Perhaps you’re one of those people who is peaceful and calm during this season, with gifts long ago carefully chosen and wrapped, all the menus planned and groceries purchased and with plenty of time on your hands. If so, perhaps it’s best not to say that to the rest of rest; I suspect it wouldn’t go over very well! Instead, most folks I know are busy spinning plates right now—juggling holiday preparations on top of ordinary life. At church, we’re caring for people pastorally, preparing for many inspiring—we hope—liturgies over the next few weeks, as well as budgeting, finalizing giving season materials, planning Lent and learning the results from the CAT survey. Oh yes, and writing a reflection!
It’s enough to make you dizzy. Of course, we’re all spinning all the time, at roughly 1,000 mph for a full rotation around the earth and simultaneously hurtling at 18.5 miles per second around the sun. Oddly enough, that helps put things in perspective. We fly through space without effort, but somehow we get hooked on the stuff of earth, especially during this season. Someone once observed that a walk in nature is soothing, even though our senses are inundated with diversity; but in the rest of our lives we can easily feel bombarded with so many things to accomplish, decide, read and just deal with. Somehow simply bringing myself into an awareness of the really big picture, paying attention to my breathing and reconnecting with the planet, even for a few moments, re-centers me.
I am inspired in this by Hildegard of Bingen, a nun who recognized the essential connection between the human person and the really big picture, which many of us call God. You might wonder what a 12th century nun could possibly offer a 21st century priest, wife and mother? A lot, actually. During her lifetime, in addition to being a visionary, Hildegard managed to found two monasteries for women; communicated creation spirituality through music, art (see below), poetry, medicine, gardening and reflections on nature; wrote three volumes on visionary theology along with more than 400 surviving letters from people as diverse as popes and emperors to abbots and abbesses. In her spare time, she also invented an alphabet and wrote scientific and medical works based on her experience with herbal gardening and the infirmary.
What enabled Hildegard to spin plates with such grace, was her ability to remain nourished by drawing from a deep inner wisdom. As Richard Rohr put it, Hildegard spoke of
“viriditas”, the greening of things from within, analogous to what we now call photosynthesis. She saw that there was a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform it into energy and life. She recognized that there is also an inherent connection between the physical world and the divine Presence. This connection translates into inner energy that is the soul and seed of everything, an inner voice calling you to “Become who you are; become all that you are.” This is our “life wish” or “whole-making instinct.”
When we see ourselves as disconnected from God, from creation, from the big picture, we easily become distracted and overwhelmed or, worse, become self-centered, insecure and greedy. Our inner space is inevitably reflected in the world around us. “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you,” she wrote.
How are you nurturing the connection between you, the physical world and the divine presence to ensure it is open and flowing this season? Consider giving yourself a gift each day—listening to the inner voice calling you to become who are you, become all that you are—not from a place of effort, but through the bubbling up of your God-given instinct and energy to become whole.