Creative Practice for Hildegard of Bingen

1.    Practice Chosen

a.    Try as I did, I was not able to connect with Hildegard’s prose, particularly, her visions # 2 & # 7. But I was drawn to her music. In an effort to access her spirituality, I decided to paint while listening to her soaring choral pieces. I should state that I do not often paint, and do not consider it anything for which I have a gift. But my husband does paint, so canvas, paints and easels are in ready supply.

2.    Description of Practice

a.     Painting to Hildegard’s music was one of the suggestions in this week’s spiritual practice.

b.     I felt a bit poorly not being part of Hildegard’s ardent fan club. Well, to be truthful, I felt a tad left out. Everyone was making such a fuss about her visions. I thought if I painted while listening to her music I might be able to contact some part of her I could not absorb from either the principle texts or the background material.

c.      My husband – in silence – set me up with a fresh canvas and lots of paints in our combined recording/painting studio. I closed my eyes and listened for some time, then picked up the paints and began to work. My husband was painting too, just behind me. But we were not talking at all, just listening to the music. Hildegard. ‘The Origin of Fire – Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen’. YouTube. Published February 17, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8gK0_PgIgY. To listen, click embedded source below. 

Ceaselessly we must praise the Heavenly Creator with the voice of both mouth and heart, for, by His grace, He receives in the celestial dwellings, not only those who stand erect, but also those who fall and those who are bent.”
— HIldegard of Bingen, Symphony

Embedded source. Click to hear music, completed painting below.

hildegard striding towards the light......

1.    Describing the Experience

a.     It was a peaceful, pleasant experience. I was curious to see what would appear on the canvas. And I enjoyed the quiet companionship of painting with my husband.

b.     The mental images were translated onto the canvas:  Hildegard leading the other nuns – into the chapel to sing, into battle, into new understanding, certainly towards the light as she knows it. She is clearly the leader and the other nuns – younger than her, I think -  follow with joy, expectation, trepidation, curiosity, perhaps simply obedience - each according to their own developing spirituality.  

c.      Only the pleasure of the music and the sweetness of the evening.

d.     I saw Hildegard in the place of leadership. She is alone, separate, out front. The others follow her lead, but have no part in it. In my experience, leadership is like that – there are elements to it that are solitary. I knew from the background material that Hildegard could be alternatively bold and feisty or ill and subservient. Here in the painting she is a spiritual leader to follow – intrepid, joyful, sure of herself. (Though I must note, that this does not mean this is the way spiritual leaders need always be. Sometimes I am at my best when I feel depressingly ill.) Listening to her rich music and letting my brush speak for her, I saw her in a new, and I must add, more attractive light. And for this, I am grateful. It is also a good reminder that there are a myriad of ways to learn about another’s spirituality. We need not be confined to text.