Hey, guess what? We're halfway through the Elate Eight! Yesterday, Joseph swept past Joanna the Myrrhbearer 69% to 31% to join Harriet Tubman as the first two saints to make it to the Faithful Four.
Today Hildegard of Bingen squares off against Brother Lawrence for a shot at Harriet. To get to this round, Hildegard got by Romanos the Melodist and Elizabeth the New Martyr, while Brother Lawrence upset both Patrick and Margery Kempe.
So, how's your bracket going? For those of you who filled out brackets in advance, are you thriving, surviving, or dying? We want to know! But first, go do your civic Lenten duty and cast today's vote.
Hildegard of Bingen
Before I begin, please click this link and let it play in the background. It’s a Hildegard chant remix and it helps to set the mood.
When I began investigating the strange world of Hildegard von Bingen kitsch, I wondered if I’d find anything at all. I knew she was popular in academic and environmental circles but nothing prepared me for the Hildegardian bazaar.
At the Hildegard bazaar, we will find facial creams, intermittent fasting regímenes, Strong Will Tea, cookies to alleviate unhappiness, and something called “Hildegard’s original bitter herbal supplements.”
“Original how?” I wonder.
Here you’ll also find an entire German company named after Hildegard which claims to be among the oldest sources of knowledge on the saint and the reason that she’s so popular. They were established in 1976, by the way. The company sells a white wine with parsley and honeythat cures heart ailments. “Anyone who drinks the heart wine on time and regularly will very likely be spared serious heart problems in old age!"
At yet another section of this bazaar, it is all about green. Playing off Hildegard’s use of the term viriditas, we find a holistic beauty and wellness company based out of Austin, TX named Viriditas Botanicals, as well as a landscape company hoping to bring that medieval German flair to customers who long to see their lawns “sweat green.”
I’ll admit that having become invested in Hildegard as a thinker, mystic, scientist, and composer, it’s both funny and a little disappointing to see her name and theological concepts slapped onto everything from a (really, really terrible) remix to intermittent fasting regímenes with green herbal pills that make it all possible.
Stepping back, and seeing the market as a whole, I also can’t help but be impressed by the vibrancy and sheer variety of all these people hawking their wares. Under the remarkably large tent of Hildegard’s legacy, one finds both theologians and environmentalists, mystics, musicians, and herbalists, gardeners and DJs. There are people selling both “original bitter herb supplements” as well as a medical doctor and medievalist who has been inspired by Hildegard to advance a movement called Slow Medicine.
What this busy marketplace makes clear is that in these strange days of COVID-19 and environmental collapse, Hildegard’s relevance is only increasing and that more and more people will find inspiration in the musical, theological, and environmental universe envisioned by this medieval saint. It feels as if we’re all still catching up with her.
You cannot get to know Brother Lawrence without reading his work. You can start your immersion into an ordinary life with a copy of “Practice in the Presence of God” from Ebay for a mere $3.99:
While you peruse Brother Lawrence’s work, marvel at the ordinary, while sipping on a cup of ordinary water.
Examine your ordinary life while gazing at an ordinary tree in winter and realize that God is working through you as well:
Consider the broken plates for which Brother Lawrence is known for shattering. Can you think of ways that God can piece you back together?
Look in this ordinary mirror—see that ordinary face staring back? That’s the image of someone whose extra-ordinary grace of God is working:
While realizing your ordinary awesomeness. Go make an ordinary omelet and contemplate the enjoyment in the simple things in life. Anna says to crumble in some goat cheese into the mix for a little extra-ordinary, you can thank her later.
Hildegard of Bingen vs. Brother Lawrence
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