Hildegard of Bingen and Us The Way of Creative Possibility
October 31, 2021
Maple Grove UMC
Rev. Patricia Wagner
We've been going back to listen to saints-persons of the church through whom the light of God shines. This is our 4th and last saint to consider in detail and she is one of whom you most likely have never heard. but whose visions speak breathtakingly to our situation today. To the challenge of our planet's survival, she sees it and says we have within us the creativity to meet it. To our COVID world weariness, she instructs us to sing and claim our courage, to the depression and anxiety, she says we are each light-filled. And she was born a thousand years ago. 100 years before St. Francis of Assisi, 200 years before St. Julian of Norwich, at a time when women were uneducated and their lives unrecorded. And would become the earliest known composer in the Western world. A doctor of the healing arts the author of books of mystical theology and consulted by popes and princes. Yet it took till 1987, 800 years after her death for her work was finally translated into English.
She was born Sybil, the 10th child to a noble German family, and, as was the tradition for a 10th child there and then, was considered too much to care for, and so was dedicated at birth to the church. She began having visions of luminous objects at 3 but soon knew that she was unique in this gift and so hid it
At 8 she was placed in the care of an anchoress, like Julian of Norwich, a woman named Jutta who lived her life in the walls of the church Together with other girls sent there, Hildegard was immersed in scripture in Latin and religious music as the Benedictine monks sang their prayers from early morning to evening. Nurturing her mind and spirit in a way most girls never could.
She took her vows at 15, perhaps then taking the name of Hildegard,
and 23 years later, succeeded Jutta as the spiritual leader and head of the community of women. The visions had continued, but then she received a gift that changed her life, And it came to pass ... when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming... and suddenly I understood of the meaning of the writings in the books. The brightness I see I call the shadow of living brightness, and in that same brightness I sometimes see what I call the living light, and for the time I do see it, all sadness and all anguish is taken
from me. But although I heard and saw these things, because of doubt and low opinion of myself and because of diverse sayings of men, I refused for a long time a call to write, not out of stubbornness but out of humility.
She trusted in the divine origins of her luminous visions, but she wanted her church, the church of Rome, to approve of them too,
She wrote to a holy man, named Bernard, himself later named a saint, who brought her to the attention of Pope Eugenius who exhorted her to continue her work.
Hildegard would later write: Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.
Hildegard left the church building where she'd lived her life and settled her community of women, in the Benedictine tradition, in a place near Bingen in the Rhineland, of southwest Germany.
She set her visions down in writing. Two Books: Scivias, which means, Know the Ways of the Lord and The Book of Divine Works, illustrated by the women in her community.
Divinity, all-knowing and all-powerful, is like a wheel, a circle, a whole that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun nor ended. It is easier to gaze into the sun, than into the face of the mystery of God. Such is its beauty and radiance. All Living creatures are from the radiation of God's brilliance, emerging from God like the rays of the sun. The Word is Living Being Spirit All Verdant Greening All Creativity. This Word manifests in every creature. The fire has its flame and praises God. The wind blows the flame and praises God. In the voice we hear the word which praises God. And the word, when heard, praises God. So all of creation is a song of praise to God. Good People, most royal greening verdancy, you shine with radiant light.
The relatedness of all creation is something she saw in her visions and proclaimed
Everything that is in the heavens, on earth and under the earth is penetrated with relatedness. God has arranged all things in the world in consideration of everything else. Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings. Now, think, What delight God gives to humankind with all these things!
She saw, over a thousand years before the terrible cost of our living unaware of the earth: Now in the people that were meant to be green there is no more life of
any kind. There is only shriveled barrenness. The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on. Thunderstorms menace. The air belches out the uncleanliness of the peoples. The earth itself should not be injured. The earth should not be destroyed. As often as the elements of the world are violated by ill treatment, so God will cleanse them through the sufferings, through the hardships of mankind. All nature is at the disposal of humankind. We are to work with it. For without we cannot survive.
