Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Last Sunday in Ordinary Time: Hildegard of Bingen's Mantle

Today is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Next Sunday will be Christ the King Sunday, which takes us out of Ordinary Time--and after that, we plunge into the season of Advent.

When I was a child, I thought of the time between Pentecost and Advent as the long, green, boring season.  Truth be told, I still do.  I love the possibilities for observing and celebrating the time between Advent and Pentecost--the season of Ordinary Time often feels arid. 

In many ways, I think that the challenges of Ordinary Time mimic the challenges of a regular life.  We've got lots of highs and lows early on (until about age 25-35), and then we've got a long middle ground where we need to do more work to make meaning of it all.

Some of us will do this through the highs and lows of family members.  Some of us will make meaning by our involvement with larger communities.  Some of us will turn to art.

This morning, I wrote a poem.  I'd like to say that I wrote a poem, as I do every morning.  But I don't do that every morning.  I wonder if I would wrest more meaning from life if I did write a poem every morning.  I suspect I would have a similar reaction as I do to liturgical seasons.  Some of my poetry writing mornings would feel important and significant, but many more would leave me wondering about the larger meaning of it all and reflecting on drudgery.

This morning I baked the gluten free communion bread.  It needs to be made on the day of the worship service because of the nature of gluten free bread; I know from experience that it doesn't freeze well.  As I stirred together the ingredients, this line came to me:  On the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, I bake the communion bread.  Once I got the bread in the oven, I sat down to write.

I played with the line--should it be bake or create?  The idea of Hildegard of Bingen bubbled up in my brain--a creative woman of her time, a woman I see as subversive, although I don't know that she saw herself that way.  I wanted to hear some of her music, and we live in a wonderful age where the Internet can provide.  I spent some time writing my poem and listening to this group sing the medieval music of Hildegard of Bingen.

I was struck by the woman with the green swoosh in her auburn hair and the chunky boots visible from the slit of her formal gown singing the music written by a monastic woman centuries earlier.  What would Hildegard have said?

I like to think of Hildegard of Bingen smiling at the many ways we've seized her legacy and taken up her mantle.  Some of us do that by writing, the way that she did.  Some of us have seized her mantle by singing the music that she left us.  Some of us tend our gardens, the ones we grow for food, the ones we grow for herbs, the ones we grow for the beauty of the flowers, the interior gardens that we may or may not share.  Some of us take on the Hildegard's mantle when we scold bishops and legislators and remind them of the obligation of creating a more just society.  We wear Hildegard's mantle as we care for the next generations, some of whom we're related to biologically, some of whom we will never meet.

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