O ignis Spiritus Paracliti

by Hildegard von Bingen

English version by Ivan M. Granger
Original Language Latin

O Holy Spirit of Fire,
life in the life of all life,
holy are you,
     enlivening all things.

Holy are you,
     a healing balm
     to the broken.
Holy are you,
     blistered wounds.

O Holy Breath,
O Fire of Life,
O Sweetness in my breast
infusing my heart
with the fine scent of truth.

O Pure Fountain
through which we know
God unites strangers
and gathers the lost.

O Heart's Shield, guarding life
and hope, joining the many members
into one body;
Belt of Truth,
wrap them in beauty.

Protect those ensnared
by the enemy,
and free the worthy
from their fetters.

O Great Way that runs through all,
     from the heights,
     across the earth,
     and in the depths,
you encompass all and unify all.

From you the clouds stream
     and the ether rises;
from your stones precious water pours,
springs well and birth waterways,
     and the earth sweats green with life.

And eternally do you bring forth knowledge
by the breath of wisdom.

          All praise to you,
you who are the song of praise
     and the joy of life,
you who are hope and the greatest treasure,
     bestowing the gift of Light.

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This week I have been translating some songs by the great Medieval mystic, Hildegard von Bingen, and I thought I would share this meditation on the universal flow of life today...

This song of praise is a beautiful vision of God -- a maternal vision of God, earthy, yet transcendent -- flowing with life, permeating all things, exuding a good and holy greenness everywhere.

This Spirit of Fire, the Holy Spirit, is "life in the life of all life." It is the vivifying life behind all of life. This is the “Holy Breath” that breathes through all of manifest existence, everything in nature, every form, enlivening it, making it holy, sharing its divinity. Life and all creation emerges from Spirit. It is not created in some mechanical sense but flows naturally, organically, fluidly, like breath from the body or water from the spring.

Through this divine animating spirit, all separate things are actually one: “you encompass all and unify all.”

Especially notice the lovely lines:

From you the clouds stream
     and the ether rises,
from your stones precious water pours,
springs well and birth waterways,
     and the earth sweats green with life.

Throughout this song tangible, physical reality, the earth itself streams, pours, exudes, and permeates. All of physical reality, even in its most solid forms of earth and rock, all of 'solid' reality... flows. Nothing is as fixed or stationary as it may superficially appear. All forms possess a sort of divine inner 'sap' -- the fluid Essence -- that is its true being which shows itself as life:

...and the earth sweats green with life.

We have delightful language of both water and fire, and yet they seem complimentary. Why a “Spirit of Fire”? In Christian mysticism, the Holy Spirit is often associated with fire. In deep ecstasy, the awareness is flooded with a rising, blissfully searing heat, quieting the mind, opening the heart, filling one's whole being with a sense of the interconnectedness of life. Adding to this, the inner vision is dazzled by a radiating golden-white light -- “bestowing the gift of Light.” Paradoxically, amidst this inner fire of the illumination, there is the simultaneous descent of a trickling honey-like sweetness down the back of the throat, making one drunk on bliss and beauty. Thus Hildegard gives us images of water and flow and secret springs, as well. And throughout the mystic's grand vision we find ourselves bathed in the most profound knowledge. This is not data or information necessarily, but in some indescribable way the living breath of knowledge itself, gnosis, fills us.

And eternally do you bring forth knowledge
by the breath of wisdom.

Yet clearly this is not a solitary vision confined to the mystic's solitary self. This same spiritual vivification is taking place throughout the earth, through its good green life, through all things and all people, and we are all, in truth, one in that life and in eternal outpouring of that life-giving Spirit.

...wrap them in beauty.

Recommended Books: Hildegard von Bingen

Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celstium revelationum German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works with Letters and Songs Women of Wisdom: A Journey of Enlightenment by Women of Vision Through the Ages The Book of the Rewards of Life: Liber Vitae Meritorum
More Books >>

O ignis Spiritus