Ownership

We don’t own the Divine. The systems and religions and practices we build create systems of belief, usually based upon what some human said because that was their experience of the Divine. And this can be an exquisite, vital beauty in our world, but none of us possesses exclusive rights to the infinite manifestations and incarnations of the Divine. Humans have been warring for thousands of years now based upon belief systems, upon mental constructs that if we conceive the Divine in one way then all other people must be wrong. The Divine is LOVE … can you hear her cries? I can.

 

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Self-Contained

LadySlipper3rdFound061403c_2In continuing my study of Saint Hildegard, Mary Queen of Heaven, and the Catholic Church – and admittedly I am not an adherent of this particular faith – I find the complexity of the story fascinating, and its changes from century to century mind-boggling, to say the least.

Most students of history will attest to the fact that, in ancient times of the word’s origin (it’s concept), the word “virgin” defined a woman who was, in essence, self-contained — it did not mean a woman who had not had sexual intercourse.

This ties in with a beautifully written paragraph – about Eve and Mary – in Barbara Newman’s book Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine, which states that:

“No theme of Mariology is older or more universal than the contrast of Eve and Mary, a topos that dates back to the second century. Irenaeus, one of the first theologians to develop this theme, observed that ‘the former was beguiled into fleeing God, the latter was persuaded to obey God, that the Virgin Mary might become an advocate for the virgin Eve. Through a virgin, mankind came under the bondage of death; so also through a Virgin the bonds were loosed, and a virginal disobedience was balanced by a Virgin’s obedience.’ For the Greek father, the contrast between the two virgins had as yet no sexual connotations.”

This is pretty powerful stuff when putting history in context. It means that in the century when Christianity was being birthed as a religion, virginity was not a sexual term. So, Mary could simply have been a strong, independent, self-contained young woman whose belief in her spiritual path led her to accept the prophetic vision of becoming the mother of a son who many believed would be the incarnation of the Jewish God.

Newman continues the above paragraph with:

“But the Augustinian ethos, linking original sin with concupiscence, led to a practical redefinition of ‘obedience’ and ‘disobedience’ in terms of chastity and lust.”

So it wasn’t until the 4th Century that the reformed Augustine, later canonized (having lived the first part of his life loosely, including “parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions”), began to assist in shifting the term “virgin” around within Christianity.

Imagine what it must have been like for Mary, imagine the pressure she was under.

Thankfully, there is a lot of research now to turn to that addresses the cultural lives of women in history (and in prehistory), which is marvelous.

The Hidden Divine

I am particularly intrigued by how the visions of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, in the 12th Century, seemed to embed the symbolism and perceptions of Christianity into aspects of what I understand to be the universal and cosmological vibrational intelligent energy that is the Infinite, the Hidden Divine that we as humans are incapable of comprehending.

In her book Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine, Barbara Newman refers to one of Saint Hildegard’s visions and says that,

“With this memorable image, the seer reinterpreted the primitive notion of a hieros gamos, or marriage of the gods, to proclaim the oneness of the hidden God with his self-revelation–or, alternatively, one might say that this religious insight is ‘demythologized’ back into its primordial form.”

Reading on, my interpretation is that we are missing the truth of the Great Mystery when we focus only upon the inequality of gender assignments in religions. The “play” or “dance” between God and Goddess (Saint Hildegard refers to her by various names including Sapientia (Wisdom) and Caritas (Love), as well as Mary and Ecclesia) that we perceive are our projections of manifestation for That Which We Cannot Conceive. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with how our many religions express “the hidden” Divine, the Great Mystery or Infinite Spirit.

Saint Hildegard juxtaposes Creator and Creatrix, depending upon what her visions are revealing to her. That said, it’s good to recall that Hildegard is always seeing through the lens of Medieval times and Catholic constructs, when she falls back on the patriarchal authoritarian model (i.e., males in charge); she can’t not do this, even though many of her visions seem to point her away from it … just as none of us can take our own selves out of the temporal framework in which we live. Newman says that,

“It is surely no accident that, while masculine imagery of the Creator tends to stress God’s transcendence, feminine metaphors place the accent on immanence. As [Creatrix], Hildegard’s Sapientia is no unmoved mover, ordering the universe from on high or even–like the Creator in contemporary paintings–molding the nascent world in almighty hands. On the contrary, she creates the cosmos by existing within it, her ubiquity expressed through the image of ceaseless or circular motion.”

