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The Rhineland Mystics
The Rhineland Mystics

The Rhineland Mystics: Weekly Summary

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Rhineland Mystics

Saturday, August 8, 2020
Summary: Sunday, August 2—Friday, August 7, 2020

Hildegard of Bingen was far ahead of her place and time, a Renaissance woman before the Renaissance, who led a monastery north of the Alps. She combined art, music, poetry, ecology, medicine, community, healing, and early feminism. (Sunday)

In Hildegard’s holistic understanding of the universe, the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner. The individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. (Monday)

Hildegard was forty-three years old when her visions finally became so insistent that she could no longer contain the secret she had harbored since early childhood: the Holy One, identifying itself as “the Living Light,” spoke to her. —Mirabai Starr (Tuesday)

Meister Eckhart stressed God as a ground of being present throughout creation—including in the human soul—and that each Christian is invited to give birth to Christ within one’s soul. —Carl McColman (Wednesday)

In being the image of God, we owe no allegiances to anything but the Infinite Love in whose image we are made. —James Finley (Thursday)

Mysticism begins when we start to make room for a completely new experience of God as immanent, present here and now, with us and within all of us. (Friday)


Practice: The Act of Love

The life of Hildegard of Bingen is a wonderful example of fully living into and expressing the mystery of our interconnectedness which is grounded in love. Today’s practice from author and educator Anne Hillman invites us to contemplate how we can move toward a deeper sense of connectedness by nurturing what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) called “the energies of Love.” Center for Action and Contemplation faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault found Hillman’s book The Dancing Animal Woman full of “deep feminine insights that have opened doors long closed” [1] which might be an apt description for Hildegard’s brilliant writings as well. Hillman writes:

The act of love is the surrender of self into life as it is. This is a love larger than our word “love” can contain or express. It embraces all of life and does not judge: tragedy and war, suffering and joy, creativity and destruction. Beauty. Death. The Other. Within this embrace of life as it is, lie acceptance, forgiveness, healing.

When we let go enough into the depths of our being, we are in communion with all of creation. We are center and circumference. One and many. Self and other. Without difference. We are receivers of one another. Then the mystery which surrounds and informs us is served. At depth, we discover that our aloneness and our bondedness are one. Ours is an identity with all beings. Herein lies our healing, the end of loneliness. . . .

To stay grounded I have had to find other ways to honor the paradox of our human identity. I have discovered that it is in the simplest, most minute experiences that I can begin to do that. Then, I am at home, my created self. I belong. Walking. Looking at a tree. Listening to a person, to the wind. Caressing a child. Scraping carrots in the sink. Weeping. Laughing.

Being tender. First, I learned to be tender with myself; to tend the needs of my soul. Then I began to tend the other which is also my self. If I am not tending, caring for some small portion of the living creation, how can I commune with that creation, be it the earth or a child, in any but the most sentimental way? A woman learns, in caring for an infant, that she becomes bonded. A person who tends the land or gives to another discovers the same bond. These are not moral niceties, they are part of the mystery. They are law.

In this kind of communion with life, new languages arise in our bodies: languages of awe and wonder, gratitude and a joy that is overflowing. They soften us. . . . The more gratitude or awe I feel, the more life shows forth its beauty and terror, the more my life is graced. These are the languages of being. Of being alive. This is a life lived with passion: com-passion. . . .

There we await the mystery.

[1] Cynthia Bourgeault,

Anne Hillman, The Dancing Animal Woman: A Celebration of Life (Bramble Books: 1994), 213-214.

For Further Study:
The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, trans. and ed. Maurice O’C. Walshe (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009).

Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, commentaries by Matthew Fox (Inner Traditions: 1980, 2000).

Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings, trans. Oliver Davies (Penguin: 1994).

James Finley, Turning to the Mystics (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), podcast.

Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen (Bear and Company: 1985, 2002).

Hildegard of Bingen: Devotions, Prayers and Living Wisdom, ed. Mirabai Starr (Sounds True: 2008).

Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen, ed. Gabriele Uhlein (Bear and Company: 1982).

Carl McColman, Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints, and Sages (Hampton Roads: 2016).

Richard Rohr, James Finley, and Cynthia Bourgeault, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate: Seeing God in All Things (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), DVD, CD, MP3 download.

Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: OrderDisorderReorder (Franciscan Media: 2020).

Image credit: Motherhood Through the Spirit and Water (detail), c. 1165; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Speak out, Hildegard says. And when you do, when you recognize that inner voice as the voice of God and say what it has taught you, the sickness in your heart will melt away. The fatigue you have lived with for so long that you did not even notice how weary you were will lift. Your voice will ring out with such clarity and beauty that you will not be able to stop singing. To speak your truth, Hildegard teaches us, is to praise God. —Mirabai Starr
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