Recently, a successful businesswoman in Oakland who runs a car repair shop, told me that my book The Reinvention or Work “is even more needed today than 30 years ago when you wrote it.”  She told me she gives the book out to all her employees when she hires them as it lays out the values for her workplace.

Matthew Fox reflects on the relationship and need for alignment between our individual sacred work and the Great Work of Creation.

The Conclusion chapter of the book, entitled, “Work as Sacrament, Sacrament as Work” treats—as does the whole book—the sacredness of our work. The first section of that chapter cites Thomas Aquinas and Bhagavad Gita teachings that we shared in yesterday’s DM. 

Hildegard too is cited:

Everything in nature, 
the sum total of heaven and of earth,
becomes a temple and an altar
for the service of God.

Medievalist/author Nathaniel Campbell reflects on Hildegard of Bingen and her teachings on the interconnectedness of creation

I recognize this amazing sentence as a statement of what Teilhard de Chardin and Brian Swimme, among others, call Cosmogenesis. The whole cosmos, all of creation, is in a constant process of birthing.  

As Pére Chenu says, there is a continuous creation.  And a continuous incarnation. And humans are integral to both, we are called to contribute to creation and to contribute to the divinizing of the universe.  This is our work, this is, as Hildegard puts it, our “service of God.”

When she talks about all of nature being a temple and an altar for the service of God—”the sum total of heaven and earth”—i.e. of the universe—she is celebrating our reason for being.  

Hildegard of Bingen, “Cultivating the Cosmic Tree,” Scivias.

We are here to contribute to the ongoing evolution of the universe and participate in the wonder of it all which also means discovering more and more about creation, about the ongoing birthing or genesis around us, all 13.8 billion years of it and even all two trillion galaxies of space encircling it.

In Hildegard’s vision, cosmogenesis becomes our common work, our common service to God and to the world.  

And it is sacramental, thus the words “temple” and “altar” are spoken of.  Our work is the sacrifice, the thing-made-sacred, that is an offering of praise and thanks we put on the altar.  It is our thanks for being here, the gift we leave behind when we die.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Times, pp. 296ff.

See also Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 33-44, 81-96.

Banner Image: A sacred deer among the stone lanterns leading to the Kasuga Shrine complex, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan, established in 768 CE. Photo by Joey Huang on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

How do you see your work—both inner and outer—as a sacrifice on the temple and on the altar of cosmogenesis, the universe coming to be?

Recommended Reading

The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter

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.

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9 thoughts on “Hildegard on Our Work as Cosmic and Sacramental Work”

  1. Avatar

    The gift we leave behind is the gift we leave now and provide in the present. If our gift today has a ‘vibrational quality’ that allows it to continue to provide new birth and repeat itself, it will survive our physical selves. We all come and go in ‘a today’, not in the past or in a future. When we were born it was ‘a today’. When we die it is ‘a today’. Our ‘gift’ can only come from today. We ‘travel’ across time in a continuum called ‘today’. That is why we give thanks to the day, being today. It is the only time we can create and ‘leave’ a gift, a work, not at ‘the end’, but now. — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The 2nd painting of Hildegards, shared in the video clip by Campbell, titled the 4 winds, reminded me of the teachings of the Four Chief Grandfathers; whose sacred work as Spiritual Guardians, is to guard, protect and preserve the 4 Elements of Fire, Water, Earth and Air. These are the creative elements of the Cosmogenisis of the As Above that have unfolded, evolved, emerged and converged in unique ways; manifesting the diverse forms of all life that exists in the So Below.

    This mysterious Great Webb of Life, is intricately woven together in interrelationships which create interconnected, interreliant, interdependent patterns of harmonization and balance; that Sacredness that must be guarded, protected and preserved for the existence of all expressions, formations, and manifestations of all life to continuously come into being.

    Part of the Great Work of humanity is to also be the guardians, protectors and preservers of these Sacred Four Elements; by coming into and living in harmony and balance with that which maintains and sustains all life; learning to coexist with the all and the everything of creation, with an awakened awareness of respecting and honoring the goodness and beauty of all that which is Sacred; which creates this mysterious Great Webb of Life, continuously coming into being. This too was reflected in Hildegards vision in which she painted humanity tending to and caring for the Tree of Life, titled “Cultivating the Cosmic Tree.”

  3. Avatar

    Beautiful DM today, including the videos, that remind Us of the Sacredness of the Presence of GOD’S SPIRIT of LOVE~WISDOM~TRUTH~PEACE~JUSTICE~HEALING~TRANSFORMATION~
    FREEDOM~CREATIVITY~BEAUTY~JOY~COMPASSION~LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS… Within and among Us in Our daily Soul lives on Sacred Mother Earth and Within All of Our ongoing/co-evolving Sacred multidimensional-multiverse LOVING CREATIVE ETERNAL COSMOS ….

  4. Avatar

    A sense of “praying without ceasing” (Thessalonians 5: 16-17) is the cosmogenic activity of a person who has consecrated who they are and what they do for the greater glory of God and Creation.

  5. Avatar

    Simone Weil tested Marx’s theory of work by getting a job in an auto factory. She agreed, the work was an alienating experience. After 15 years of working in a factory, I agree.

  6. Avatar

    Last night I saw the movie Cabrini. As the first American woman to be made a saint I consider her along with the others you talk about eg. Dot Stang, Sojourn Truth etc. to be among those whose work is Holy. She was an incredibly strong woman who had a heart for the poor and the orphans. Her determination and strength against all odds to continue her work is more than admirable. Why have we not heard her story before. She is an incredible inspiration. Many thanks for your meaning and insightful Meditations on a variety of of levels.

  7. Avatar

    The heart of the cosmos, of all things seen and unseen, of all times past and future rejoices in the eternal NOW that unfolds into the newness of all time, revealing the Divine One in the core of our soul. We carry the memory, the instinct, “the Image” for the Genesis, the Alpha and Omega that draws us back from our destitution of wandering.

    We may have sometimes stumbled away from our intended purpose, turning away from God/the Absolute Eternal One who is always calling to us from within, and we are often blind to our Soul’s inherent Beauty and the reflections of it all around us. But mystics have always been voices of humankind’s shared memory, reenacting the eternal cosmic proclamation into new generations, making way for the message which God’s universe demands be re-spoken, again and again, down through the ages.
    So here it is (again) :
    We are NOT severed from God or from the universe, nor are we islands of desolately forsaken lost souls. We are not, and have never been, apart from God/the One Almighty, even when we turned away. The Christ-Logos beacon shines triumphant in the holy sanctuary tucked in the deepest core of everyone’s soul. It IS the altar of eternity, and we all equally share it.
    Christ/Logos is the heart, the core and unfolding perfection of the mystical, eternal One, coming into being — in us, in the universe, in time, space and form.
    Blessed Be in the One.

  8. Avatar

    When the bird drills into my wall and I repeatedly press mute and jump to drum on the wall to deter its wish to build its nest in the very poor spot that bigger birds can target, when the phone dings despite my turning notifications off, when people send me links and want me to do something through them, when I don’t get my required sleep, when my nap is thwarted by a marketing call, when these minor things become an irritation and the feel of life’s gift and love is dulled or veiled, . . . then comes Matthew Fox and his reminder of the greater truths that tether me with relief. Thank you for sharing your great work (and all of you who bring it to us).

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