Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Hildegard envisions the unfolding of God’s plan throughout history. She describes the divine work of Creation, in which God brings the four elements into harmony and obedience to create the cosmos. Humans are a special creation, made in the image of God, separated from the rest of creation by reason. However, human beings have fallen and now must choose between obedience to God or punishment with the devil. Right faith, in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, leads to freedom, harmony, and joy.

While Hildegard often speaks of the soul being weighed down or led astray by the body, she does not completely follow a neo-Platonic philosophy; she is emphatic that both body and soul will experience salvation and a glorious eternal life if humans, through virtue and holiness, are obedient to God.

She teaches that right faith leads to right living, which honors and creates harmony in the physical earth. All creation is important and affected by human behavior; we are responsible to know, love, and care for the earth and its creatures. If our sinful acts and attitudes cause disharmony in the earth, we will suffer as a result.

Humans must learn to live in moderation, which Hildegard recommends as the way to live healthy, productive lives in harmony with God, the earth, and other people. While she values a disciplined life, she asks Christians not to lead lives of too rigorous asceticism, which can lead to deteriorated health and inability to do God’s work.

Hildegard recognizes that God’s grace allows humans to desire and to do good, and she encourages good works as grateful expressions of love and obedience to God. She is especially concerned with justice, recommending attitudes and actions that lead to justice in the state and Church, as well as in individual matters. Her emphasis on justice works in conjunction with her concept of cosmic harmony. Even small instances of injustice can lead to disharmony. In her understanding of the connectedness of all creation, any lack of harmony affects the whole and distracts from our understanding of and praise to God.

To understand Hildegard’s vision is to recognize the solidarity Christians must feel with each other, the earth, and the cosmos as a whole as they mature in their faith and love for their Creator Redeemer and his divine works.