A Feather on the Breath of God
Having posted a prayer by St. Teresa of Avila earlier in the week, below is one drawn from another inspiring medieval woman, the German Benedictine, Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179), a veritable renaissance woman, long before the Renaissance. She was an abbess, poet, composer (she even had a hit album recently!), theologian, philosopher and mystic, is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany, writing influential botanical and medicinal texts, was the author of what is possibly the earliest German liturgical drama and arguably the oldest surviving morality play, and inventor of a constructed language known as Lingua Ignota. She might easily be seen as a patron saint of the modern environmental movement with her strong sense of the wholeness of creation. Given her range of interests she has always intrigued me, especially given that she had a strong sense of how they were all integrated:
“Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God.“
Hildegard of Bingen
But all of that is just introduction for today's prayer which occurs in a number of variants in different sources and in different places in her writings. One day with a suitable dictionary in hand I might seek out the original. Here is my rendering, based on a number of sources:
The life of all creatures;
The cause of all movement;
The source of all song.
You are the breath - bring us life.
You are the salve - purify our souls.
You are the balm - heal our wounds.
You are the fire - warms our hearts.
You are the wisdom - open our minds.
You are the light - guide our feet.
Let all the world praise you
Through Jesus Christ our Saviour and our Lord.
inspired by the words of Hildegard of Bingen