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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

September 13, 2020 Message from Dr. Benton

O most honored Greening Force, You who roots in the Sun; You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel that earthly excellence fails to comprehend. You are enfolded in the weaving of divine mysteries. You redden like the dawn and you burn: flame of the Sun. —Hildegard von Bingen, Causae et Curae The opening words from Hildegard von Bingen were ringing in my ears these past weeks amid the reddening of the dawn and dusk…amid the flame of the sun. The burning of our grasslands…of our forests is not new. But the extent to which this is happening is what is so alarming. And it comes amid the chaos and suffering on so many levels…of our species, our fellow creatures, the plants…perhaps the whole universe. During this dark time…we find that we are not even able to go outside…not even able to walk, to breathe fresh air…to rejuvenate ourselves with the Viriditas…the Greening Force that Hildegard speaks of. This has hit me hard, as I am sure it has hit others. I am told that my first words were, “I wanna go out…” This is the thought echoing in my mind each day. It is the caress of nature that my spirit craves. At this point I am forced to experience this only in pictures…on YouTube. 

These images are beautiful…they remind us of the substance of our bodies…and maybe of our souls…the Greening Force…the Viriditas of Hildegard. In celebration of her feast day on September 17th, I would like to share a little more of her writings. We get a clearer vision of the spiritual nature of this power when we read her poetry. This one is entitled, Viriditas: Viriditas Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) translated by Gabriele Uhlein I am the one whose praise echoes on high. I adorn all the earth. I am the breeze that nurtures all things green. I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits. I am led by the spirit to feed the purest streams. I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life. I call forth tears. I am the yearning for good.

So, this Greening Force Hildegard speaks of is also the yearning for the good. The search for justice and goodness amidst the continued killing of Black men and women…amidst the reckoning of the pain and promise of the people…amidst the fear and devastation caused by this novel virus…amidst the burning of the trees, the homes, the grasslands. Amidst the poisoning of the air, the water, the land. In Hildegard’s words, written in the twelfth century:

Now in the people that were meant to be green there is no more life of any kind. There is only shriveled barrenness. The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on. Thunderstorms menace. The air belches out the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples. The earth should not be injured!   The earth must not be destroyed! So it seems that today we have also lost our “greenness”. We are looking our evil, selfish goings-on squarely in the eye on so many levels. The whole process this year has been one of peeling back the layers of what shields us from the inconvenient…unpleasant…upsetting truth of our situation. It has been a process of ridding ourselves of the unnecessary…the support of human contact…the cushion of human comforts…the solace we were accustomed to. This solace comes also from the restorative properties of the Greening Force of nature. We have been whittling down our options…for some, our freedoms…until we are left with only ourselves and whomever else we allow close to us…friends, family.  Our lives have been transformed, at least temporarily, from an external focus on our work and social lives to our home…our families…our selves. This transformation has, in many cases, led to a closer examination of our beliefs and perhaps our spirituality. Born presumably in the year 551 BCE, Confucius wrote (or spoke) about this transformation. The following words are attributed to him in The Great Digest by Ezra Pound. …wanting good government in their own states, they first established order in their own families, wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves, desiring self-discipline, they rectified their own hearts, they sought precise verbal definitions of their inarticulate thoughts (the tones given off by the heart)... Starting as a desire for “good government”, we must search first within our families…our homes, and then eventually within the seat of the 4th Chakra…the heart. We need to listen for the “tones given off by the heart”. What are those tones? Do they include the fear, the deception and the hatred called by Dr. Thurman, The Hounds of Hell? Do they also include an innate sense of compassion for the earth…the animals and plants…our fellow human beings? Deep in our hearts, is there a reflection of that Greening Force (the color designated to the 4th chakra is green)? Can we access Viriditas through these tones? Is part of that tone gratitude…a sense that we are grateful for what we do have…life for this day…the love of another human being, an animal…the realization that the sun has risen and you are a witness? For a meditation today, let’s watch this consideration of gratitude…

The opening words by the little girl struck me…such awareness of what matters in life…an awareness of what creativity is…an awareness of each moment as sacred and important. This is what we can learn from the young…those not yet spoiled by an eroding away of the spirit that accompanied our births.

A teacher of mine, M.C. Richards stated that art leads to seeing what is…are we just now being able to see what is? Through the narrowing of our options…through the whittling away of our denial and protection…protection from the hard facts, are we ready for the healing and compassion that can be unleashed from our 4th chakra?

Are we ready to use our imaginations to reach the place of deep listening that is called for at this time? Richards writes: From the child’s ability to imagine grows as well the adult’s capacity for compassion: the ability to picture the suffering of others, to identify. In one’s citizenship, or the art of politics, it is part of one’s skill to imagine other ways of living than one’s own. So it is our imagination…our creativity that can increase our capacity for compassion and our ability to find a way forward. Richards tells the story of how one day a nine-year-old girl brought her an object resembling a curved plate to be fired in the kiln.  “What’s that, Lisa?” M.C. asked the girl.  “It’s art,” Lisa said solemnly.  M.C. comments: Obviously, I’ve never forgotten that moment.  It was an epiphany, a revelation.  From the mouths of babes…. Matter that bears spirit into the fire to be transformed: It’s art. How did she know that? It was, I believe, a totally intuitive, innocent, unselfconscious, essential wisdom.  And it came from a deep, innocent, unselfconscious, essential source, an essential Self.…an essential Self.  This essential Self, I believe, belongs to each of us, and is at the same time a network, a basis of communion: my self and the Self.

This is, I believe, part of the tones given off by the heart. When we search deep enough and long enough we come to this place that little girl in the video and that Richards speak of…that deep, innocent, essential source of all, the self…a reflection of the Self of the Universe. It is this source…this all-pervading presence that we have in common…it is this source that we hear when we listen for the tones of the heart. The compassion and creativity that can be released from the heart are what is needed now. Each of us must heed the words of Maya Angelou in her poem, Still I Rise…words of hope.

Praise and thanks to Maya Angelou and others like them who have been able to listen for the tones of their own hearts…to heed the call of compassion for the Earth and all its creatures…to find the deep, unselfconscious essential source from which we come and to which we return.

This morning I was looking through some video clips that I accessed on Matthew Fox’s website and I found this. I had seen it before, but this time when I played it my granddaughter, Lily, was nearby and started to dance. She danced the dance of a warrior…completely intuitively…as if she understood the words being spoken.

May each of us feel the spirit of the spiritual warrior within and transform the tones of the heart into action. May we rise to our moment in history. Amen.

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