A Liturgy and brief homily in honor of the Feast of Hildegard of Bingen, 17 September
Collect: O Fire of Love by whose grace your servant Hildegard, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
*Sirach 43:1 The beauty of the higher realms and the pure vault of the sky,
the frame of the heavens manifests their majesty.
2 The sun shining as it rises illumines all below;
a wondrous instrument, the work of the Most High.
6 And more, the moon marks the changing seasons,
ruler of the ends of times, an everlasting sign.
7 To it belongs the appointed festivals and from it come the holy feasts;
and now it delights in its course.
9 The beauty of the heavens and the majesty of stars
is a sparkling witness in the heights of God.
10 At the word of the Holy One it stands as a statute,
never relaxing in its watch.
11 Look at the rainbow, and bless the One who made it,
for its splendor is glorious.
12 It encircles the sky with its glory
and the hand of God has stretched it out in might.
27 We could say more but could never say enough;
let the final word be: “God is the all.”
28 Where can we find the strength to praise God?
For God is greater than all God’s works.
*Verses 1-2, 6-7, 9-12 translated from the (Hebrew) Masada manuscript, MasSir.
Verses 27-28 translated from the (Greek) Septuagint.
25 This is the sea, great and wide;
creeping things beyond numbering are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, this one that you formed to play in it.
27 All of these look to you
to give them their food in due season.
28 You give to them and they gather it up;
you open your hand and they are filled with good things.
29 You hide your face and they are dismayed;
you take away your Spirit,
they die and return to their dust.
30 You send forth your Spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Creator endure forever;
may God rejoice in God’s own works:
32 The One who looks on the earth and it trembles,
touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Eternal One as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I endure.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to God,
for I, I rejoice in the Majestic One.
*Translated from the (Hebrew) Masoretic Text corrected against Dead Sea scroll manuscript IIQPsa.
✝John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world for the (sole) purpose of judging the world, but in order the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not judged; but those who do not believe are judged already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world and humanity loved darkness more than light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do base things hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be scrutinized. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, in order that their works may be known to be done in God.”
✝Translated from the traditional Nesle-Aland (Greek) text consulting the (Syriac) Peshitta.
This Holy Eucharist will conducted as Rite II (beginning on p 355), shaped by the language of Hildegard of Bingen (in italics) who we celebrate today. You are welcome to pray the traditional language found in our prayerbook or to expand it following the example of Hildegard.
The Word of God
The people standing, the Celebrant says:
Blessed be God: Creator, Christ, and Compassion.
And blessed be [God’s dominion], now and for ever. Amen.
The Celebrant may say
Omnipotent God, incomprehensible in majesty and inestimable in mysteries, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
On other occasions the following is used The Celebrant says to the people
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.
The Collect of the Day
The Celebrant says to the people
The Living Light be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray.
O Fire of Love by whose grace your servant Hildegard, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In the name of God: Majesty, Mercy and Mystery. Amen. In 1098, the One Who poured the good and sweet intelligence into humanity (as she would one day write), midwifed Hildegard – later of Bingen – into the world. Eight years later she began her education at a monastery. Ten years later she became a nun. Another decade, another vocation; at 28 she became the abbess. For four years she received a series of visions. Out of those visions she wrote 72 songs, 70 poems, nine books – including a commentary on the Gospels and one on the Athanasian Creed—and a play.
Her writings combined science, art and religion. She was a preacher, traveling to France, Germany and Switzerland to proclaim the Gospel. She was a social critic and reformer of the church, writing popes and emperors to correct and guide them. Her exhortations were full of her concerns that the downtrodden be freed from crushing poverty and that every human being, made in the image of God, had the opportunity to develop and use the talents that God has given her to realize her God-given potential. She also knew something of architecture and engineering, when she moved her nuns to their own monastery, one without an attached men’s monastery, she ordered pipes to bring pumped water into the facility, a rather newfangled idea at the time. A Doctor of the Church, she joins Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux among the male worthies.
I celebrate her for the language she found and crafted to communicate her visions. In her honor I sought to translate the scriptures and the rubrics of prayer in language worthy of her. Inspired by her scholarship I employed my own, discovering the oldest manuscript of our Sirach lesson was the Dead Sea scroll from Masada, so naturally I translated that. Hildegard’s glorious visions bear witness to both the inadequacy of human language to describe the God Who rules the whole world with celestial divinity in the brilliance of unfading serenity and the unplumbed potential of our language to translate something of the mystery of the Celestial Majesty. Like Sirach and the Psalmist before her, Hildegard saw in nature a lexicon for the Divine. And though she often used male pronouns and masculine imagery like the scriptures, like the scriptures she did not limit herself to them.
