Abstract

Nature and God are linked through the creative power of the Word, for which Hildegard coined the term viriditas or “greening power”. Viriditas is the life force which brings all of us into wholeness and into balance with Nature, and is the key to finding our way to God. In this way, Hildegard stands at the pinnacle of medieval Christian medicine. Having evolved beyond excessive reliance on the occult and perched on the cusp of a revival of scholastic medicine, she exemplifies the naturalistic bent of the best of monastic thought. Fusing what ancient medical knowledge was available with a principled interest in nature, she incorporates both into a cosmic order infused with divine love and a teleological purpose. While we no longer live in Hildegard’s terracentric universe and her anatomy and physiology are no longer applicable, we stand to learn much from her understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things and of matter and spirit. Medieval Benedictine thought at its finest embraced and synthesized the whole of learning, both secular and sacred. Though Hildegard’s model of the physical universe has fallen into disuse, her values endure, and can help us understand her approach to healing as part of an ongoing, living Benedictine tradition.

Disciplines

Christianity | Medieval Studies

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