Viva Viriditas!

Depending on geography, spring is finally springing now (perhaps dubiously, perhaps vigorously) for most readers. This annual resurgence of life, warmth and energy prompts me to  reflect on the concept of “viriditas.” The word which combines the Latin for “green” and “truth,”was coined by Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) to mean the greening power of God, filled with connotations of vigor and freshness.

Hildegard also assumed ground-breaking roles for a woman of her day: artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian, scientist, doctor, and political critic. Named a saint and doctor of the church in 2012, she believed passionately in God’s presence and activity in creation, as well as being a life force within. While we can observe “viriditas” in gardens and forests, Hildegard believed we could also cultivate it in our souls. Learn more at:

Contemporary Dr. Victoria Sweet has utilized the idea in medical treatment, believing that the body isn’t a machine to be fixed, but a plant which will grow and heal, given sufficient time and nurture. “In Dr. Sweet’s TEDx talk at Middlebury College, (‘The Efficiency of Inefficieny’) she describes Hildegard’s belief that human healing resembles the greening power and regenerating capabilities of plant life. In 2014, Dr. Sweet published a book on the subject called God’s Hotel.  More recently, Dr. Sweet published a related book, Slow Medicine, also featuring viriditas as a central theme.”

During her seventies, Hildegard completed two medical texts, which catalogued over 280 plants, cross-referenced with their healing uses. She saw humans as “living sparks” of God’s love, coming from God as daylight comes from the sun. She thought connection with nature brings people a “primordial joy.” More than eight hundred years after her death, her message rings so true that she could well be considered patroness of environmental awareness. Although she would’ve been appalled by the destruction to the planet, she would’ve cheered robustly for efforts to save it.

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