoing eternal truths of all that She gives and shares of Herself through the intimacey of relationship and companionship within, with and through the all and the everything of creation… which includes the heart, mind and soul of humanity.

    She continues to sing forth this song, inviting and alluring all into the depths of Her living essence and presence, which is already here… now…awaiting to be seen… all that we are enfolded within… that we may evolve and emerge into the light of becoming and being Oned With Divine Love… and all that this is, was and ever shall be.

    She is our comforter that gives life… anointing all with Holy love that cleanses and heals all wounds… a love that sweetly floods our hearts, releasing its fragrance which awakens us to the inherent and latent virtues of goodness within. Like a mirror, She reflects the true image and likeness of who we are. She gathers and seeks all those whom are lost. She offers shelter, refuge, protection and a hope that binds all the fragmented pieces together into Her unifying embrace. She honors the blessedness, the sacredness, the gifts hidden within all and Her desire is to set us all free to become and be the Beloved creation that we are… all the while BEING LOVED TO LOVE throughout and in the midst of this unfolding, evolving and emerging process. She is our teacher, granting inspiration and wisdom to all… that gives life and light to all, especially in the darkest of times… that we may find our way.

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    Marianne Loranger

    Sending this incredible song of peace and strength to the people of Ukraine today as they wake to the sounds of Russian bombs.

    1. Avatar

      The “8 years” comes from global scientists who two years ago concluded we have 10 years to change our ways as a species or climate change will take off so rapidly that there will be no time left to alter it. Our species is facing its own distinction (and of course many other species we bring down with us). 8 years left and that is why we must go deeper into ourselves to find the best of ourselves, our powers of love and caring and justice-making and truth-finding, and put them into our work and citizenship and education, etc. Finding the mystic and prophet in ourselves.

  4. Avatar

    “…those enchained in evil’s prison” , to me, are both the victims and the perpetrators, and it seems to me that we should be praying for both. It is almost more urgent to pray for the latter, since they have lost their innocence, their compassion and all the virtues for the sake of power. At a large scale, it is Putin invading Russia, and at a smaller scale but just as devastating, it is what is going on in the state of Florida with bill after bill restricting and even cancelling out all human rights–except for the wealthy and those in power. It is going on nationally as well. If it were easy, we would not have Jesus and Paul advising us to pray for those who persecute us, in the Christian tradition. I don’t know enough about other faiths to compare. It is extremely concerning to me that it may come to another bloody civil war.

  5. Avatar
    Uma Laurie Bowman

    Beautiful poem! In that fire metaphor, I also think of the mystical flame, which lives and resides in one’s heart…

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