Greening Power of God
In the Annapolis Valley there is a month where everything turns from brown to green. May is that month. Ever since I've lived here I've watched the month begin with bare branches, browned and bent blades of last years grass and dead, dry stalks of last years flowers in our yard. The snow is gone (if we ever had any to speak of) but nothing else is there yet for the eye. And then, it starts: Swelling red buds, tiny leaves emerge, bulbs push through the hard ground, the new grass begins to appear...and the speed is incredible.
While over in ”Old Europe” in mid May spring begins to feel “old” indeed, it's still coming on strong here. This is the greening month and we will not let you forget it. No one lush green looks the same. By the end of it, dandelions unfold their thick yellow patches all over the lawn, fruit trees wave blossom-packed branches to the pollinators and everything is full of colour. The eye bathes in the green and spirits soar.
“Green power” at work.
“Green power” is not a 20th century invention. Solar cells and wind turbines are, but the idea of “green power” as spiritual concept is much older and was coined by the medieval Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). This multi-talented woman genius was scientist and writer, medical herbalist and healer, composer and Christian theologian, and manager of a large women’s convent in Germany.
Today we sometimes assume that we are the first generation who defies traditional images of God. We do so out of ignorance of the past. Take Hildegard, for example. She coined the term “viriditas” (she wrote in latin) which one commonly translates with “greening power” or “green power”.
This for her was an attribute of God.
Greening power is life power; life power is God's power. Life power is that which brings forth biological life, health and spiritual “fullness of life”. The green power of God can be observed in the natural world, especially in the spring and summer months, as in vigorous people, people who bring life to others and flourish in doing so.
In a chant she composed for worship she writes:
Most noble greening power
Biology (bios = life) and Theology (theos = God) (logy = the speech of)
were inseparable for Hildegard.
She is known to have identified and catalogued plants who brought healing for specific ailments but she also constantly emphasizes the general importance of the colour green and green power in our lives. She recommends, for example, that when people suffer from weakening eyesight they should go out and look at a green meadow until the eyes begin to tear up. I've yet to try that one specifically, but study upon study shows that people are healthier and happier when their residences and workplaces give access to green space like parks and trees.
Indigenous knowledge does not separate theology from biology. Sure, God talk and nature talk are not the same, but are they not way more connected than most of us in western society would have it? And if you agree with me on that one, why not take a deeper look at Hildegard?
She offers a Christian voice who is not to be missed.