And yet, she did not evoke despair, for she trusted in God's wisdom and work in us. Humankind, full of all creative possibilities, is God’s vessel, built for God's self, and filled with inspiration so that God's works are perfected in us. Humankind alone is called to assist God, to create with God. With nature’s help, humankind can set into creation all that is necessary and life- sustaining." To remember that every creature is a glittering, glistening mirror of Divinity. Her writing, her music, the art all were inspired by her experience of the Divine
O Beloved, your way of knowing is amazing, the way you recognize every creature before it appears. the way you gaze in to the face of very human being and see all your works gazing back at you. O, what a miracle to be awake inside your breathing
She prayed: Holy Spirit, the life that gives life You are the cause of all movement. You are the breath of all creatures. You are the salve that purifies our souls. You are the ointment that heals our wounds. You are the fire that warms our hearts. You are the light that guides our feet. Let all the world praise you. Holy Wisdom, Soaring Power encompass us with wings unfurled, and carry us, encircling all, above, below and through the world.
And to those who felt despair, who have lost hope who have lost those they have loved. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God. Even in a world that's being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong. I, God, am in your midst. Whoever knows me can never fall. Not in the heights, nor in the depths, not in the breadths. For I am Love, which the vast expanses of evil can never still.
Hildegard, steeped in music nearly all her life, found words alone could not express the divine revelation. The soul's speech is found in music, and we are to sing. Sometimes , when we hear a song, we breathe deeply and sigh. This
reminds the prophet that the soul arises from heavenly harmony. The soul has something in itself of this music. Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticle, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God. The song of rejoicing softens hard hearts. It makes tears of godly sorrow flow from them. Singing summons the Holy Spirit. Remember, God rewards not only those who never slip, but also those who bend and fall. Don't stop singing.
She composed, and yet, she recognized that song begins in God's own being.
Every element has a sound, an original sound from the order of God; all those sounds unite like the harmony from harps and zithers
Year ago, when I was about 42 and a half years old. I was visiting a friend in Germany. I was struggling with a relationship back home that was making me doubt my worth. I was in a guest house, and was awakened by a voice, singing. I looked at the woman in a bed across the room, she was sound asleep. She hadn't been awakened, it seemed she could hear. But it rang out, and I went to the window to see where it was coming from. But as I listened, I realized that the voice was not an earthly voice, it was a sort of angel song - God’s voice. And the song that I was hearing was the name by which God called me my true name, that God has called me now , and will call me forever. Hildegard heard that voice, and I believe you have too, in the quite places, in your innermost soul, as Hildegard would say, God sings your name to you, reminds you of your worth of the creative possibilities of your life of all our lives, in one great song, together.
Our Chancel Choir, under the direction of Quinton Jones has learned a composition of Hildegard's O Ignee Spiritus: A Hymn to the Holy Spirit, a song which comes to us from a thousand years ago to invite us to take heart as we enter into this time of remembering those we have loved and lost to the infinite beauty of God, and how we are yet connected to them, as all things on heaven and earth are filled, as she said, with relatedness. We will call out the names of those who were members of this congregation or whose memorial services we led. We shall sound a bell, signifying their name as sung by Divine Love itself to those we love now and forever and light a candle, remembering their lives which shine with radiant light.
Julian of Norwich and Us
Revelations of Divine Love
Maple Grove UMC
October 10, 2021
Rev. Patricia Wagner
Quotes (in italics) are from "Meditations with Julian of Norwich" a translation of her writings by Brendan Doyle. Bear & Company Publishers, 1982.
We do not know her true name, only the name of the church in which she would come to live, St. Julian's Roman Catholic Church, in Norwich, England. She was born in 1342, and the Black, or Bubonic Plague, reached England in 1349, when she was 7.
The disease was airborne, and was carried by rats and fleas, people and clothing. It traveled the world road, by river or by ship, and caused inflammation and boils and terrible pain. It killed all the street sweepers in London, 2 of every three clergy and a great many children. Half the population of England died, and at least 1/3 of Europe and much of the world.
There was no world health organization to warn or guide, there were no vaccines or treatments other than comfort and quarantine. The plague would come and go for more than would last her whole lifetime, into the next century.
Julian became sick with what illness we do not know, and hovered near death, receiving last rites. During this time, she received sixteen revelations from God.
When I was only thirty and a half year old
I had a sickness unto death
and it pained me to think of dying
not because I had any special plans for my
life, nor fear of any pain
In so short a time,
I had experienced so little of life.