Yet all too often the language by which we name God in the church and in our prayerbooks is limited by and to a gender God does not possess and to a poverty of images – beloved though they are – reduced from the vast wealth of the scriptures, often abandoning nature’s witness. Hildegard of Bingen teaches us that it is the finest doctrinal work of the church to name God in ways that employ a myriad of images:
Let us attend to her lesson:
O comforting fire of Spirit,
Life, within the very Life of all Creation.
Holy you are in giving life to All.
Holy you are in anointing
those who are not whole;
Holy you are in cleansing
a festering wound.
O sacred breath,
O fire of love,
O sweetest taste in my breast
which fills my heart
with a fine aroma of virtues.
O most pure fountain
through whom it is known
that God has united strangers
and inquired after the lost.
O breastplate of life
and hope of uniting
all members as One,
O sword-belt of honor,
enfold those who offer blessing.
Care for those
who are imprisoned by the enemy
and dissolve the bonds of those
whom Divinity wishes to save.
O mightiest path which penetrates All,
from the height to every Earthly abyss,
you compose All, you unite All.
Through you clouds stream, ether flies,
stones gain moisture,
waters become streams,
and the earth exudes Life.
You always draw out knowledge,
bringing joy through Wisdom’s inspiration.
Therefore, praise be to you
who are the sound of praise
and the greatest prize of Life,
who are hope and richest honor
bequeathing the reward of Light.
It frustrates me to no end that a medieval woman and Iron Age scriptures are more expansive and inclusive in their language for God than my own church and prayerbook. May we finally learn the lesson Hildegard offers, that our God is…the living God, ruling over all things, shining bright in goodness and with wondrous things in God’s works, whose immeasurable brightness in the depths of God’s mystery no single person can gaze at perfectly.
In the name of God: Divine Love, the Eternal Beloved and the Faithful Lover. Amen.
The Prayers of the People
Form II, p 385
Confession of Sin, p 360
The Deacon or Celebrant says
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Silence may be kept.
Minister and People
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
The Bishop, when present, or the Priest, stands and says
Almighty God the Just Judge have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Redeemer Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.
All stand. The Celebrant says to the people
The peace of the Gentle One be always with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Communion
Eucharistic Prayer B, p 367
Offer yourselves and your gifts to God who is holy, giving gifts to all.
The people remain standing. The Celebrant, whether bishop or priest, faces them and says
The Living God be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the [Lord].
Let us give thanks to the Eternal One our God.
It is right to give [him] thanks and praise.
Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty and Ineffable God, Who was before all ages and had no beginning and will not cease to be when all ages are ended.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:
Celebrant and People
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
The people stand or kneel.
Then the Celebrant continues
We give thanks to you, God Who is true Love, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, the sacred matrix, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or to lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated.
On the night before he died for us, our Redeemer Jesus Christ, the Great Word of God dressed in flesh, took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
Therefore, according to his command, O Shepherd of souls,
Celebrant and People
We remember his death,
We proclaim his resurrection,
We await his coming in glory;
The Celebrant continues
And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you, O God the Ruler of all; presenting to you, from your creation, this bread and this wine.
We pray you, Living Fountain, to send your Living Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with [Hildegard and] all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your daughters and sons; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation.
By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Sacred Spirit all honor and glory is yours, O Wondrous Wonder, now and for ever. AMEN.
And now, as our Savior
Christ has taught us,
we are bold to say,
Our Supernal Creator and our Father…
The Breaking of the Bread
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread.
A period of silence is kept.
Then may be sung or said[Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
Therefore let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]
Facing the people, the Celebrant says the following Invitation
The Gifts of God for the People of God.
and may add
Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.
The ministers receive the Sacrament in both kinds, and then immediately deliver it to the people.
The Bread and the Cup are given to the communicants with these words
The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. [Amen.]
The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. [Amen.]
After Communion, the Celebrant says
Let us pray using the form on p 366.
Celebrant and People
Almighty and everliving God,
we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food
of the most precious Body and Blood
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ;
and for assuring us in these holy mysteries
that we are living members of the Body of your Son,
and heirs of your eternal kingdom.
And now, Father, send us out
to do the work you have given us to do,
to love and serve you
as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.
To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
The Deacon, or the Celebrant, dismisses them with these words
Let us go forth in the name of God, the magnificent, glorious, and incomprehensible.
Thanks be to God.
Adaptation of the Eucharistic Liturgy and translations of the Holy Scriptures by the Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Brite Divinity School and Diocese of Pennsylvania, The Episcopal Church
Research Assistance provided by Zachary Poppen