Week One: Combating self-doubt, anger, and pride
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a Benedictine nun, abbess, writer—and so much more. The medievalist Carmen Acevedo Butcher describes her as an:
Butcher collected a selection of this extraordinary medieval woman’s works in Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader. We’ll be taking a look at some of these selections this month.
Hildegard’s first major theological text, the Scivias, contains twenty-six visions that Hildegard had. She wrote them down, she said, to help others learn to praise and adore God.
In one part of this work, Hildegard writes passionately of something we all recognize: feelings of self-doubt, anger, and pride.
My self-doubt makes me miserable. I feel oppressed by all things . . . I doubt everything when I feel this way, including my salvation.
Hildegard knows these doubts and feelings are the work of the devil. Here is how she combats them:
But when God helps me remember that He created me, then—even in the middle of my depression—I tell the Devil, “I won’t give in to my fragile clay. I’ll fight you!” How? When my inner self decides to rebel against God, I’ll walk with wise patience over the marrow and blood of my body. I’ll be the lion defending himself from a snake, roaring and knocking it back into its hole. I won’t let myself give in to the Devil’s arrows.
When anger tries to burn up the temple of my body, I’ll look to God’s goodness, which anger never touched. I’ll look to God whom anger never touched, and I’ll become sweeter than the breeze whose gentleness moistens the earth. I’ll look to the God of peace, because then I’ll have spiritual joy as the virtues begin to show themselves in me, strengthening me with their vibrant greenness. I’ll look to God whom anger never touched, and—because I look to Him—I’ll experience God’s calm goodness.
And when hatred tries to diminish who I am, I’ll look to the kindness of God’s Son and to His pain. How will I get myself in hand? I’ll accept the thorns that give off the delicate fragrance of roses. They grew to honor the One who was faithful, and by controlling myself I’ll bring honor to my Lord.