29: Hildegard of Bingen

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week for fifty weeks. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#29 Hildegard of Bingen

It is hard to know how to write a small account of such a big life. Hildegard was an impressive woman: mystic, theologian, preacher, abbess, artist, author, poet, polymath, musician, composer, herbalist, pharmacist, healer, and champion of the feminine. Her visions, which started when she was very young, caused her to see humans as living sparks of God’s love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. Her theology was rooted in her love of creation. She called the cosmic life force Vriditas or greenness. Today we might refer to this life force—continuously pulling us to growth, change, life, and life abundant—as the cosmic Christ. While describing the Divine as equally masculine and feminine, Hildegard believed that humans could only access the Divine through its immanent feminine nature. She taught that it is through this connection that the human life force blooms. In her practice of holistic healing, she utilized both the spiritual and the practical. No matter was below her notice, including human sexuality, where she stressed the importance of the female orgasm. For Hildegard, the best way to love, worship, and show devotion to God is through music. In the musical morality plays she wrote, Satan is the only character incapable of producing music. During her long life, she was a beloved spiritual leader, but not without critics. Her reception among church authorities was mixed. She did not shy from controversy or criticism. She stood up to the powers that be, religious and secular (always patriarchal), to advocate for what she believed was right. It took 833 years for her beatification in 2012. In 2015, she became the fourth female doctor of the church.