Hildegard on Greening Power, Spirit, Nature & Creativity

We continue our journey deeper into Hildegard’s teachings on viriditas which is a major theological category invented by Hildegard.  In Latin it means literally “greening power.” 

Gardens outside Eibingen Monastery. Wikimedia Commons.

Greening was a very important category for her, since she lived in the Rhineland, which is a richly green area not unlike Galilee, the green part of Israel that Jesus was from.

So much of his teaching came from walking and working the land. You can see this in the parables he creates, how he was constantly learning from observing nature.  

Hildegard was very much that way too.  She is constantly getting back to “greening power” and talks about the Holy Spirit as being a green “sap” inside all of us. We are like trees, she says, and the Holy Spirit is the capacity for juiciness, greenness, and moistness within us.

Dried-up lake, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. Photo by Chamika Jayasri on Unsplash

Hildegard teaches that the only sin in life is drying up. She wrote  bishops and abbots, telling them they were drying up, and should do whatever it takes to stay “wet and green and moist and juicy”—in other words, creative. This is very womanly talk.    

 She creates a category about vice versus virtue: vice is drying up, virtue is staying alive, juicy, and creative.  Doing justice, making peace, is green.  Obviously, she feels we’re all capable of this. Creating isn’t just for uniquely gifted artists, but for everyone.

“This vigor that hugs the world, it is warm, it is moistening, it is firm, it is greening,” says Hildegard, adding, “this is so that all creatures might germinate and grow.”

Hildegard’s canticle “O Nobilissima Viriditas,” produced by Sequentia.

She sees verdancy, viriditas, everywhere. She says, The earth of humankind contains all moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power. It is in so many ways fruitful. All creation comes from it. Yet it forms not only the basic raw material for humankind but also the substance of the incarnation of God’s Son.

Here she is linking the via positiva and the via creativa, doubling down on the idea of divinity taking on flesh, which is a great creative act that we all take on, what Père Chenu calls “continuous incarnation.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 88-95.

And Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, pp. 43-47.

See also Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet.

Banner Image: A ripe pear glistens after rain. Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

How do you practice greening power?  And how do you stay wet and green and moist and juicy and turn your back on drying up?

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.

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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6 thoughts on “Hildegard on Greening Power, Spirit, Nature & Creativity”

  1. Avatar

    I have been sensing in many ways the Viriditas arising within me, through engaging with these DM’s as of late. It’s as if you, Mathew have been drawing us into the diverse pathways of awakening to and deepening our capacity to experience mystical consciousness.

    The reality of this unfolds, evolves and emerges as one converges with the powerful living essence and presence of the Mystery of the Great Spirit; incarnate within our Soul sense of self, others and the creation of the all and the everything within nature; which is accessible to all through engaging with the Original Blessings given us of creativity, imagination, and intuition.

    Through opening these gifts inherent within, the positive transformation of the mystery and mystical consciousness of the Divine Spirit and Sacred Matter expands and yet clarifies one’s vision; which slowly takes on substance and form within the flesh, blood and bones of our humanity.

    I offer my heartfelt gratitude to the lineage of mystics, to Mathew, the DM team, and those whom post comments whom encourage me to deeply surrender in trust to the authentic, intuitive, creative, imaginative living essence and presence of Spirit within my Soul; which nurtures, inspires and empowers me to cultivate Viriditas from within the sacredness of being and living in relationship with not only these Original Blessings gifted to all but also the many graces offered through the journey of life itself.

  2. Avatar

    I am open to becoming more “wet, green, moist, and juicy…” by maintaining my Faith and contemplative prayers/readings of GOD’S SPIRIT of DIVINE LOVE~WISDOM Present within and among us with my sisters and brothers, and with Our Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth and all Her creatures and graceful abundance, in the Sacred Co-Creative Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT in Our Beautiful Diverse Evolving LOVING ONENESS COSMOS….

  3. Avatar

    I love the via positiva and the viriditas of Hildegard. But I have a question as I have been paying attention to the trial at the International Court of Justice against Israel for Genocide against the Palestinians. I where does outrage fit into the spiritual path? I find this genocide to be especially dark. But outrage leaves me angry and exhausted after a little while.

    1. Avatar

      I agree, outrage is exhausting. Maybe to see it as a kind of drying up that takes a lot of effort to transform into the creativity of “greening” would help? Because, for myself, it does me no good personally to get stuck in anger and outrage. I try to think of some action that would benefit myself and others, if only to be able to widen the lens of my understanding and compassion for all those who are involved–prayer helps, especially the Welcoming Prayer to feel and to acknowledge the outrage can help defuse it for me. I contact government officials and support organizations like Amnesty International, the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the UN agencies that work with refugees. I cannot predict or control the outcome, but I can act as peaceably as possible. One of the things that helps me is to be grateful for the NGO’s that are working toward peace and the brave individuals in the region who are doing what they can to promote peace, at great cost to themselves.

  4. Avatar

    The reeds through whom the Spirit blows, true and full,
    this is what we are called to become.

    Living reeds, lending forever-empowered
    inspired voices,
    we are
    soul-gifted fingerprints pressed into flesh and time,
    carrying secret sacred knowledge to new generations.

    We must plant eternally
    these ripening seeds of mystical beauty
    and harvest the best-fruits
    of full-filled Soul nobility.

    Of the blooming flower-gift of mysticism bequeathed to me so generously by Spirit, I plant a few harvest-seeds here, tucked into corners and nooks, wildflowers along the path, for those who like such little things of mystic gardens, and hope they might brighten someone else’s Journey.

  5. Avatar

    I love this action of planting seeds. I see them as seeds of Desire. We must reclaim our Desire as holy. In our Desire is our Holy Power. I think that war at its root seems to be violence against our body, violence against our goodness, violence against our power. Two victims pitted against each other is like throwing kerosene on gasoline. Healing takes seconds and months, or seconds and years, or seconds and lifetimes. But healing is inevitable.

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