Alex tells us that “the Green Hand is my homage to Viriditas!” Which indeed it is. Green hands bespeak the reality of human work that can bring eco-justice and eco-balance alive again. Whatever our work, it can be a grace that heals our ailing souls and communities and planet.
In her celebrated painting of the “Man in Sapphire Blue,” reproduced on the IIlluminations book cover below, Hildegard names the healing Christ in all people. And what is this blue Christ doing? He is putting his heart energy into his hands, this being an archetype of the very meaning of compassion. Compassion is not just a feeling for the suffering of others, it is also an action to do something to relieve that suffering, thus the primacy of hands in Hildegard’s work.
The same is true of Alex Grey’s painting of Viriditas—greening power, creative power, is meant to serve and to fill our hands with that creative energy that we invest in our work. All of it can bless and heal others whether we be artists or musicians, lawyers or nurses, educators or clergy, farmers or parents, mechanics or journalists. All our creativity is meant to be imbedded, indeed incarnated, as a blessing and conduit of grace to one another.
Alex pictures that wonderfully and alluringly in his fine painting.
What about the many eyes within the hands? Hildegard frequently paints beings with many eyes. In her painting that I call “Original Blessing: The Golden Tent,” she paints a folded-up tent in the fetus inside a mother’s womb and she depicts our life’s journey as setting up that tent.
The tent has many eyes in it which she describes this way: “I saw the greatest and most serene brightness like a flame with very many eyes, and having four corners turned to the four parts of the world.”
The “countless eyes” signify God’s seeing and knowing and God’s eyes see the pain of the world and the joy of the world. The Book of Zechariah talks of the seven eyes of God that “run to and fro through the whole earth.” (Zech. 4:10)
Queries for Contemplation
Contrast Hildegard’s painting of many eyes to that of Alex Grey. What are the eyes telling you and us? What are the hands pictured by both Hildegard and Alex telling us as well?
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.