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Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NRSV)
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
Well, it’s a chance to go ‘off piste’ again!
Today I am taking the lesser festival of St Hildegard. There is so much that I could say, but needs must, and I shall try to be brief. Hildegard was the tenth child born to a noble family in the Rhineland. At the age of eight her parents put her in the care of Jutta, a female recluse and at the age of 15 Hildegard became a nun in the monastic community that had built up around Jutta. On Jutta’s death, she became Abbess.
Hildegard was a remarkable woman, a visionary and mystic, outspoken, musical and a writer. One piece, that is too long to quote here, contained an admirable explanation of the Trinity, using descriptions of a stone, a flame and a word. She had visions and although she lived to the age of eighty, her health was always poor. Held in high regard by many, but disparaged by others who found her revelations to be so mysterious that they amounted to fraud.
But her writings are indeed magical and display a sense of the mystical and divine, such as this from Celestial Harmonies:
O how precious is the maidenhood of this virgin, she of the shut door whose womb the holy Godhead filled with His fire so that a flower bloomed in her and the son of God from that secret place went forth like the dawn.
Thus the sweet seed, who was that Son, through the shut door of her womb unlocked paradise. And the Son of God from that secret place went forth like the dawn.
The reading that started this reflection is one often set for weddings. I read it myself at our sons’ weddings. Song of Songs is a quite extraordinary book included in the Bible, wildly poetic, but that is very much a story for another day. But what strikes me is the sentiment in the last verse. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can come anywhere near paying the price for the gift of love. So as you go about your days for the rest of the week, seek out some act to do or some word to say for someone near to you, in the name of love.
Collect (Benedictine version)
Lord our God, you called blessed Hildegard, your virgin, to the love and contemplation of your glory. Through her intercession may we grow in spiritual wisdom and bear witness to it in our lives. This we ask of you. Amen.