What I appreciate about the above perspective is that both transcendence and immanence are valued; in a wholesome, holistic cosmological spirituality, we don’t have one without the other, but they are partners in the dance of life.

 

Valley of Humility

“Walk through the valley of humility and know peace. Lose your titanic, hard-to-satisfy ego. A greedy self-esteem is just a steep mountain you’ll find dangerous to climb. It’s also tricky (if not impossible) to come down from such heights, and anyhow the summit is too small for community. Focus on Love’s splendid garden instead. Gather the flowers of humility and simplicity of soul.” ~ Saint Hildegard of Bingen

disibodenberg hildegard

the ruins of Disibodenberg Monastery

Who was she?

I’ve been interested in learning more about Hildegard of Bingen — a mystic, healer, composer, and abbess of several monasteries in 12th Century Germany — for many years, going back to the time more than a decade ago, when I heard that she used to drape sheets over flowers saturated with morning dew in order to then lay the healing essence-imbued sheets upon people who were ill. Because of a project I’m working on, I felt compelled to do so now — this is the time. I will be spending July immersed in Hildegard’s world of the Middle Ages.St Hildegard of Bingen meme card

Hildegard received visions from the Divine and was instructed to write them down and share them. For instance, she wrote the following about one of her visions:

“I heard a voice speaking to me: ‘The young woman whom you see is Love. She has her tent in eternity… It was Love which was the source of this creation in the beginning when God said: ‘Let it be!’ And it was. As though in the blinking of an eye, the whole creation was formed through love. The young woman is radiant in such a clear, lightning-like brilliance of countenance that you can’t fully look at her… She holds the sun and moon in her right hand and embraces them tenderly… The whole of creation calls this maiden ‘Lady.’ For it was from her that all of creation proceeded, since Love was the first. She made everything… Love was in eternity and brought forth, in the beginning of all holiness, all creatures without any admixture of evil. Adam and Eve, as well were produced by love from the pure nature of the Earth.”

There is much about Hildegard to admire, and to recognize that prior to the Reformation, Christian Divinity was viewed quite differently than it is now. Hildegard had a deeply relational experience of the Divine as spiritual experience, which included a profound connection to the sacredness of Mother Earth, as described here when she transcribed a voice speaking to her:

“I am the one whose praise echoes on high. / I adorn all the earth. / I am the breeze that nurtures all things green. / I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits. / I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams. / I am the rain coming from the dew / that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life. / I call forth tears, the aroma of holy work. / I am the yearning for good.”

Hildegard speaks often of the “web of creation” and an intense “power of greening” and says that:

“It is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord fills the Earth.’ This means that no creature, whether visible or invisible, lacks a spiritual life.”

I look forward to getting to know the unique woman who was Hildegard of Bingen.

Sanctuary

Bojangles cat under hanging flowers 22 MAY 2018One of my greatest joys in life has been that of providing loving, compassionate care to animals, mostly dogs and cats. Caring for a multitude of animals, including those with special needs, has brought me tremendous heartache along with expansive joy and I wouldn’t change a single moment. All of these marvelous beings gave  (and continue to give) to me far more than I ever gave to them. 

Since some nearly thirty years ago, when I first became involved with animal rescue efforts, my dream has been to create a place of sanctuary for the animals, even if limited to that of a personal home-haven. This has been both a spiritual and emotional calling, and a healing journey for me as well as for the animals. I believe this is why three stray cats showed up during the past twelve months — to remind me that wherever I am, I can offer a safe haven to those who are lost or in need of care. 

With this realization of purpose, I feel blessed to have moved to and live in a place where I can again provide sanctuary.

Home Sweet Home 14 May 2018

May All Beings Be Happy

When I was attending the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, one of my favorite prayer mantras was this one … May All Beings Be Happy. I return to it often in my morning devotions and wanted to share this lovely version by Deva Premal and Miten with you. Blessings!