Heschel & Hildegard on Thanksgiving, Praise & What It Means to be Human

It seems to me that Rabbi Abraham Heschel offers a deep insight into this most important question: “What does it mean to be human?” 

“Creation Calls” composed and sung by Brian Doerksen. Brad F.

Heschel says that it is humanity’s role to articulate the “silent worship” of all beings.  Indeed, 

The cosmos is a congregation in need of a Cantor…It is humanity who is the Cantor of the universe, and in whose life the secret of cosmic prayer is disclosed. 

We are the ones with a special larynx and fifth chakra whose primary task is to praise.  To praise is to honor and give thanks.  We do it—or ought to do it—in the name of all of creation.  

Our prayer is meant to be a “cosmic prayer” and there is a secret reverence behind it.  “Praise precedes faith” he informs us.  All humans are called to praise.

“All Creation, Bless the Lord” – a Taize-style chant for Creationtide.

We do not sing alone.  Other beings join in—and we join in with other beings.  

When we sing, we sing for all things….The universe is a score of eternal music, and we are the cry, we are the voice.

Hildegard agrees with Heschel when she says:

The blowing wind, the mild, moist air, the exquisite greening of trees and grasses—in their beginning, in their ending, they give God their praise.  

And again,

Hildegard’s chant, “O Viridissima Virga,” describes the Virgin Mary as “a branch of freshest green,” in whom bloomed so beautiful a flow’r, whose fragrance wakened all the spices from their dried-out stupor.” Maris Stella

The fire has its flames and praises God.
The wind blows the flame and praises God.
In the voice we hear the word which praises God.
And the word when heard, praises God.
So all of creation is a song of praise to God. 

Hildegard calls the human soul “a symphony”—and so too is creation itself.  “All of creation is a symphony of the Holy Spirit which is joy and jubilation.”  Music for Hildegard is creation “rebounding to the celestial Creator with a single voice of exultation and joy and the giving of thanks.”  Good food here for Thanksgiving time.


*Cited in John C. Merkle, The Genesis of Faith: The Depth Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel, pp. 187f.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint For Our Times, p. 15.  

And Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, p. 159.

Also see Fox, In the Beginning There Was Joy: A Cosmic Celebration for Kids of All Ages

Banner Image: “Radiant Flower at Sunrise.” Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


Queries for Contemplation

How do these observations by Hildegard and Heschel on joy and music, praise and thanksgiving, nurture your Thanksgiving meditations in a trying time?


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.

In the Beginning There Was Joy: A Cosmic Celebration for Kids of All Ages

The first book in the Father Fox’s Fantastical Fables series tells the story of the big bang and how humans fit into the awesome, fantastical, cosmic picture! In this full-color, beautifully illustrated book, world- renowned theologian Matthew Fox weaves together modern science and classic spirituality in a whimsical, entertaining format to illustrate important truths to readers aged 4 and up. With artwork curated from illustrators around the world, this book expresses the joy and wonder of all peoples and cultures, planting seeds of respect, cooperation and hope to work together for the healing of our planet.
Receive a 20% discount when you buy this and one other book from Matthew Fox’s store! Use Promo Code 20% at checkout.


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3 thoughts on “Heschel & Hildegard on Thanksgiving, Praise & What It Means to be Human”

  1. Avatar

    At our Thanksgiving celebrations, as we remember to offer praise and give thanks to God for our blessings, please be mindful of including, fully, those of our families and guests who have various challenges and impairments.

    Elderly, especially, usually lose some of their hearing, but for them it’s a loss of a particular range of sound: high pitch. This means music is distorted, many notes missing completely, and many sounds of speech are lost, making conversations challenging. As a result, while other people happily chat, sing, and joke, the elderly person sits silent, left out and totally forgotten. For them, the celebration is a long ordeal of lonely, painful silence. So make sure there’s good lighting, speak a bit slower (but like normal, not exaggerated) and clearly, in front of them, and have paper and pens available for people to use. And write down the fun and loving things for them so they don’t miss out. It means everything to be included.
    Try to find ways to bridge the gap between able guests and those with challenges. And remember to check ahead of time if guests have food allergies: a banquet is hardly inviting if it’s a deadly trap for a guest.

    Blessings to all during this holy-day celebration!

  2. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew and the DM Team for today’s beautiful videos

    Thank You God, our Source and Creator for All Thy Beautiful Creations here on Sacred Mother Earth, our ongoing Co-Creating~Evolving Cosmos, and our Sacred Eternal Souls… in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Present Moment….
    — Amen

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