I thought my life as nothing
and no longer giving praise to the Good Lord
but I longed to live to love God
better and longer here,
so I might know and love God more
when in the joy of heaven
Then God showed me in my palm
a little thing round as a ball,
about the size of a hazelnut
I asked myself,
What is this thing?
And I was answered, "It is everything that is created"
I wondered how it could survive
since it seemed so little
it could suddenly disintegrate into nothing.
The Answer came:
"It endures and ever will endure,
because God loves it.'
And so everything has being because of God's love.
Julian felt called to leave her world and was accepted as an anchoress,
After a special service of holy communion, she was conducted to a small room built into the wall of the church with a window to the sanctuary, and one to the outside world. She lived there the rest of her life.
There she wrote down the visions God had given her. And the book, Showings, and her second "Revelations of Divine Love"
are the first known writings by a woman in the English language.
Her words were simple, but stunning, for they turned around the church's teaching of an angry, wrathful God, who set the plague to punish a sinful world.
The True Nature of God
and the goodness
that everything possesses
God feels great delight
to be our Father
and God feels great delight
to be our Mother
and God feels great delight
to be our True Spouse
and our soul, God's loved Wife
Jesus feels great delight
that he is our Brother
and Jesus feels great delight
that he is our Savior
These are the five great joys of God
The fullness of our joy
is to behold God in everything
The Mingling of Sorrow and Joy
Julian recognized it is difficult to feel this joy. People would come to her window at the church to seek her counsel: Mothers and fathers who'd lost children, children who lost parents,
What would we tell Mother Julian? What might she say as we share with her this mingling of heartache and hope in us.
The mingling of both well-being
and distress in us
is so astonishing that we can
hardly tell which state we
or our neighbor are in.
We stand in this mingling our whole life.
We seek rest where there is no rest
and therefore are uneasy.
not knowing that God is our True Rest
Sometimes, we experience such darkness
that we lose all our energy
But our intent in life
is to continue to live in God
and faithfully trust
that we will be shown
compassion and grace.
God did not say:
"You will not be tempested.
You will not labor hard.
You will not be troubled."
But God did say:
"You will not be overcome."
There is no Separation between Us and God
Julian recognized how we fail, she saw it clearly
in herself and in the situations of those who came to her.
But God showed her we are
in her words, "oned" with God,
and have been so
since the beginning of creation
and while we may may be inclined to division
nothing we do or think or say can separate us
now, or ever, from divine love
our trust is not full.
We are not certain
that God hears us
because we consider ourselves
worthless and as nothing.
This is ridiculous
and the cause of our weakness
I have felt this way myself.
But God has chosen the soul of humanity
as his resting place.
God never began to love us
We have always been
known and loved from the beginning.
we are knit and oned with God.
We are unlike God
in our sinful ways.
But our prayer is a witness
to the fact that we want
what God wants.
and this strengthens our conscience
and empowers us with grace.
Prayer ones our soul to God
When we think that our prayers
have not been answered
we should not become depressed
I am certain
that God is telling us
that we must wait for a better time
or that a better gift will be given us.
God kindles our soul
and brings it to life
and makes it grow
in grace and capacity.
All Shall Be Well
I met Julian just when I turned 30, in this translation we are using today by Brendan Doyle, and carried it around in my backpack for 10 years.
When I was so wounded by others, when the world got so grim, when I wasn't sure what or how to believe, I went to this book and Julian met me at the window of her cell and carried me through. As they did all those who came to her window and have come to hear her.
There is no better saint for the times of pandemic than she, no one to counter the world weariness, no one more available to open our eyes
and say, be not afraid.
"Love is his meaning"
We see so much evil around us
so much harm done
that we think it impossible
that there is any good in this world
We look at this in sorrow
and mourn so
that we cannot see God as we should.
My good Lord answered all my questions
and doubts by saying,
full of energy:
"I can make all things well
I know how to make all things well
I desire to make all things well,
I will make all things well,
and you will see with your own eyes
that every kind of thing will be well. "
Afterwards, it was said to me:
"Do you wish to see clearly
your Lord's meaning
in these Showings?
See it well.
was your Lord's meaning.
Who showed it to you?
What did you see?
Why was it shown?
And on the last day
we will clearly see in God
the secret thoughts
that are now hidden from us.
