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.”
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.
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.”
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?
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 Fundamentalism, Living in Sin