Monday, 17 September 2012

The Feast of Saint Hildegard

September 17 marks the feast day of Saint Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), the great visionary abbess and polymath.

Long regarded as a saint in her native Germany, she was only canonized in May this year—873 years after her death. In October 2012, she will be elevated to Doctor of the Church, a rare and solemn title reserved for theologians who have significantly impacted Church doctrine.

But what does Hildegard mean for a wider secular audience today?

I believe her legacy remains hugely important for contemporary women.

While writing Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, I kept coming up against the injustice of how women, who are often more devout than men, are condemned to stand at the margins of established religion, even in the 21st century. Women bishops still cause controversy in the Episcopalian Church while the previous Catholic pope, John Paul II, called a moratorium even on the discussion of women priests. Although Pope Benedict XVI is elevating Hildegard to Doctor of the Church, he is suppressing Hildegard’s contemporaries, the sisters and nuns of the Leadership Council of Women Religious, who stand accused of radical feminism and other doctrinal errors.

Modern women have the choice to wash their hands of organized religion altogether. But Hildegard didn’t even get to choose whether to enter monastic life—she was entombed in an anchorage at the age of eight. The Church of her day could not have been more patriarchal and repressive to women. Yet her visions moved her to create a faith that was immanent and life-affirming, one that can inspire us today.

Too often both religion and spirituality have been interpreted by and for men, but when women reveal their spiritual truths, a whole other landscape emerges, one we haven’t seen enough of. Hildegard opens the door to a luminous new world.

The cornerstone of Hildegard’s spirituality was Viriditas, or greening power, her revelation of the animating life force manifest in the natural world that infuses all creation with moisture and vitality. To her, the divine is manifest in every leaf and blade of grass. Just as a ray of sunlight is the sun, Hildegard believed that a flower or a stone is God, though not the whole of God. Creation reveals the face of the invisible creator.

“I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows,” the voice of God reveals in Hildegard’s visions, recorded in her book, Liber Divinorum. “I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon and stars . . . . I awaken everything to life.”

Hildegard’s re-visioning of religion celebrated women and nature, and even perceived God as feminine, as Mother. Her vision of the universe was an egg in the womb of God.

According to Barbara Newman’s book Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine, Hildegard’s Sapientia, or Divine Wisdom, creates the cosmos by existing within it.

O power of wisdom!
You encompassed the cosmos,
Encircling and embracing all in one living orbit
With your three wings:
One soars on high,
One distills the earth’s essence,
And the third hovers everywhere.
Hildegard von Bingen, O virtus sapientia

Hildegard shows how visionary women might transform the most male-dominated faith traditions from within.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Hildegard and the Feminine Divine

Don't miss the Fall 2012 issue of Namaste Insights, dedicated to Hildegard von Bingen and the Feminine Divine.

In this issue, I interview radical theologian and Hildegard scholar Matthew Fox, whose 1985 nonfiction book, The Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen made Hildegard's life and work accessible to a wide, popular English-speaking audience for the first time. A former Dominican monk, Fox was expelled from his order by Cardinal Ratzinger. Read the interview to hear what Matthew has to say about the irony of Joseph Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI being the one to finally canonize Hildegard and elevate her to Doctor of the Church.

Matthew's new book Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times will be published in October, as will my own new title, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen/.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Illuminations Book Tour!

Schedule of events for ILLUMINATIONS: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen (launch date 10/9/2012)

Here are the events already booked. More to be announced!

Tuesday, Oct 9—St. Paul
7:00 pm —Common Good Books launch event: 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105.

Wednesday, Oct 10—Edina
7:00 pm —Barnes & Noble Galleria. 3225 West 69th Street, Edina, MN 55435.

Thursday, Oct 11—Wayzata
7:00 pm — The Bookcase, 824 East Lake Street. Wayzata, MN 55391.

Monday, Oct 15—White Bear Lake
6:30 pm —White Bear Lake Public Library, 4698 Clark Ave., White Bear Lake, MN 55110.

Tuesday, Oct 16—Minneapolis
4:30 pm—University of Minnesota Bookstore, Coffman Union, University Ave.

Tuesday, Oct 16—St. Paul
7:30 pm —Carol Connolly Reading Series, University Club, Summit Ave.

Wednesday, Oct 17—St. Paul
7:00 pm—Subtext Books, 165 Western Ave. N.

Thursday, Oct 18—Mounds View
6:30 pm —Mounds View Public Library, 2576 County Rd 10, Mounds View, MN 55112

Saturday, Oct 20—Stillwater
2:00 pm—Valley Bookseller, 217 Main Street North, Stillwater MN 55082.

Sunday, Oct 21--Duluth
1:00 pm signing, 2:00 pm reading--The Bookstore at Fitger's, 600 East Superior St., Duluth MN 55802.

Monday, Oct 22--Excelsior
7:00 pm--318 Cafe, 318, Water St, Excelsior MN 55331.

Tuesday, Oct 23—Northfield
7:00 pm—Northfield Library, 210 Washington St., Northfield MN 55057

Wednesday, Oct 24 —Book Club, Golden Valley
7:00 pm —Private event.

Thursday, Oct 25—Podcast: Goddiscussion
9:00 pm Eastern Standard Time