Then none of us will be stirred to say:
" Lord, if we had known these things
then all would have been well."
we will all say with one voice.
"Lord, may you be blessed!
For it is well."
A Small World
World Communion Sunday - October 3, 2021
Maple Grove UMC
Galatians 3: 23-29
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise
For the weeks after my surgery my world narrowed: to my bedroom, then to main floor of the house.
My bandwidth narrowed: Afghanstan fell, Haiti had an earthquake, COVID deaths are still rising and politics is making things worse but I can still barely take it in.
My world became quite small.
COVID 19 narrowed many of our lives to our workspaces, to the length and breadth of our homes, to the care and comfort of our household.
We have lots of new babies in this congregation and for new parents, the world gets very focused on this tiny creature's needs.
It can be a relief, a respite, to focus on the near, on the dear, to care for ourselves, and our households, to let the locus of faith be our home and we all know how hard it is to be a Christian in our own homes or among those closest to us.
Early church life was centered in homes. First for safety then because they had no buildings
Today in our passage we hear about the church in Galatia, Jewish believers and Gentile believers gathered in different homes, each community loving and caring for one another but quite separate.
And that wouldn't have been problematic but there was a question of status. Surely the law said that those born Gentile were not yet fully part of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah's people.
Surely they had to follow the religious laws to be equals in the sight of the Lord.
In some early church communities, particularly in Corinth, there were wealthy believers who could invite many into their homes, both the rich and the poor, for the Lord's supper.
But they did so in the approved custom of Corinth, so the houseowner invited wealthier Christians were in one space and the poor believers, among them those who were debtors, were in a separate space in the same house and fed food and drink inferior to that of the brothers and sisters in the other room.
For Paul, the segregation, the ranking, the unequal fellowship was the culture of the world and the old laws of the faith creeping into the community of Jesus.
The Lord's supper, the common meal, is the essence of the faith, one loaf, one body, uniting believers.
How can we not be equals before the table of the Lord?
He wrote the Galatians a letter, it is the oldest writing in our New Testament, the first preserved.
And these are the most important words in that letter: there are neither male nor female, gentile or Jew, enslaved or free, but we are all one in Christ Jesus. We may live in different households but we are one.
We may speak different languages and have different family histories on this planet. We may be able to leap and run in body or mind and some of our bodies and minds may not.
Because of what we look like, or earn, or do for a living, or how our lives are turning out, we may not think ourselves to be equal, whole, beloved as others are or we may think that our small world is the only one that counts, that we aren't a piece of God's continent, a part of the main.
But all of you are one in Christ Jesus, says Paul.
29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Just take that in, for a moment. We are one in Christ. We belong to Christ, all of us, including those outside our small worlds.
Lately I have thought about this theory that there is just six degrees of separation between us and any other persons on the planet. That we know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows that other person. That we know Fred and Allan and Susan means that we have less separation that that to those on the African continent. All of that is amazing.
But what Paul says is perhaps even more astounding that we are One with these others there is no separation we are in Christ and we belong to Christ.
We started practicing World Communion Sunday back in 1940, when the world was beginning to come apart again for the second time in that century. Because we had to remember, amidst all the conflict between cultures that we were one community of faith. That God so loved not this community or that one, but that God so loved the world.
I heard this week about a young man who was in the World Trade Center when the planes hit and he raced down from the 47th floor and survived,
And he struggled after that because he was unable to get out of his mind
the scene that he left behind—people of all ages, races, genders, nationalities praying, in languages he could not understand, in postures of prayer with which he was unfamiliar. All were praying to one God.
“He asked his pastor, ‘What am I to make of that?... Suddenly, my God was so narrow. As I was running down the stairs, I couldn’t help but think of the God who is claimed by all these people,’ he said.
A God who so loves the world, a rather small world in this big universe and gave us Jesus to love us into loving one another.
A friend of mine, the poet Julia Cadwalder Staub
wrote this poem:
There is no such thing as quantity in love
my mother said, correcting me.
No such thing as “much” love.
You can’t count it.
No such thing as “all my love.”
You can’t contain it.
There’s an endless supply.
I love you, she said.
"I love you," says Jesus,
and there's enough
for this whole world. "